In this chapter we will expand on our discussion of the qubit and learn some basic facts and notation that are necessary when learning how to work with quantum states.


In the last chapter we saw that the basic unit of information processing in a modern-day computer is the bit, which can assume one of two states that we label 0 and 1. In an analogous manner, we can define a basic unit of information processing that can be used in quantum computation. This basic unit of information in quantum computing is called the qubit, which is short for quantum bit. While a qubit is going to look in some way superficially similar to a bit, we will see as we go along that it is fundamentally different and that its fundamental difference allows us to do information processing in new and interesting ways.

Like a bit, a qubit can also be in one of two states. In the case of a qubit, for reasons that for the moment will seem utterly obscure, we label these two states by |0〉 and |1〉. In quantum theory an object enclosed using the notation | 〉 can be called a state, a vector, or a ket.

So how is a qubit any different than an ordinary bit? While a bit in an ordinary computer can be in the state 0 or in the state 1, a qubit is somewhat more general. A qubit can exist in the state |0〉 or the state |1〉, but it can also exist in what we call a superposition state. This is a state that is a linear combination of the states |0〉 and |1〉. If we label this state 〉, a superposition ...

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