Google, IBM, Microsoft, Intel, and other large tech companies and startups, have been working to build quantum computers, a new kind of computer based on an entirely different architecture than classical computers. Now Google claims it has achieved “quantum supremacy”.

While classical computers are systems where problems are abstracted onto a system of two-position switches called bits (ones and zeros) that interact through the rules of logic. Quantum computers are instead based on quantum bits, or qubits, that are also two-position switches, but they interact via the same rules that subatomic particles follow, called quantum mechanics. This quantum architecture purportedly could allow quantum computers to solve a set of problems that classical computers can’t in a reasonable amount of time.

According to gizmodo.com, scientists and industry experts have long expected Google to build a quantum computer capable of performing a calculation that a classical computer can’t.

In a draft of a research paper that was available on a NASA website and seen by ft.com, the company reportedly claimed to have achieved the potential ability of quantum computers to solve problems current technology can’t even attempt.

In the paper, cited by endgadget.com, researchers claimed Sycamore, Google’s 53-qubit quantum computer, was able to calculate a proof in three minutes and 20 seconds that shows the numbers created by a random number generator are in fact random. 

Completing the same problem would theoretically take Summit, the world’s most powerful supercomputer, some 10,000 years — making the proof, for all practical intents and purposes, impossible for a traditional computer to solve. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor,” the authors of the paper wrote.

However, IBM’s head of research, Dario Gil, criticized the publication in an interview with FT.com, asserting that Google’s claim is “indefensible — it’s just plain wrong.” He went on to say Sycamore doesn’t pass the litmus test for a general-purpose quantum computer, as it was designed to solve one particular problem.

Learn more about new quantum technologies in the security field at the iHLS Quantum Tech conference and exhibition on November 18, 2019.

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