Quantum Computing Breakthrough with Powerful 54-Qubit Chip!

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Google Researchers Harness Quantum Mechanics to Reach “Quantum Supremacy”—A Major Quantum Computing Breakthrough—If They’re Right…

Last month some rumors leaked out regarding a possible quantum computing breakthrough. The scuttlebutt was that Google achieved a milestone in quantum computing called “quantum supremacy.” The quantum supremacy milestone is the event at which a quantum computer is able to reliably accomplish tasks that would be considered practically impossible for classic computers. In a paper published in Nature today, researchers at Google claim they’ve done it.

Here’s a Bit About Quantum Computing To Fill You In:

Big Sakes = Big Controversy

Of course, the fact that such a quantum computing breakthrough came at the hands of one of the world’s most powerful corporations means that other such corporations are already out and criticizing the claims. In fact, before the paper was even published, IBM was out in front of the news, preemptively debunking the claim they knew was coming. 

Some of the biggest points of contention from IBM centered on disk space and rejection of Google’s main claim. In the paper, Google asserts that its new 54-qubit Sycamore processor can perform a task in 200 seconds that would take today’s most powerful supercomputer 10,000 years to perform. According to IBM, that data is inaccurate. They claim that a modern classic computer could perform the task in two and a half days, instead. 

It is worth mentioning that IBM has its own 53-qubit quantum processor coming out soon, so they do have a profit motive to try and discredit Google’s work. 

Still, it’s not legitimate science if it’s not repeatable and subject to community scrutiny. Because of this, Google can expect a swarm of criticism and vetting in the coming weeks as industry leaders and researchers all evaluate their methodology.  

That’s Great. What’s This Got to Do With Space?

Well, let’s just all take a moment and remember that we’ve all got a device either on our person or right next to us that has an exponentially more powerful processor than the ones that sent Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins to the moon. Now, that may not be the best example, given that we haven’t done a whole lot of human space exploration since then, but technology hasn’t been the reason for that. Advances in technology, especially computing power and communications capabilities, have transformed the world. And space has been the backdrop for that transformation.

As Dr. Burnhardt explained in the video above, quantum computing doesn’t necessarily need to eclipse classical computing, either. There are certain scenarios in which quantum computers will be ideally suited. There will also be scenarios in which a classical computer is more appropriate. Still other problems might exist in which both types of computing are required for a solution.

Of course, space exploration needs all the computing power we can throw at it. So the potential for the Sycamore chip or other stable quantum chips to speed up the process is enticing. As is the idea of putting that extra processing power to use in running simulations and cosmological models. Those types of experiments have the potential to vastly improve our understanding of the cosmos.

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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