In this paper we study quantum computation from a complexity theoretic viewpoint. Our first result is the existence of an efficient universal quantum Turing machine in Deutsch's model of a quantum Turing machine (QTM) [Proc. Roy. Soc. London Ser. A, 400 (1985), pp. 97--117]. This construction is substantially more complicated than the corresponding construction for classical Turing machines (TMs); in fact, even simple primitives such as looping, branching, and composition are not straightforward in the context of quantum Turing machines. We establish how these familiar primitives can be implemented and introduce some new, purely quantum mechanical primitives, such as changing the computational basis and carrying out an arbitrary unitary transformation of polynomially bounded dimension.
We also consider the precision to which the transition amplitudes of a quantum Turing machine need to be specified. We prove that $O(\log T)$ bits of precision suffice to support a T step computation. This justifies the claim that the quantum Turing machine model should be regarded as a discrete model of computation and not an analog one.
We give the first formal evidence that quantum Turing machines violate the modern (complexity theoretic) formulation of the Church--Turing thesis. We show the existence of a problem, relative to an oracle, that can be solved in polynomial time on a quantum Turing machine, but requires superpolynomial time on a bounded-error probabilistic Turing machine, and thus not in the class $\BPP$. The class $\BQP$ of languages that are efficiently decidable (with small error-probability) on a quantum Turing machine satisfies $\BPP \subseteq \BQP \subseteq \Ptime^{\SP}$. Therefore, there is no possibility of giving a mathematical proof that quantum Turing machines are more powerful than classical probabilistic Turing machines (in the unrelativized setting) unless there is a major breakthrough in complexity theory.

MSC codes

  1. 68Q05
  2. 68Q15
  3. 03D10
  4. 03D15


  1. quantum computation
  2. quantum Turing machines
  3. reversibility
  4. quantum polynomial time
  5. Fourier sampling
  6. universal quantum Turing machine

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Published In

cover image SIAM Journal on Computing
SIAM Journal on Computing
Pages: 1411 - 1473
ISSN (online): 1095-7111


Published online: 28 July 2006

MSC codes

  1. 68Q05
  2. 68Q15
  3. 03D10
  4. 03D15


  1. quantum computation
  2. quantum Turing machines
  3. reversibility
  4. quantum polynomial time
  5. Fourier sampling
  6. universal quantum Turing machine



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