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Many members of Congress admit they find quantum physics mind-boggling, with its counterintuitive account of the subatomic world. But that isn't stopping U.S. lawmakers, as well as policymakers in President Donald Trump's administration, from backing an emerging effort to better organize and boost funding for quantum research, which could reshape computing, sensors, and communications.

In the coming weeks, the science committee of the House of Representatives is expected to introduce legislation calling for a new, 10-year-long National Quantum Initiative (NQI). The White House, for its part, is scheduled to formally launch a new panel that will guide the federal government's role in quantum science. Key science agencies are calling on Congress to accelerate spending on quantum research. And the Senate supports a boost for the field: Last week, it approved a mammoth defense policy bill that includes a provision directing the Pentagon to create a new $20 million quantum science program.

A yearlong push by a coalition of academic researchers and technology firms helped trigger this flurry of activity. Proponents argue the United States needs a better plan for harvesting the potential fruits of quantum research—and for keeping up with global competitors. The European Union has launched a decadelong quantum research initiative, and China is said to be investing heavily in the field. The United States is "kind of the only major country that's not doing something," says Chris Monroe, a physicist at the University of Maryland in College Park and co-founder of a startup developing quantum computers, which could outstrip conventional computers on certain problems.

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Category: Science