A quantum leap in computing supremacy

Oct. 4, 2019
by Mark Ollig

You may have heard about quantum computing. There is a lot of excitement about it, and this future generation of computer processing is in the news.

A quantum processor was reportedly used to solve a complex calculation proving the predictability of generated numbers. The calculation took 200 seconds to answer.

According to Google, the same calculation would take 10,000 years for today’s fastest processing supercomputer to solve.

Whose quantum processor performed this astonishing feat?

Google’s 54-qubit quantum computing chip called the Sycamore processor was said to have accomplished the complex calculation. One qubit did not function properly, so the answer was solved using 53 qubits.

“Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor,” Google’s research paper describing their calculation accomplishment and quantum processor, appeared during August on NASA’s Ames Research Center website.

Surprisingly, this research paper has disappeared from the website. Why it is no longer available remains unanswered. Neither Google nor NASA has publicly commented about the disappearance.

IBM, a competitor in the quantum computer race, stated Google’s milestone was accomplished using a specialized system designed to solve a single problem.

They went on to say Google had not achieved quantum supremacy, which Google appeared to claim in their research paper.

As of today, the IBM Summit is recognized as the world’s fastest processing supercomputer.

IBM is also busy with quantum research, and recently announced its 53-qubit universal quantum computing system suitable for cloud computing applications.

“The single goal of this passionate community is to achieve what we call Quantum Advantage, producing powerful quantum systems that can ultimately solve real problems facing our clients that are not viable using today’s classical methods alone,” said Dario Gil, director of IBM Research.

Another company, called IonQ, headquartered in College Park, MD, is working on a 32-qubit quantum computer.

During a 1981 conference hosted by IBM and MIT, the late theoretical physicist, Richard Feynman stressed the importance of constructing a quantum computer.

The next year, IBM began researching the technology needed to build a quantum computer.

July 7, 2008, I wrote a column regarding quantum computing. In the column, I used the analogy of searching through a telephone book for a specific name and telephone number.

A standard computer program looks at all the names; searching each name, one at a time, until it finds the correct name and telephone number.

Although a computer processes information quickly, it still performs each search operation sequentially.

By using the qubit processing power of a quantum computer, every name and associated telephone number in the phone book would be searched instantaneously in a single quantum operation.

It would not matter how large the telephone book is, the quantum operation and resulting output would be immediate.

Today’s computers use digital logical bits; quantum computers use spinning electron molecules which form into qubits.

A computing bit is the smallest unit of digital computation. A bit is in one of two states: a one or a zero, on or off.

Today’s standard computers and supercomputers are based on logical operations using binary digits of “1 and 0.” Being in a state of “1,” the bit is on; and in a state of “0,” the bit is off.

Computer circuitry using logical gate components have their output determined by their binary input.

An individual binary bit is in one logical state at a time; either a “1” or “0.”

A qubit is a quantum bit that can be in a superposition or entanglement state of either a “1” or a “0,” or both at the same time, or at different times.

Lasers are used to perform quantum logic gate operations by modifying a qubit molecule into any given state required.

A quantum computer with a considerably large qubit processor would have incredible processing power.

Quantum computing hardware components and software are currently being researched and developed.

No existing quantum computer is yet ready for tackling the real-world applications today’s supercomputers are used for.

A stable, reliable quantum computer is still years away from replacing today’s supercomputers. We are, however, beginning to slowly transition from this current period of computer processing and into the quantum computing era.

As far as Google’s missing research paper, fortunately, their 12-page document was saved and stored before being removed from the NASA website.

After much investigating, I found and read Google’s “Quantum Supremacy Using a Programmable Superconducting Processor” research paper. You can read it at this shortened link I created: https://bit.ly/2kuKJLU.

I believe future quantum computers will be superior to today’s computing devices, as much as today’s computing devices are superior to a 2,500-year-old abacus.

Like Sam Beckett, we may soon find ourselves experiencing a “Quantum Leap.”

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