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.