Want to Learn Quantum Computing? Here’s How.

What is quantum computing and how can you break into the field? Use these resources to get started.
headshot of author Sara A Metwalli
Sara A. Metwalli
Expert Columnist
February 1, 2022
headshot of author Sara A Metwalli
Sara A. Metwalli
Expert Columnist
February 1, 2022

Quantum computing is growing — in academia, but also commercially. Companies like IBM, Google and Microsoft are racing to build the first fully-functioning quantum computer. In the past few years we’ve witnessed rapid development in quantum computing, on the hardware and software sides. 

Currently, (very faulty) quantum computers actually exist. You can access them through the cloud and use them to execute codes written in Python or other programming languages. Making quantum computers available online to anyone encourages more people to get into the field and see what the hype is all about.

So, if you’re curious about quantum computing and its potential to improve many fields including machine learning and artificial intelligence (not to mention the premise that it can solve problems current computers fail to address), keep reading. 

What Is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing is a computing methodology that uses the power of quantum mechanics, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform faster computations. Accessing this power will allow us to overcome problems the current computer struggles to solve.

 

How to Learn Quantum Computing

Finding suitable materials can be a hassle when someone tries to get into a new field; after all, the internet is full of good (and not-so-good) resources. In this article, I’ll go through some resources you can use to get started on your quantum computing learning journey. These materials will help you learn how to think about problems through a quantum lens, especially when it comes to quantum hardware, algorithms and circuits.

How to Learn Quantum Computing

  • Qiskit
  • Quantum Computing: A Gentle Introduction
  • Introduction to Classical and Quantum Computing
  • Science Without the Gobbeldygook
  • Quantum Computation and Quantum Information

 

Qiskit

IBM is one of the companies putting a lot of effort into building a quantum community; they’re behind the most-used quantum computing Python package, Qiskit

Qiskit (quantum information science kit) is an open-source Python package that allows you to implement, simulate and run quantum algorithms on IBM’s actual hardware. If you’re looking for an excellent place to start learning everything quantum, look no further than the Qiskit YouTube channel and textbook

The Qiskit channel covers the fundamentals of quantum computing and details  how you can implement these fundamentals using code. The channel is active and they post new content every week. 

If you’re an absolute beginner to the world of quantum computing, the Introduction to Quantum Computing and Quantum Hardware playlist is the best place to start. 

Although the Qiskit YouTube channel goes in-depth about various aspects of quantum computing, some people (myself included) prefer to have written documentation in addition to a video tutorial. Having written content makes it easier to actually practice with the code or solve some exercises. For that, I recommend giving the Qiskit textbook a read. Like the YouTube channel, IBM continuously updates the textbook. In fact, IBM is currently working on a new version of an interactive book that will allow you to have a more comprehensive learning experience.

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Quantum Computing: A Gentle Introduction

Over the past couple of years, many books have addressed quantum computing and physics but perhaps the easiest one to access is Quantum Computing: A Gentle Introduction from MIT Press. 

This book is an excellent start for any quantum newbie because it introduces you to the field’s fundamentals and terminologies. Moreover, it explains the core concepts of quantum computing like the construction of qubits, superposition and entanglement.

The book will walk you through the transition from classical to quantum computing and the basics of quantum mechanics. In addition, it also covers some examples of quantum algorithms (such as Grover’s and Shor’s algorithms) and how they actually work. After reading this book, you’ll be able to comprehend quantum computing research papers easily. 

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Introduction to Classical and Quantum Computing

Thomas Wong recently published another great, freely available book: Introduction to Classical and Quantum Computing. Wong is a physicist passionate about spreading and simplifying quantum knowledge. He also created Qubit Touchdown, a quantum computing board game that teaches the player the basics of single-qubit gates and how they behave. 

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Science Without the Gobbeldygook

Suppose you want more theoretical information about the field of quantum physics, like in-depth information about superposition, entanglement and all those other fancy quantum terms. In that case, you need to check Sabine Hossenfelder’s Science Without the Gobbeldygook, and, in particular, her playlist for quantum enthusiasts: Understanding Quantum Mechanics. The playlist covers fundamental topics in quantum mechanics in easy-to-understand terms that will get you up-to-date with the foundational concepts so you can dig deeper into more complex topics. 

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Quantum Computation and Quantum Information

Finally, suppose you want to gain more knowledge about how quantum algorithms work and what makes them so magical. In that case, you can go through the most famous book on quantum computing, Quantum Computation and Quantum Information, by Michael A. Nielsen & Isaac L. Chuang. Because this book is quite academic, I would suggest you give some of the other resources a try first before you dive in. However, once you finish that book, you’ll feel like a quantum expert.

The concepts of quantum computing may seem complex and challenging to wrap your head around at first. But I like to believe that the problem is not with the concepts themselves; instead, it’s how they’re taught.

I started my PhD in quantum computing over three years ago. I’ve gone through a wide array of materials and resources during my own journey so I know how difficult it is to get into the field and fully understand its logic. Now you have all the tools you need to get into quantum computing and kickstart your quantum career with ease.

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