All aboard for Sydney, a big stop on the quantum world tour

With lustrous brown curls and an English drawl, 29-year-old Benjamin Brown could pass for a young rock'n'roller, especially when he mentions a recent world tour that took him across the United States and Canada before landing in Sydney.

Like the more-famous British physicist Professor Brian Cox, who famously gave up rock'n'roll for science, Dr Brown prefers the excitement of the future. Instead of the battle of the bands, he is competing in the race to establish the first quantum computer.

Dr Brown, who studied at the Imperial College, London, is part of an incoming tide of young and international physicists moving to Sydney to research quantum computing. More than 20 engineers and scientists are expected to work here as part of Microsoft's quantum computing partnership with the University of Sydney.

Now that improvements in classical computing speed have slowed, the hope is that quantum computers will be able to do multiple and simultaneous calculations that many believe will assist solving complex problems, from designing new drugs to finding solutions to climate change.

Unlike classical computers, which store information using bits - either a 1 or a 0 - quantum computers will be able to solve different sorts of problems by running simultaneous computations using quantum bits, known as qubits.

Gizmodo described the qubit "as similar to a regular bit, but it's both a zero and a one at the same time [before you look at it]. It's that coin flipping in mid-air. A quantum computer is like flipping multiple coins at the same time."

Quantum computing is like playing a game of chess where the pieces and board are made of ice, said Jonathan Carter, deputy director of Berkeley Lab Computing Sciences. He told, which specialises in quantum computing, that as "the players shuffle around the pieces, the components are melting, and the more moves you make, the faster the game will melt".

Dr Brown's expertise is trying to identify which qubits have broken. Given some chalk and a blackboard, he started drawing hexagons at a rapid rate to illustrate his work.

"We want to set up our quantum computing so some can go wrong, and we can see which ones went wrong. This is a colour code, suppose this little guy went wrong and all the little hexagons around it will light up. Hexagons will light up, which will tell you which qubit went wrong, and we can see where the mistakes happen and we can fix it."

On the way to Australia, Dr Brown did visit some usual tourist spots, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Saying "you've got to keep up", his holiday included visits to the quantum hotspots, including Caltech's Institute for Quantum Information in Pasadena, California, a start-up company in Palo Alto, California; Google in Santa Barbara, IBM in New York, Microsoft in Redmond, Washington, and a major conference on quantum computing in Maryland.

Although the theory is much the same, each model is slightly different. Microsoft is yet to build a qubit, while IBM announced last month it had built a 50-qubit computer.

Including Dr Brown, Sydney University has made six post-doctoral appointments, including Dr Kamil Korzekwa, 29, of Poland, Dr Weiwei Zhang, 30, of China, and Dr Arne Grimsmo, 34, of Norway.

Australian scientist Dr Jacinda Ginges, 39, of Wentworth Falls, also won a spot after taking five years off to have children. Dr Ginges, whose field is high-precision atomic tests of fundamental physics, won a post-doctoral research fellowship with the Quantum theory group at the University of Sydney at the same time as winning an ARC Future Fellowship.

This story All aboard for Sydney, a big stop on the quantum world tour first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.