Progress towards fully capable and practical quantum computers isn’t slowing down, and researchers from Google are the latest to announce a significant step forward in the capabilities of today’s machines.
While we call these devices quantum computers, they’re more like prototypes of what quantum computers can be: At present they require super-specific, extreme conditions to operate in, and struggle to stay stable and error-free.
Despite those limitations, their computing potential is becoming more impressive all the time.
The latest system run by Google has a total of 70 operational qubits – the quantum equivalents of classical bits that can represent 1, or 0, or both at the same time, potentially allowing for certain calculations to be performed at astonishing speeds.
Specifically, the team used a complex, synthetic benchmark called random circuit sampling, which is exactly what it sounds like – taking readings from randomly generated quantum processes.
This maximizes the speed of critical actions, reducing the risk of outside noise destroying the calculation. They then estimated how long it would take existing supercomputers to run the same sums.
“We conclude that our demonstration is firmly in the regime of beyond-classical quantum computation,” write the researchers in their recent paper.
The Frontier supercomputer, currently the most powerful computer in the world, would take a little over 47 years to crunch the same numbers, the researchers suggest, whereas the Sycamore quantum computer managed it in mere seconds.
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