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Bill Gates admits quantum computing leaves him baffled

  • The former CEO said he knows "a lot of physics and a lot of math," but quantum still eludes him.
  • Gates sat down with current CEO Satya Nadella and WSJ Magazine.
  • Nadella struggled with a one-sentence explanation of quantum, too.

Bill Gates may be the brain behind Microsoft, but even he doesn't quite understand one technology the company's betting on: quantum computing.

"I know a lot of physics and a lot of math. But the one place where they put up slides and it is hieroglyphics, it's quantum," Gates told WSJ Magazine in a joint interview with current CEO Satya Nadella.

Nadella also has a bit of trouble boiling it down.

When asked if he could explain quantum computing in one sentence, Nadella responded, "I don't think so. I wish I could."

Microsoft announced new tools on Tuesday for programmers to begin experimenting with quantum computing, which could someday lead to computers that are way more powerful than today's.

If the CEOs get a little lost in the math behind quantum, they're decidedly more sturdy in discussing its usefulness.

"The question is, What's the next breakthrough that will allow us to keep up this exponential growth in computing power and to solve problems — whether it's about climate or food production or drug discovery? I think that's where quantum plays a role," Nadella said. "It's a natural thing for us to be investing in because we are one of the biggest spenders on cloud computing, and we think of this as our next-generation cloud."

Read the full WSJ Magazine interview.