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Quantum superiority: Google announces breakthrough in quantum computing


For the first time, a quantum computer has done a job that conventional computers would fail, says Google proudly. A big competitor doubts that.

The fact that Google is particularly bad at keeping secrets to oneself was only noticed again when the company introduced its new smartphone. About the Pixel 4 was pretty much everything known, as it presented the group managers for the first time officially.

The same is true of the technological breakthrough that the company is proudly announcing today: For the first time, a quantum computer has been used to solve a task that would cause conventional computers to fail, at least in the context of human time.

Unfortunately, the research paper, in which Google's scientists announce and explain that brilliant breakthrough, had been put online by NASA weeks ago. Only now, however, has it officially appeared, in the journal Nature, and under the wholly immodest title of quantum supremacy with the help of a superconducting processor.

The supremacy of the novel supercomputer shows the Internet company with an impressive number: The new Sycamore processor, which Google's researchers have developed, can solve a task in the solution of "the world's fastest supercomputer in the world would work for 10,000 years" in a whopping 200 seconds.

The huge difference is possible because quantum computers work completely differently than all the computers that are still common today. For while the bits in the cell phone or notebook only know two states, 0 and 1, quantum processors like Google's sycamore work with so-called qubits, which - to put it simply - can assume many different values.

The golden quantum future

The possibilities resulting from this, Google describes in a blog entry in rosy tones that promise a wonderful future, in which the great problems of mankind are solved by quantum computers. In the future, the machines are to find out which molecules make a drug more effective, how to produce fertilizers without toxic emissions, and above all, how to produce more powerful batteries.

But it is still far from that. Although the breakthrough announced now is the result of years of research and the dedication of the scientists involved. But he is just the "beginning of a new journey". Now it's about figuring out how to use this technology effectively.

After decades of experience with binary computers, the quantum technology IT industry faces the challenge of completely rethinking and developing new ways of thinking about how to use computers. It is hoped to work with other scientists, according to the Google blog. Therefore, they have provided open source software tools to help others find and develop applications for the technology.

Criticism from IBM

The computer manufacturer IBM may not participate. The fact that Google's doubts to have reached a quantum superiority, in a blog post on Monday. In it write three IBM researchers, the task described by Google could do a classic supercomputer quite faster than in 10,000 years. Instead, they predict a calculated duration of two and a half days. With a few refinements on the system, it could also go a little faster.

Either way, the conditions to use the term quantum supremacy in this case are not met. Not only will it take a long time to exploit the possibilities of a quantum computer, it will probably take some time before the traditionalists 'and quantum proponents' camps have come to an agreement whether Google has really made a breakthrough is.

Source: spiegel

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