Forbes notes that Google has achieved what it calls the quantum computing equivalent of the first heavier than air flight or the first rocket into space. The internet search company has used a quantum computer to conduct calculations that would take thousands of years on an ordinary supercomputer within minutes.
“Google achieved this milestone with its new quantum chip that it’s dubbed ‘Sycamore.’ This is a 54-qubit chip built on a superconducting architecture. The quantum computer takes advantage of a principle of quantum mechanics called ‘entanglement.’ This means that while a classical computer bit is binary – it exists as ‘zero’ or ‘one’ – a qubit can take advantage of entanglement to produce a quantum superposition. Put simply, a qubit doesn’t exist as ‘one’ or ‘zero’ but rather a complex linear combination of both, which enables a quantum computer (theoretically) to solve certain classes of problems faster than traditional computers.”
The problem that Google’s quantum computer solved consisted of finding patterns in a series of random numbers. The internet giant claims that the same problem could be solved on an ordinary supercomputer in 10,000 years. Their quantum computer solved the problem in three minutes and 20 seconds.
IBM, which is also trying to develop a practical quantum computer, disputes the claim. The computer giant suggested that the same problem could be solved by a supercomputer in two and a half days,
The question arises, what are quantum computers good for? Singularity Hub has six excellent answers.
First, quantum computers are useful for developing artificial intelligence, a technology that involves software that thinks like human beings, only billions of times faster. AI is set to disrupt just about every industry that exists,
Second, quantum computers will be able to decipher codes that previously have been considered unbreakable. The ability has heavy implications for computer security and cyber intelligence.
Third, these types of computers can model molecules in far greater detail than has hitherto been the case. In turn, the ability will lead to more efficient material, which in turn will help create better products, including solar cells, drugs, and even fertilizer.
Fourth, quantum computer technology will allow us to analyze financial markets with greater precision. The ability will help investors to determine outcomes with greater accuracy.
Fifth, quantum computers will aid in weather forecasting, allowing meteorologists to determine where and when extreme weather events such as hurricanes will occur farther into the future. Foreknowledge of such events will allow people more time to prepare. The technology will also give scientists the ability to determine what the effects of human-caused climate change might be, separating science from hysteria.
Finally, physicists will be able to run particle physics experiments on quantum computers, permitting a better understanding of the nature of the universe.
Forbes notes that hundreds of millions of dollars are being poured into quantum computer technology, not only by American rivals Google and IBM but also by the Chinese. The technology will allow the country or company that possesses it to own the future.
The problem is that advances in classical computers, of the type that does everything from cutting paychecks to operating smartphones, have slowed down. Quantum computer technology promises to create – pun intended – a quantum leap in information processing and the simulation of real-world processes.
One problem that has been holding back the development of supercomputers is the fact that they have to be supercooled, to just a little bit above absolute zero. The reason that quantum computers have to be so cold is that they need to be shielded against environmental factors that would affect the entanglements, thus introducing errors. The necessity has kept research into the technology in the hands of government research labs and large corporations.
Phys.org suggests that the holy grail of quantum computing is room temperature quantum chips. A team of researchers at the Stevens Institute of Technology is closing in on that particular breakthrough.
Once room temperature quantum computers are developed, it is off to the races for who can start exploiting the real-world applications for the technology. Just as computer technology changed the world several times in the past few decades, the development of practical quantum computing is poised to do it again.