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Google's NASA quantum computer turns out to be not so super

Quantum Computing quarks like a duck
Fri Jun 20 2014, 11:11
Artist's impression of quantum data - Stephanie Simmons (CC BY)

GOOGLE'S $15M QUANTUM COMPUTER is starting to look like something of a white elephant after initial tests showed results comparable to those of a regular machine.

The 512 qubit D-Wave 2 quantum computer that Google co-purchased with NASA also counts the US National Security Agency (NSA) among its customers.

It is almost exactly a year since a team from the University of Southern California certified the D-Wave 2 as a quantum machine, saying that it had "the potential for quantum optimisation on a larger than ever scale".

However, now a research team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) has published a paper in the Journal Science that found no tangible speed or power increase from the D-Wave 2.

The abstract of the paper said, "Using random spin glass instances as a benchmark, we find no evidence of quantum speedup when the entire data set is considered, and obtain inconclusive results when comparing subsets of instances on an instance-by-instance basis."

It added, "Our results do not rule out the possibility of speedup for other classes of problems and illustrate the subtle nature of the quantum speedup question."

The news had been expected by many observers, as many scientists believe that the quantum annealing structure of the D-Wave computer is fundamentally flawed.

That isn't to say that anyone wants quantum computing to fail as a concept, but Google's pet project had to have a control for benchmark comparison in the form of some conventional computing power, which was kindly provided by the research division of Microsoft. µ


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