Google claims "quantum supremacy" computer most advanced ever built

Joanna Estrada
October 25, 2019

So what problem was exactly solved?

Alphabet Inc's Google said on Wednesday it achieved a breakthrough in computing research by using a quantum computer to solve in minutes a complex problem that would take today's most powerful supercomputer thousands of years to crack. Among the biggest is the fact that as more qubits are added, it becomes increasingly hard to maintain the conditions needed for reliable quantum computations.

Pichai called the success of Sycamore the "hello world" moment of quantum computing.

But not everyone is buying the hype.

"We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity", IBM wrote in a blog post. "This is in fact a conservative, worst-case estimate", the company added. "The United States has taken a great leap forward in quantum computing", said USA chief technology officer Michael Kratsios on Wednesday.

"It comprises roughly 40,000 processor units, each of which contains billions of transistors (electronic switches), and has 250 million gigabytes of storage".

Regular computers, even the fastest, function in binary fashion: they carry out tasks using tiny fragments of data known as bits that are only ever either 1 or 0.

"I suspect that the first claims of quantum supremacy will be followed by a lengthy period of contention, where scientists push the limits of conventional supercomputers to find a way to simulate these claimed demonstrations".

Google said it has been working for more than a decade to achieve quantum supremacy.

"A sampling-based quantum supremacy experiment could nearly immediately be repurposed to generate bits that can be proven to be random to a skeptical third party (under computational assumptions)". Therefore, IBM argues, this threshold has not been met.

At present quantum computers can not take the quantum supremacy position because they are more error-prone than classical ones.

Google AI's research team leader Frank Arute said Google had achieved "quantum supremacy". He points to the time needed for Google's system to complete the benchmark versus a traditional supercomputer. While Google's new feat is being praised by many, IBM researchers aren't very impressed.

Oliver also stressed, however, that considerable work still needs to be done before quantum computers can become an important part of our everyday lives. To problem is designing a quantum computer whose qubits don't fail due to decoherence caused by vibrations, temperature fluctuations, electromagnetic waves and other interactions with the outside environment, which ultimately destroys the exotic quantum properties of the computer. In a press call withNew Scientist, researcher John Martinis encourages the IBM team to actually go and test their algorithm on the Summit supercomputer and see if it works.

Quantum computing is a fledgling technology which uses the weird world of quantum physics to achieve vastly sped-up information processing. "We've already peeled away from classical computers, on to a totally different trajectory", a Google spokesperson told the Guardian. "And researchers will need to demonstrate robust protocols for quantum error correction that will enable sustained, fault-tolerant operation in the longer term".

Some immediate applications of quantum computing could be in encryption software and AI, but its calculations could eventually lead to more efficient solar panels, drug design and even quicker and better financial transactions.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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