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Quantum quirks quicken thorny searches

6:08pm, November 19, 2002

It's tough enough to find a specific entry in a crazy phone book in which names are listed randomly rather than alphabetically. It's even harder when you don't know the complete name and have only fragments of an address or a phone number.

Researchers have shown theoretically that quantum physics offers powerful methods for speeding up database searches (SN: 8/31/96, p. 143: http://www.sciencenews.org/sn_arch/8_31_96/bob2.htm). A novel extension of these methods now promises a quick way of identifying items in a large, unsorted database that satisfy the terms of a somewhat vague inquiry.

Lov K. Grover of Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., described his enhanced quantum-search algorithm last week in Portland, Ore., at the Association for Computing Machinery's symposium on theory of computing.

An ordinary computer stores and processes information in units called bits, typically represented by electric voltages that are either high or low and given

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