Why should we focus on quantum supremacy? What does it mean?

After weeks of speculation, Google has finally published a paper in the famous journal Nature claiming to have achieved “quantum supremacy”. Why should we care about quantum supremacy? What does quantum supremacy mean? In a paper published by Google, a team of Google’s artificial intelligence scientists claims that their quantum computer, Sycamore, can complete a task that verifies the randomness of large numbers in as little as 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

The world’s most powerful supercomputer stakes 10,000 years to complete the same task, the team says.


Classic computers, from laptops to warehouse-sized supercomputers, operate on 1 and 0, but quantum computers like Sycamore use qubits( often referred to as qubits). A qubit can be both 0 and 1, rather than two possibilities.

This means that the more qubits you have, the more computing power of your computer grows exponentially. Google’s Sycamore Quantum computer has 52 qubits, with 100 billion states at a time, according to a video posted today by Google. That’s quite a huge amount of computing.

So what makes Sycamore more efficient than a classic computer? John Preskill, an American theoretical physicist, first coined the term “quantummy” in 2012. In an earlier column for Quantum magazine, he defined it as “a key node when quantum computers can do things that a classic computer can’t do, whether or not these tasks are useful”.

It should be noted that quantum supremacy means that quantum computers can solve problems that classical computers cannot solve within a reasonable time frame, and that does not mean that quantum computers can solve tasks that classical computers cannot complete. “As long as there’s enough time … Classic computers and quantum computers can solve the same problem,” says Thomas Wong of Creighton University in the United States.

Presquill points out that the term “quantum supremacy” can lead to “excessive speculation about the current state of quantum technology”. But he also congratulated Google on its “extraordinary achievements in experimental physics”, calling it “a testament to the boom in quantum computing hardware”.

In short, by proving the superiority of quantum computers, we can now solve some complex problems faster than ever before. It is conceivable that pharmaceutical companies could use this technology to design extremely complex pharmaceutical compounds; Quantum computers, on the other hand, could theoretically crack current encryption standards with unprecedented computing power.

Of course, all this is speculation. Cutting-edge researchers have yet to find out what quantum computers actually use. Sycamore just solves a very specific problem in a very special way. “In short, this quantum computer performs a randomly selected sequence of instructions and then measures all the qubits to produce an output string,” Presquill wrote in his column. ”

Two days before the article was published, IBM, Google’s biggest rival in quantum, published an article criticizing the results. “On a classic system, the ideal simulation of the same task can be done in 2.5 days with much greater accuracy,” IBM claims. ”

According to IBM, this is largely due to Google’s experiment ignoring certain parameters, including “massive disk storage” and other “well-known optimization methods”.

Whether or not “hegemony”, the capabilities of quantum computers can only be truly reflected in practical applications. According to a blog post published today, Google’s team is already working on “recent applications”, including “quantum physics simulation and quantum chemistry, as well as generating new applications in machine learning.”

In addition to these applications, Google has proven that its quantum computers are excellent at generating random numbers. This may not sound surprising, but randomness is useful in computer science. According to Presquill, it will be decades before we see the “transformative impact” of quantum computers on society. However, Google’s paper could be a watershed, laying the groundwork for a whole new era of computing, from the design of new materials to more efficient fertilizers, anything that could be achieved , if you can trust Google.

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