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Google Plans to Demonstrate the Supremacy of Quantum Computing

IEEE Spectrum, Rachel Courtland
May 24, 2017

Google researchers say they plan to boost the volume of superconducting qubits built on integrated circuits (ICs) to create a 7×7 array and push operations to the limits of even the best supercomputers, demonstrating “quantum supremacy” by year’s end. The team says it will perform operations on a 49-qubit system that will trigger chaotic evolution yielding what appears to be random output, which classical computers can model for smaller systems. University of California, Santa Barbara professor John Martinis says the qubits constituting the array also could be employed to build larger “universal” quantum systems with error correction, capable of performing useful tasks such as decryption. Martinis says the challenge of scaling up the quantum IC involves maintaining qubits’ function without losing fidelity or boosting error rates. “Error rate and scaling tend to kind of compete against each other,” he notes. The team also sees the possibility of scaling up systems beyond 50 qubits without error correction.



Google Moves Closer to a Universal Quantum Computer

Nature (06/08/16) Philip Ball

A research team has made an experimental prototype of a universal quantum computer that can solve a wide range of problems in fields such as chemistry and physics, and has the potential to be scaled up to larger systems. The Google prototype combines the best of analog and digital approaches to quantum computing. Google computer scientists and physicists at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UC Santa Barbara) and the University of the Basque Country in Bilbao, Spain, used a row of nine solid-state quantum bits (qubits) fashioned from cross-shaped films of aluminum about 400 micrometers from tip to tip, deposited them onto a sapphire surface, and cooled the metal to turn it into a superconductor with no electrical resistance. Information could be encoded into the qubits in their superconducting state, and interactions between neighboring qubits were controlled by logic gates that steer the qubits digitally into a state that encodes the solution to a problem. The researchers say their approach should enable a computer with quantum error correction, and they predict devices with more than 40 qubits could be a reality in a couple of years. “At that point, it will become possible to simulate quantum dynamics that is inaccessible on classical hardware, which will mark the advent of ‘quantum supremacy,'” says UC Santa Barbara’s Daniel Lidar.


Reducing Big Data Using Ideas From Quantum Theory Makes It Easier to Interpret

Queen Mary, University of London (04/23/15) Will Hoyles

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Rovira i Virgili University have developed a new method that simplifies the way big data is represented and processed. Borrowing ideas from quantum theory, the team implemented techniques used to understand the difference between two quantum states. The researchers applied the quantum mechanical method to several large publicly available data sets, and were better able to understand which relationships in a system are similar enough to be considered redundant. The researchers say their method can significantly reduce the amount of information that has to be displayed and analyzed separately and make it easier to understand. Moreover, the approach reduces the computing power needed to process large amounts of multidimensional relational data. “We’ve been trying to find ways of simplifying the way big data is represented and processed and we were inspired by the way that the complex relationships in quantum theory are understood,” says QMUL’s Vincenzo Nicosia. “With so much data being gathered by companies and governments nowadays, we hope this method will make it easier to analyze and make sense of it, as well as reducing computing costs by cutting down the amount of processing required to extract useful information.”


The Race Towards Quantum Computation

CORDIS News (11/27/14)

At the recent Innovation Summit, European quantum computing experts touted the European Union’s (EU) achievements in the field and called for further EU investments in quantum computing research and development. The Delft University of Technology’s Lieven Vandersypen predicted future Nobel Prizes would be awarded to Europeans for achievements in quantum computing research. Vandersypen and University College London’s John Morton said quantum computing will unlock tremendous potential for developing new medicines and complex materials, new diagnostic tools, and energy technologies. However, both said the EU is in danger of falling behind other nations. Morton noted the EU leads all other regions in terms of academic output regarding quantum technologies, but is falling behind in patenting quantum technologies; for example, China patented five times more quantum technologies than the EU between 2009 and 2012. Morton suggested the EU create an advisory board for quantum technology with at least 50-percent representation from the information technology industry to help guide the development and commercialization of quantum technologies. Vandersypen called for a “large-scale EU-wide effort” similar in scale to the Human Brain Project, which is pushing forward brain science.


Google’s ‘Quantum Computing Playground’ Lets You Fiddle With Quantum Algorithms

Gizmag (05/25/14) Dario Borghino 

Google has released a new Web-based integrated development environment (IDE) called Quantum Computing Playground that enables users to experiment with quantum algorithms. Using an ad-hoc scripting language called qScript, the IDE simulates a graphics processing unit-accelerated quantum computer on which users can write, compile, debug, and execute programs on a Chrome browser. The IDE can simulate quantum registers up to 22 quantum bits and visualize algorithm outputs as two- and three-dimensional graphs in which each bar represents a superposition of qubits. Running the same code sometimes results in different outputs, because most quantum algorithms are probabilistic and do not offer deterministic certainty. Users in practical settings would need to run the same algorithm multiple times to ensure a correct answer. Although practical quantum computers do not yet exist, Quantum Computing Playground will help computer scientists prepare for the future by familiarizing themselves with quantum algorithms.


NSA Seeks to Build Quantum Computer That Could Crack Most Types of Encryption

The Washington Post (01/03/14) Steven Rich; Barton Gellman

The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is trying to develop a quantum computer that could be used to crack almost any type of encryption currently in use, according to documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  The documents say the initiative is part of a $79.7-million research program called “Penetrating Hard Targets,” which is developing technology that potentially could be used to infiltrate all current forms of public key encryption.  The documents do not discuss the full extent of NSA’s research into quantum computing, although they do suggest the agency is no closer to building a quantum computer than the European Union and Switzerland, both of which are carrying out similar research efforts.  “It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Scott Aaronson.  University of Manchester professor Jeff Forshaw says the NSA is likely at least five years away from building a quantum computer, and possibly much more if no significant breakthroughs are made.  However, once completed, the computer could be used to crack almost every type of encryption used to protect state secrets and other sensitive information, such as 1,024-bit RSA encryption keys, which would take hundreds of standard computers working together about 2,000 years to crack.


NASA Begins Exploring Quantum Computing

Federal Computer Week (11/22/13) Frank Konkel

U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) researchers have started running applications on a novel machine, the D-Wave Two, to explore quantum computing.  Rupak Biswas with NASA’s Exploration Technology Directorate says the agency’s initiatives on the D-Wave Two have focused on planning missions, scheduling processes, and re-analyzing portions of data collected by the Kepler telescope.  NASA also wants to use D-Wave Two to schedule supercomputing tasks.  For example, Biswas says, the machine should be capable of mining an immense number of node combinations to tell engineers precisely which nodes to use for best results.  D-Wave Two’s calibration complexity means that it takes about a month to boot up, while its 512-qubit Vesuvius processor operates at 20 millikelvin, which is 100 times colder than outer space.  Using the machine entails engineers mapping a problem in quadratic unconstrained binary optimization (QUBO), while an even bigger challenge is embedding the QUBO model onto the supercomputer’s quantum architecture.  Once this is done, D-Wave Two generates answers as probability, and Biswas says the device so far demonstrates quantum tunneling and superposition.  NASA will share access to the machine over the next five years as part of an alliance with Google and the Universities Space Research Association.