A report published in the Financial Times revealed that a group of researchers from Google under the supervision of John Martinis have proved quantum supremacy for the first time. With this, a quantum computer is presented to be proficient of executing a task that’s far from the capability of even the most potent conventional supercomputer. The statement was briefly posted on a NASA website but the publication was taken down. Google chose not to comment when inquired.
Earlier this year, Google signed an agreement to use supercomputers accessible to NASA as standards for its supremacy trials. According to the Financial Times report, the paper said that Google’s quantum processor was able to complete a calculation in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s top supercomputer, called Summit, around 10,000 years. In the publication, the researchers said that, to their understanding, the experiment “marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor.”
Quantum Paced up
Quantum machines are extremely potent because they join together quantum bits or qubits. Unlike standard bits, which are either a 1 or a 0, qubits can be in a kind of grouping of both at the same time. Thanks to other quantum phenomena, quantum computers can crunch huge amounts of data in parallel that conventional machines have to execute consecutively. Scientists have been working for years to prove that the machines can ultimately outpace conventional ones.
A milestone achieved?
At MIT Technology Review’s EmTech conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts this week before news of Google’s paper came out, Will Oliver, an MIT professor, and quantum specialist compared the computing milestone to the first flying of the Kitty Hawk in aviation. In a discussion on quantum computing, he said it would give added motivation to research in the field, which should aid quantum machines attain their promise more rapidly. Their massive processing power could ultimately help researchers and companies discover new materials and drugs, create more competent supply chains, and turbocharge AI.
However, it is not clear what assignment Google’s quantum machine was working on, but it’s expected to be a very narrow one. In an emailed comment, Dario Gil of IBM, which is also working on quantum computers, says a test that was possibly designed around a very narrow quantum sampling problem doesn’t mean the machines will rule the roost. “In fact, quantum computers will never control ‘supreme’ over classical ones,” says Gil, “but will work side by side with them, since each has their particular strengths.” For many problems, conventional computers will continue to be the best tool to use.
More on, quantum computers are still a long way from being ready for regular use. The machines are disreputably prone to errors because even the smallest change in temperature or tiny shaking can destroy the sensitive state of qubits. Researchers are working on machines that will be easier to construct, manage, and scale and some computers are now accessible via the computing cloud. But it would take years before quantum computers that can handle a broad range of problems are widely available.