“If somebody can build a quantum computer with all that it promises to be, prime number decryption could then occur in real time and that would mean all of the encryption that’s used by banks, governments and the military would be crackable.”
- Andrew Cleland, Ph.D., Physicist, UC-Santa Barbara"
Last Thursday, (31/3-'11) Linda Moulton Howe was on Coast with her monthly report. Linda covers environmental topics for Coast ( Japan quake, Gulf oil spill, mystery of the missing bee populations and so forth ), so I was surprised to hear her talking about prime number factorization.
All encryption nowadays is based on the RSA-encryption method which is a so called public-key cryptography method. The key required for enciphering is publicly known so that everyone can encipher data. Deciphering the data is only possible by the person who issued the key. The enciphering key is ( based upon ) the product of two very large primes while deciphering requires the individual primes. Cracking the code involves the factorization of a large prime number which we aren't very good at not even using brute force on networks of supercomputers. We simply can't do it.
Announcing that you are doing research that will eventually solve the prime factorization issue is of course mind-blowing. As I understood it they are going to build a machine that somehow mimics the quantum behavior of the particle world up-to a quantum computer. The analog of quantum mechanics is then that the computer computes everything until you ask it a question. So when you ask it to factor a large prime it comes immediately with an answer out of the scope of all answers. This answer is then immediately verifiable, something which we can do very fast.
Well, that's the idea. It won't work in all cases of course. Imagine the following question: Is the Riemann Hypothesis true? Yes (or No), will the quantum computer then answer. Remains the task for us to verify, and prove the RH.
This professor either does not understand the concept of Computability, or: he is very smart in using scare tactics to talk some money out of the pockets of some banks, or: his genius is multiple times greater than that of Alan Turing.
Coast to Coast is known for ( and owes its popularity to ) bringing the news 'unscreened' because 'it could be true'.