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Towards a High-Level Quantum Programming Language

Thorsten Altenkirch School of Computer Science and Information Technology University of Nottingham 2pm, Friday 4 February 2005 Room 2511, JCMB, King's Buildings

Quantum programming tries to exploit the strange properties of quantum physics to run programs much faster than on any conventional hardware. A famous quantum algorithm is Shor's factorisation algorithm, which entails that on a quantum computer we can crack cryptosystems like RSA.

While nobody has yet built quantum hardware of interesting size, we are already trying to understand how to program quantum computers. Most of these approaches are based on quantum circuits which can be modelled by unitary operators on finite-dimensional complex Hilbert spaces. On this level it seems quite hard to understand what your algorithm is actually doing, and it is also difficult to design new ones.

Ongoing research as Nottingham (joint venture Mathematical Physics and Computer Science) attempts to overcome this by developing a functional quantum programming language (QML). The design of this language is inspired by comparing classical computation and quantum computation, identifying the similarities and differences. A draft paper on QML is available from Thorsten's webpage at this link, and a compiler is under development.

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