How to self learn Quantum Computing in 2024

An image of a blackboard with math formulas written on it

Quantum computing can change the world. It is a rapidly developing field that incorporates many different aspects of science, programming, physics, chemistry, and statistics.

Companies like IBM, Google, and Microsoft are investing heavily in quantum computing in an effort to make the first completely operational quantum computer. 

Quantum computers, though still limited, actually exist. You can access them through cloud services and use them to execute certain codes or algorithms. Quantum computers are available online to anyone, so there is a growing number of people eager to explore the field of quantum computing and see what all the hype is about.  

If you’re one of them, enthusiastic and curious about quantum computing and the opportunities for improvement it offers, keep reading. We’ll cover the basic concepts of quantum computing, ways you can learn it on your own, and possible career paths to take to get into Quantum Computing.

What is Quantum Computing?

Quantum computing can be a bit tricky to explain as it relies on quantum theory and quantum mechanics – not exactly the easiest scientific fields to grasp.

Richard Feynman, the renowned quantum physicist, and quantum computing pioneer, once said if it were possible to describe it in a few sentences, it wouldn’t have been worth a Nobel Prize.

Nevertheless, some basic principles are somewhat straightforward.

First off, quantum theory studies the behavior of subatomic particles. In the late twentieth century when it was discovered that quantum theory can be applied to computers, a revolution in the technology of information processing began.

"The real excitement about quantum is that the universe fundamentally works in a quantum way, so you will be able to understand nature better."
- Sundar Pichai, CEO, Google

To better understand quantum computing you should first wrap your head around the basic distinguishers between classical and quantum computers. Both try to solve problems, but they take completely different approaches.

In classical computer chips, we have these tiny ‘switches’ which are called bits. They can either be a zero or a one. Millions of these bits in a combination of ones and zeroes are the integral parts of every app you use, website you visit, and photograph you take. 

In quantum computers, we have quantum bits or qubits. Instead of just being one or zero, qubits can also be in what’s called ‘superposition’. Simply put, they can be somewhere on a spectrum between one and zero. As a result, qubits can perform numerous calculations simultaneously which should result in quantum computers solving problems much faster.

Imagine you need to find a way through a complex maze. A regular computer would try one path at a time, eliminating the wrong ones until it finds the way out. A quantum computer can go down every path of the maze at once and solve the puzzle in a fraction of the time a normal computer would need.

The main advantage of quantum computing over classical computing is that it can provide solutions for complex problems which are currently beyond the reach of classical computers. This should lead to major developments in different fields of science and different industries, so now’s the time to start thinking about a career in quantum computing.

How to self learn Quantum Computing?

Even if you’re not a physics pro, you can self-learn the basic principles of quantum mechanics and quantum computing. But, brace yourself, it will undoubtedly be a long-term project.

Currently, there aren’t many structured degree programs to get started with quantum computing. The most direct route to take is to do a Ph.D. But, if you are looking for a more DIY approach, there is a growing collection of online materials making it easier than ever to start exploring quantum computing. 

Below you will find a list of materials – books, YouTube channels, and podcasts – you can use to go down the quantum computing path on your own.

Books to learn Quantum Computing

Feynman Lectures on Physics, volume 3 

The book is also available online and it is an excellent starting point for getting a feel of quantum mechanics.

Exercises for the Feynman Lectures on Physics: Reading Feynman’s lectures and going over basic concepts won’t do the trick, you should also do the problems and tasks in this book to get a better understanding of the basic quantum principles.

Introduction to Linear Algebra by Gilbert Strang

This book should give you enough mathematical knowledge related to quantum computing.

A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics by Townsend

It is an excellent textbook that covers all you need and might even go a bit further than that, so if you’re just aiming for the basics, chapters 1-7 should do.

Quantum Mechanics: The Theoretical Minimum by Leonard Susskind and Art Friedman

The book is based on lectures which you can find here. The lectures were intended for people who wanted to learn quantum mechanics without having a physics background.

YouTube channels to learn Quantum Computing

Qiskit YouTube channel

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 an absolute beginner, this playlist on the Qiskit YouTube channel is a good place to start. They also post a new video weekly, so you can keep up with the news and developments. 

Link to Qiskit YouTube channel

Looking Glass Universe

This channel is run by Mithuna Yoganathan, who did her PhD in Quantum Computing at the University of Cambridge. She makes videos explaining various Quantum Mechanics principles in a simple and easy to understand method.

Link to Looking Glass Universe YouTube channel

Sabine Hossenfelder

Sabine’s channel covers an array of scientific topics. For quantum mechanics and quantum computing, you can stick to the Understanding Quantum Mechanics playlist. 

  1. Institute for Quantum Computing
  2. Cambridge Quantum Computing
  3. D-Wave Systems

Link to Sabine Hossenfelder YouTube channel

Podcasts about Quantum Computing

IEEE Quantum Podcast Series

In these podcasts, you’ll hear interviews with leading experts on a wide array of topics related to quantum computing.

Link to IEEE Quantum Podcast on Spotify

Quantum Computing Now Podcast

The podcasts aim to make quantum technology accessible and to provide the latest news and updates.

Link to Quantum Computing Now Podcast on Spotify

The Quantum Pod

The main focus is the real-life problems quantum computing can solve and how it will revolutionize the world.

Link to The Quantum Pod on Spotify

Quantum AI Institute

Here you can listen to interviews with global innovators working in quantum computing.

Link to the Quantum AI Institute Podcast on Spotify

Meet the meQuanics

These podcasts are targeted at the layperson and cover developments in quantum technologies.

Link to Meet the meQuanics Podcast on Spotify

Quantum Computing job prospects

The future is looking bright for quantum computing scientists. In the Bureau of Labor’s occupational handbook, quantum computing scientists have a job growth outlook of 22 percent between 2020 and 2030.

What career paths does quantum computing knowledge offer? 

For the time being, most employees in the field are focused on research. But, should the technology develop at the predicted pace, numerous engineering and scientific positions will be in high demand. Quantum computing also offers career opportunities for developers, engineers, and designers. 

The first practical uses of the new technology will be related to the chemistry and pharmaceutical industries, as quantum computing will cut short the time needed to discover new materials. Then it’s likely to branch out to other industries, such as finance and banking, supply chain industry, and cyber security. And the list goes on.

Also, around 20 percent of the quantum-related positions are in marketing, sales, management, and tech support. So, even if you don’t manage to become a quantum computing genius, you can still find a suitable position within a quantum-computing company.

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