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In what sense is quantum computing a science?

Quantum computing originated in the 1980s with several papers that received little fanfare at the time. Even by the mid-1990s, mentioning quantum computing to a physicist usually resulted in the question: “What’s a quantum computer?” Answers would often then be greeted with: “Isn’t that engineering? What’s it got to do with physics?”

Sometimes, these questions were asked with a large dollop of chauvinism, implying that engineering is somehow – it was never quite explained how – a pursuit inferior to physics. But remove that chauvinism and there’s still an interesting underlying question: in what sense (if any) can quantum computing be considered a science? And will it lead to the understanding of important new fundamental truths about the universe?

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