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Created by researchers at the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Twist is a programming language for quantum computing.

Twist was introduced to the public in January 2022, and published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Programming Languages in February 2022. The lead developers are Adam Chlipala and Arjun Guha.

Quantum computers are difficult to program. The language was designed to make it easier for developers to write and debug quantum programs by providing features that track and control the entanglement of data. Entanglement is a programming phenomenon unique to quantum computing that allows two pieces of data to be linked so that actions on one affect the other, even when they are physically separated. This can serve to enable powerful quantum algorithms, but it can also introduce bugs and effects that are difficult to determine.

Twist has a type system that allows developers to specify which expressions and pieces of data are pure, meaning free from entanglement, which can avoid errors and improve the reliability of the code. The language includes purity assertion operators that allow developers to affirm that an expression is not entangled with any other piece of data, verifying the correctness of the program and detecting bugs early. Static analyses and run-time checks enforce its purity assertions, preventing unwanted entanglement.

As of this writing, however, Twist is a relatively new and experimental language that has not yet been widely tested or adopted by the quantum computing community. It may prove to be incompatible or interoperable with other quantum programming languages or frameworks that have different approaches, and, as with several other new programming languages, it may require learning new concepts or syntax not familiar to classical programmers.

Nevertheless, should any of these potential problems present, it is likely that its developers will be able to correct them, although learning new concepts comes with the task of learning any new programming language.

Fred Chong, the Seymour Goodman Professor of Computer Science at the University of Chicago, says, of the language, "Twist takes a big step towards making quantum programming easier by guaranteeing that the quantum bits in a pure piece of code cannot be altered by bits not in that code."



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