The light fantastic

A quantum approach to light, physics, communication and computing, with Professor Andrew Forbes.

15 October 2021

“In the modern world, we don’t only want our internet to be fast, we want it to be secure. And we know that as soon as a quantum computer works properly – and they’re not very far away from that – it will break all man-made algorithms,” says Professor Andrew Forbes, a distinguished professor at the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), who started the Structured Light Laboratory in the School of Physics back in 2015.

The application of quantum technologies extends far beyond quantum computing. Forbes works with quantum imaging and engineering and believes quantum health could be the next big thing. Most quantum programmes today are national, with many being driven by technology companies like IBM, D-Wave Systems and Google, not universities. “They’re national strategies because quantum is not just fun research. It really does matter; it’s not just a nice-to-have anymore, it’s a have-to-have. If you had asked me 10 years ago, ‘would a quantum computer be able to break codes?’, I would have said not in my lifetime. If all of our algorithms can be broken, what can you do to make them secure? The only thing you can do is to use quantum communication. We use the laws of physics to make data more secure so that someone would have to break the laws of nature to break the code.”

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