A group of researchers at Google led by John Martinis claims that they may have demonstrated quantum supremacy for the first time. Quantum supremacy is the point where a quantum processor can perform a task that modern processors are not able to. In this case, the processor completed a calculation in three minutes and twenty seconds, the likes of which contemporary processing would have taken close to 10,000 years to complete.
NASA as a Benchmark
Last year, Google agreed to use NASA’s supercomputers as the benchmark for quantum supremacy. The reason why is because NASA’s processors are more advanced than most other processors currently available. The advancement is a significant step in the development of quantum computing. Before the paper came out that announced this achievement, Wil Oliver, a professor at MIT, mentioned that when quantum supremacy emerged, it would be as instrumental to technology as the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk was to the aviation industry.
How does Quantum Computing Work?
Quantum computers utilize quantum states for their bits, called qubits. A qubit can have a state of 0, 1, or both, depending on the situation. Quantum phenomenon allows these processors to operate in multiple states of being at the same time, compressing computing time down across various possibilities. The final solution collapses the quantum bits into a state that allows them to be used just like standard computer bits.
While it may be several decades before quantum computers get to the point of consumer technology, their presence offers hope to faster, more complex calculations and simulations being performed. At present, no one is sure what Google’s quantum processor is working on, but its ability to adapt to new information may be quite limited. Some researchers argue that they will never replace conventional processors because their use-case scenario is too narrow for everyday use. Only time will tell whether this is the case.