TECH GIANT Google has hinted that it has reached "Quantum Supremacy" as part of its research into the next generation of computing.
The term refers to the idea that a quantum computer has been successful at achieving calculations that would be impossible on a silicon-based machine.
According to a report in the Financial Times, Google boffins working alongside NASA, with whom Google co-owns a quantum rig, managed to calculate a sum on three minutes and twenty seconds that would have taken around 10,000 years on even the most advanced traditional computer.
The research paper seen by the FT claims: "This dramatic speed-up relative to all known classical algorithms provides an experimental realisation of quantum supremacy on a computational task and heralds the advent of a much-anticipated computing paradigm," the authors wrote. "To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor."
A quick reality check - the Google/NASA experiment was done on a machine built for one specific purpose under very specific conditions. Any sort of ‘generalist' silicon device is still years away.
Nevertheless, once we finally do get there, Google predicts that technology will advance at double the speed of Moore's Law, making the path of progress in subsequent years fast enough to make the world almost unrecognisable after a decade or so.
In an INQ-y slightly dumbed-down way, quantum computers work because they aren't bound by the traditional laws of physics in their calculations. Where a traditional computer can see information in either a zero or one state, quantum machines can see a zero and a one at the same time, which vastly speeds up the ability to make a calculation.
Quantum computers can currently only run at very, very low temperatures to ensure the stability of the quantum state. Once there's a way to scale down that area of near absolute zero and put it inside a sealed module, then it'll be quarks for all. But like we say, don't hold your breath for a while yet. μ
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