The ultra-powerful machine has the potential to disrupt everything from science and medicine to national security—assuming it works
A reliable, large-scale quantum computer could transform industries from AI to chemistry, accelerating machine learning and engineering new materials, chemicals and drugs.
.. “People ask, ‘Well, is it a thousand times faster? Is it a million times faster?’ It all depends on the application. It could do things in a minute that we don’t know how to do classically in the age of the universe. For other types of tests, a quantum computer probably helps you only modestly or, in some cases, not at all.”
.. Qubits, on the other hand, are like coins spinning through the air in a coin toss, showing both sides at once.
.. The computing power of a data center stretching several city blocks could theoretically be achieved by a quantum chip the size of the period at the end of this sentence.
.. Unlike classical computers, quantum computers don’t test all possible solutions to a problem. Instead, they use algorithms to cancel out paths leading to wrong answers, leaving only paths to the right answer—and those algorithms work only for certain problems. This makes quantum computers unsuited for everyday tasks like surfing the web
.. Quantum computers are also subject to high error rates, which has led some scientists and mathematicians to question their viability. Google and other companies say the solution is error-correction algorithms, but those algorithms require additional qubits to check the work of the qubits running computations. Some experts estimate that checking the work of a single qubit will require an additional 100.
.. Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist, put it this way: “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.”
Feynman was one of the first to introduce the idea of a quantum computer. In a 1981 lecture
.. investment has surged, with projects under way at Google, Microsoft, IBM and Intel Corp
.. D-Wave .. the company’s $15 million 2000Q model is useful only for a narrow category of data analysis
.. Companies and governments are scrambling to prepare for what some call Y2Q, the year a large-scale, accurate quantum computer arrives, which some experts peg at roughly 2026
.. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013 showed that the NSA is building its own quantum computer as part of an $80 million research program called Penetrating Hard Targets
.. Experts believe their biggest near-term promise is to supercharge machine learning and AI, two rapidly growing fields—and businesses. Neven of Google says he expects all machine learning to be running on quantum computers within the decade.
.. In May, IBM unveiled a chip with 16 qubits
.. John Martinis, Google’s head of quantum hardware, in which he let slip that Google had a 22-qubit chip.
.. “If you were to vibrate this frame, you can actually see the temperature rise on the thermometer,
Google and its peers will likely sell quantum computing via the cloud, possibly charging by the second.
.. Neven’s team in Southern California is racing to finish the 49-qubit chip