Heart of Stone, a cinematic venture into the mysterious world of quantum computers, has intrigued audiences with its portrayal of the bizarre phenomena inherent to the quantum realm.

Heart of Stone film.

The film, while captivating, intertwines scientific elements with speculative fiction, leading to a mixture of interpretations and, consequently, a myriad of misconceptions about the true potential of quantum computers.

The objective of this article is not to diminish the creative value of Heart of Stone but to dissect the quantum exploration as presented in the film, separating scientific facts from the woven tapestry of cinematic fantasy.

In doing so, we aim to present its current progress and foster a more accurate understanding of quantum computer technology, illuminating its realities, limitations, and the profound implications it holds for our perception of the universe.

Transcend the boundaries of our imagination

Science fiction films often serve as vessels for extraordinary narratives, offering visions that transcend the boundaries of our imagination and daily experiences.

They delve into territories uncharted by the human mind, painting pictures of worlds steeped in the surreal and the fantastic. However, concepts such as ethical hacking and responsible artificial intelligence (AI) have found a place in mainstream discussions.

In reality, these are merely fragments of the vast and multifaceted domain of quantum applications. These portrayals, while fascinating, need to fully encapsulate the true essence and extensive range of quantum phenomena, thereby presenting a skewed reflection of this intricate scientific field. The expansive realm of quantum science holds possibilities far beyond these disturbing topics.

Quantum computer technology has been under the print and digital media spotlight for the past couple of years. Undoubtedly, it is an emerging technology and paving its way to prove its successful usage in ordinary people's lives.

At the same time, the technology is overhyped and presumed to be the last thing on the blue planet to solve every problem and, if mishandled, will transform our beautiful planet into a dust cloud.

Level of hype is disturbing

The level of hype is disturbing for researchers and scientists in the field and for ordinary people who don’t worry about science stuff but still care about their future, family, and data privacy.

A similar intuition of a compelling technology is posed in this film; it is developed around the quantum computer, the so-called 'Heart' in the movie.

The 'Heart' is shown as a highly capable, computationally powerful, and ready-to-use quantum computer. In theory, quantum computers hold immense promise, potentially performing computations millions of times faster than today's classical computers. However, the practical realisation of such advanced devices harbours a considerable degree of uncertainty and seems to be a prospect situated in the not-so-near future.

Both the development and deployment of quantum computing, while groundbreaking, are fraught with unparalleled challenges and complexities, rendering their advent equally exhilarating and elusive.

Quantum computers today are in their infancy state, they are underdeveloped, and they cannot deliver any considerable quantum advantage in the world of computing.

Quantum advantage means the computer operates on governing the quantum physics laws and properties like superposition, entanglement, or interference for its computation process. These properties make it more powerful and naturally different from the classical computers.

The classical computer performs computation with the help of bits, or we can say that with the strings of 0’s and 1’s. Even supercomputers also have the same classical technology whereas the quantum computer performs computations with the help of quantum bits, or we call them ‘qubits’.

Qubit can be an electron, an atom, an ion, or a photon particle. A qubit has the same states as of the classical 0 and 1 but, interestingly, a qubit can be in both states 0 and 1 at the same time, and theoretically a qubit can be entangled and teleported from one end of the universe to the other end without losing information, which is absurd and amazing but unfortunately, we are not even close to engineering such a device that can apply those quantum properties.

An example of perfection

In the film, ‘Heart’ is represented as an example of perfection. Upon deeper reflection, its depiction feels somewhat overstated or fantastical, illustrating a detachment of the technology from its tangible existence.

The film portrays the quantum computer as a formidable entity, akin to a superweapon, possessing near-limitless capabilities in real-time simulation and predictive analytics, capable of forecasting health outcomes and even the occurrence of death.

It is depicted with the capability to infiltrate any system globally, exhibiting the power to control and manipulate life-threatening situations, such as precipitating elevator failures, symbolising the immense and, potentially, perilous power of quantum computing.

This representation, while captivating, amplifies the contradiction between the imaginative realm of cinema and the intricate realities of emerging technologies. A quantum computer has a wide array of applications that span far beyond the domain of a classical computer; however, it won’t turn out to be a superweapon for humanity.

At its core, nature adheres to quantum principles, posing a formidable challenge for the precise computation of individual atom and molecule behaviours through conventional computing methods. However, this is precisely the kind of task for which quantum computers are exceptionally well suited, as they can compute millions of possibilities simultaneously.

Tremendous application in drug discovery

It has a tremendous application in drug discovery by predicting the intricate interactions between atoms, potentially accelerating the development of new medications and materials. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, a quantum computer could have helped to understand behaviour and the chemical structure of the virus and come up with antidotes much more rapidly than what occurred. 

AI and machine learning are the potential applications of quantum computer technology – and it can significantly boost their capabilities. Along with many other applications, the combination of AI and quantum computing would enable us to discover new materials or the novel properties of existing materials because a quantum technology is an opportunity to observe them at quantum level.

In simple words, the controlled manipulation of the particles like atoms, electrons or photons would produce hugely different results. We might discover new alternatives of rare earth minerals or new ways of energy generation and methods of accurately controlling nuclear fission and fusions on a much larger scale.

Quantum computers can revolutionise the development of innovative battery designs by effectively handling the complex structures of new materials, particularly those with intricate molecule chains. Batteries could not only achieve extended lifespans but also reach a net zero waste status.

Climate change and its consequences are a big concern for mankind. Current technology is incapable of processing all of the factors that are ruining the environment, and its sustainability, at a very fast rate.

Promisingly fast

Quantum computation is promisingly fast, and it can account for maximum factors that are the reason for the disastrous destiny of the Earth’s climate, environment and its sustainability. It can show the short- and long-term consequences of human activities in terms of carbon footprints, global temperature rise and food shortage forecasting.

Consider a hypothetical scenario in which a popular social media platform introduces a virtual reality (VR) system, driven by quantum computing technology. In this imagined setting, the VR simulation would closely emulate the complexities of the physical world.

For instance, envision a futuristic open-world game, like 'GTA 19' operating on a quantum computer. Within this context, the gaming experience would approach an unprecedented level of realism.

Every element, from buildings and vehicles to virtual characters, would exhibit an extraordinary degree of life-like fidelity, bridging the gap between the virtual environment and reality more convincingly than ever before.

Quantum computers are capable of breaking today's best classical encryption which secure the internet traffic. For instance, consider the task of decrypting an Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128-bit password.

To accomplish this feat using a supercomputer would necessitate roughly a billion years, while a proficient well-developed quantum computer with millions of qubits can perform the same task in a matter of seconds but the technology analysts can’t see such devices until the 2030s because hardware of a quantum computing machine is a significant challenge for the advancement of the technology.

‘Post-quantum cryptography’

The latest quantum computer contains only 433-qubits and those are very vulnerable and do not produce 100% accurate results. On the other hand, keeping in mind for consumers' privacy, scientists have already started developing algorithms to resist quantum computers for hacking classically encrypted data that is known as ‘post-quantum cryptography’.

Likewise, quantum cryptography is also the key area of focus which ensures secure and unbreakable encryption even with another quantum computer because of its inherent ‘no-cloning’ property. ‘No cloning theorem’ says we cannot copy the quantum state of any quantum system.

Harvesting the quantum advantage of a quantum computer requires it to have millions of qubits on a device that can produce correct results in spite of dealing with environmental noise. The environmental noise means temperature, magnetic field or electric field can easily disturb qubits to lose information.

Besides all of this, there should be the best algorithms and application software to interact with the technology. As of now, there is huge room for improvement of the technology in terms of algorithms, software and hardware; the devices containing hundreds of qubits are not even close to the technology we are aiming for.

Classical computers have excelled in processing capabilities, but their potential is perpetually constrained by the number of so-called transistors they can accommodate on the chip.

The most recent processing units (CPUs) are crafted using a cutting-edge three-nanometre fabrication process. So, a quantum computer not only should operate on quantum physics laws and quantum phenomena, but it has to perform better than classical computers, otherwise there is no point in investing time, money and energy on their development. It might take about a couple of decades to uncover the true potential of quantum computers.

Fear of ‘quantum winter’ has not gone yet. The term quantum winter express the deadly slow development of the technology which affects a lot of startups who have borrowed millions of dollars and will be unable to pay back the interest.

Currently, we have Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) computers. Startups and companies are developing algorithms, software and applications for NISQ devices but possibly today’s algorithms and software might not work for tomorrow’s full-fault-tolerant quantum computers. 

Functionality of quantum computing at a large scale might not be viable until the 2040s or even later. The growth trajectory of this technology is uncertain due to unforeseen reasons.

In contrast to Heart of Stone, where a single party possesses the technology, the quantum computer, once developed, shall be collectively owned by several stakeholders, ensuring equal access to everybody and shared resilience against potential threats.

The betterment of mankind

This approach significantly diminishes privacy concerns, fostering a greater sense of security. On top of that, a technology is brought up along with policies and ethics for the betterment of mankind.

Policies ensure that the users be trusted, similar to how we have policies for internet security, robotics, cloud data and AI. It is the same case with quantum computing. 

Eight billion people live on Earth, and we all must eat, sleep under shelter, get an education, health, jobs, and live sustainably for this planet to even exist in peace. As Mahatma Gandhi said, 'The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.'

It is essential to acknowledge the dedicated scientists and researchers who are devoting their lives to advancing this transformative technology. Their efforts lay the foundation for a brighter and more innovative future for generations to come. The possibilities are not limited to what we can currently imagine, making the journey of quantum computing exploration an exciting one filled with immense potential.

Also, the Nobel Laureates in Physics and Chemistry 2023 have made groundbreaking contributions with far-reaching implications for quantum computing. In physics, their experiments have enabled the precise study of electron behaviour at the attosecond scale, critical for understanding quantum bits or qubits.

The chemistry laureates' work on quantum dots, nanoscale particles influenced by quantum effects, holds promise for qubit development. These advances, coupled with nanotechnology progress, are integral to the future of quantum computing.


  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/some-quantum-software-works-today-down-the-road-it-might-not-141bffa
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  4. https://thequantuminsider.com/2020/05/28/quantum-machine-learning-is-the-next-big-thing/
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  8. https://www.engineersireland.ie/Engineers-Journal/News/quantum-computing-the-five-biggest-breakthroughs


Authors: Abdul Fatah (LinkedIn) is PhD researcher in the area quantum computing algorithms at Atlantic Technological University Galway. Currently, he is developing new algorithms for Noisy Intermediate scale quantum (NISQ) era quantum computers as well as envision the algorithms for future fault-tolerant quantum computers. Lala Rukh (LinkedIn) is a doctoral researcher at MaREI–Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Energy, Climate and Marine Research and Innovation at the University of Galway. She is an electrical engineer and has master's degrees in energy systems and marine plastics abatement. And Muhammad Mohsin (LinkedIn) is a Computational Sciences and Engineering student at the National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan.