“The project exists in a simultaneous state of being both totally successful and not even started.” So blags the employee in a Dilbert cartoon about quantum computing. In the real world the same ambiguity exists. Computers that harness the counterintuitive properties of subatomic particles are capable of astonishing processing speeds. But they have yet to prove their practical value.

Classical computers use bits, representing zeros and ones, to solve problems. Quantum computers use qubits. These can store multiple values at the same time, just as a cat can be both dead and alive in Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment. This hugely magnifies their computing power. That could open up new applications from pharmaceuticals to finance, worth up to $52bn in 2035, says McKinsey.

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