08-04-2023

Earth.com staff writer

In a significant leap for the field of quantum computing, Google has reportedly engineered a quantum computer that can execute calculations in mere moments that would take the world’s most advanced supercomputers nearly half a century to process.

The news, reported by the Daily Telegraph, could signify a landmark moment in the evolution of this emerging technology.

Quantum computing, a science that takes advantage of the oddities of quantum physics, remains a fast-moving and somewhat contentious field.

Quantum computers hold immense promise for potentially revolutionizing sectors like climate science and drug discovery. They offer computation speeds far beyond those of their classical counterparts.

However, this advanced technology is not without its potential drawbacks. Quantum computers pose significant challenges for contemporary encryption systems, thus placing them high on the list of national security concerns.

The contentious discussion continues. Critics argue that, despite the impressive milestones, these quantum machines still need to demonstrate more practicality outside of academic research.

Google’s latest iteration of its quantum machine, the Sycamore quantum processor, currently holds 70 qubits. This is a substantial leap from the 53 qubits of its earlier version. This makes the new processor approximately 241 million times more robust than the previous model.

As each qubit can exist in a state of zero, one, or both simultaneously, the capability of storing and processing this level of quantum information is an achievement that even the fastest classical computer, however rapid or slow, cannot match.

The Google team, in a paper published on the arXiv pre-print server, remarked: “Quantum computers hold the promise of executing tasks beyond the capability of classical computers. We estimate the computational cost against improved classical methods and demonstrate that our experiment is beyond the capabilities of existing classical supercomputers.”

Even the currently fastest classical computers, such as the Frontier supercomputer based in Tennessee, cannot rival the potential of quantum computers. These traditional machines operate on the language of binary code, confined to a dual-state reality of zeroes and ones. The quantum paradigm, however, transcends this limitation.

It remains uncertain how much Google’s quantum computer cost to create. Regardless, this development certainly holds the promise of transformative computational power.

For instance, according to the Google team, it would take the Frontier supercomputer merely 6.18 seconds to match a calculation from Google’s 53-qubit computer. However, the same machine would take an astonishing 47.2 years to match a computation executed by Google’s latest 70-qubit device.

Many experts in the field have praised Google’s significant strides. Steve Brierley, chief executive of Cambridge-based quantum company Riverlane, labeled Google’s advancement as a “major milestone.”

He also added: “The squabbling about whether we had reached, or indeed could reach, quantum supremacy is now resolved.”

Similarly, Professor Winfried Hensinger, director of the Sussex Centre for Quantum Technologies, commended Google for resolving a specific academic problem tough to compute on a conventional computer.

“Their most recent demonstration is yet another powerful demonstration that quantum computers are developing at a steady pace,” said Professor Hensinger.

He stressed that the upcoming critical step would be the creation of quantum computers capable of correcting their inherent operational errors.

While IBM has not yet commented on Google’s recent work, it is clear that this progress in the realm of quantum computing has caught the attention of researchers and companies worldwide. This will open new prospects and competition in the evolution of computational technology. Let the games begin!

Quantum computing, a remarkable leap in technological advancement, holds the potential to redefine our computational capacities. Harnessing the strange yet fascinating laws of quantum physics, it could significantly outperform classical computers in solving certain types of problems.

Traditional computers operate based on bits, which can be in a state of either 0 or 1. Quantum computers, on the other hand, operate on quantum bits, known as qubits. Unlike traditional bits, a qubit can exist in both states simultaneously, thanks to a quantum principle called superposition.

Superposition increases the computing power of a quantum computer exponentially. For example, two qubits can exist in four states simultaneously (00, 01, 10, 11), three qubits in eight states, and so on. This allows quantum computers to process a massive number of possibilities at once.

Another key quantum principle quantum computers exploit is entanglement. Entangled qubits are deeply linked. Change the state of one qubit, and the state of its entangled partner will change instantaneously, no matter the distance. This feature allows quantum computers to process complex computations more efficiently.

The unusual characteristics of quantum computing make it ideal for solving complex problems that classical computers struggle with.

Cryptography is a notable area where quantum computing can make a significant difference. The capacity to factor large numbers quickly makes quantum computers a threat to current encryption systems but also opens the door for the development of more secure quantum encryption methods.

In the field of medicine, quantum computing could enable the modeling of complex molecular structures, speeding up drug discovery. Quantum simulations could offer insights into new materials and processes that might take years to discover through experimentation.

Despite its promising potential, quantum computing is not without challenges. Quantum states are delicate, and maintaining them for a practical length of time—known as quantum coherence—is a significant hurdle. The slightest environmental interference can cause qubits to lose their state, a phenomenon known as decoherence.

Quantum error correction is another daunting challenge. Due to the fragility of qubits, errors are more likely to occur in quantum computations than classical ones. Developing efficient error correction methods that don’t require a prohibitive number of qubits remains a central focus in quantum computing research.

While quantum computing is still in its infancy, the rapid pace of innovation signals a promising future. Tech giants like IBM, Google, and Microsoft, as well as numerous startups, are making significant strides in quantum computing research.

In the coming years, we can expect quantum computers to continue growing in power and reliability. Quantum supremacy—a point where quantum computers surpass classical computers in computational capabilities—may be closer than we think.

Quantum computing represents a thrilling frontier, promising to reshape how we tackle complex problems. As research and development persist, we inch closer to unlocking the full potential of this revolutionary technology.

Supercomputers are high-performance computing machines capable of processing data at super high speeds in comparison to conventional computers. Renowned for their significant computational power, they perform tasks involving complex calculations that typical computers cannot manage.

Scientists, researchers, and governments use supercomputers to solve intricate problems in areas like quantum physics, weather forecasting, climate research, and biochemical modeling.

The history of supercomputers dates back to the 1960s when the first supercomputer, CDC 6600, designed by Seymour Cray at Control Data Corporation, made its appearance. Over the years, supercomputers underwent numerous advancements, transitioning from single processor systems to parallel computing designs.

The advent of parallel computing in the 1970s and 1980s allowed supercomputers to increase their computing power exponentially. This involved the use of more than one processor to divide tasks and conduct computations simultaneously. In the 1990s, massively parallel computers like the Thinking Machine’s CM-5 started utilizing thousands of processors, marking a significant leap in supercomputing power.

Supercomputers possess unique designs and architectures to accommodate their advanced computing needs. Initially, vector processors were common in supercomputers, but with technological advancements, scalar processors and parallel processing became more prevalent.

Contemporary supercomputers use a variety of architectures. The majority utilize a massively parallel processing (MPP) approach. MPP allows supercomputers to divide large tasks into smaller ones for simultaneous processing by multiple processors. Some supercomputers also use grid computing where they link geographically dispersed computers to form a supercomputer.

The architecture of a supercomputer requires meticulous planning and design to accommodate the heat generated by the processors and ensure efficient data transmission. As such, engineers design the infrastructure and cooling systems in a way that maximizes performance and minimizes energy usage.

The performance of supercomputers is typically measured in FLOPS (Floating Point Operations Per Second), a unit that indicates the speed of calculations. The fastest supercomputers today perform at exaFLOPS levels, that is, they can perform a quintillion floating-point calculations per second.

To rank supercomputers based on their performance, the Top500 project publishes a list twice a year. The rankings depend on a supercomputer’s performance in running the LINPACK benchmark, a software library that measures a machine’s ability to solve dense systems of linear equations.

Supercomputers find applications in diverse fields. In weather forecasting, they simulate climate models to predict future weather conditions. The field of space exploration uses supercomputers to simulate and model celestial bodies and galaxies. In the field of physics, supercomputers perform complex simulations like particle collision in particle physics and nuclear fusion experiments.

Moreover, supercomputers play a pivotal role in medical research, helping to model and understand the structures of viruses, bacteria, and other microscopic organisms. They also facilitate drug discovery and development by simulating the interaction of molecules with biological targets. Governments also use supercomputers for cryptanalysis, decoding encrypted data for national security purposes.

Supercomputers have played, and continue to play, a critical role in scientific discovery and technological advancement. By pushing the boundaries of computational power, they enable the resolution of complex problems across a multitude of domains, ranging from meteorology to quantum physics. As technologies like quantum computing evolve, the potential of supercomputers will continue to expand, revolutionizing the landscape of high-performance computing.

—-

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and Earth.com.

News coming your way

The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day