Quantum Computing has been hyped up by top industry leaders for a very long time. There have been massive investments in the field to make quantum computing a viable option. However, until now, we’ve still not really been able to make the most out of quantum computers as we are unable to fully understand what goes on behind the scenes in these machines.
Quantum Computers are truly magical machines and are so much different from our classical computers that one would need a totally different approach and thinking in order to understand them.
It seems like we’ve finally had a breakthrough as reports from Google have emerged about a quantum computer that is apparently more powerful than the best supercomputers in the world. Originally reported by Financial Times, a research paper from Google was published temporarily that stated that the new quantum computer managed to perform an extremely complex calculation in just 3 minutes.
In comparison, the world’s most powerful commercial computer, the IBM Summit, would take over 10,000 years to perform that same calculation.
Now, this is unprecedented territory and could prove to be massive in the long run. Google has dubbed the breakthrough as “Quantum Supremacy“, pointing to the fact that their quantum computer is now able to solve the unsolvable tasks. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor,” said the research paper.
How do Quantum Computers work?
Why are Quantum Computers so hyped though? I mean, how can a computer even solve something that is unsolvable in the first place? To really understand the nuances of how quantum computers work, you’ll have to read a proper book. However, here are a few basic concepts that would help you understand what sets quantum computers apart.
Quantum computers can basically evaluate multiple possibilities simultaneously. Unlike traditional computers, they use qubits instead of binary digits (traditional bits). Qubits, unlike traditional bits, exist in an indeterminate state between a 0 or 1 until they are measured. This is due to a special property that they possess called Superposition. However, what makes qubits so special is quantum entanglement.
When two qubits are entangled, they interact with each other instantly. However, in order to make these qubits functional, quantum computers have to be cooled down to almost absolute zero. This makes the qubits enter their entangled state (coherence) in which they can interact and can be measured. Quantum computers are then programmed using different logic gates that need to be quick enough to measure the qubits before they lose coherence.
The fact that qubits can exist in different states while in superposition is what makes them so good with complex calculations. Furthermore, when entangled qubits affect each other instantaneously irrespective of the distance between them when they are measured, things really start to add up.
In classic computing, this would be like a chain of logic gates connecting each and every single bit in memory with each other, which, actually, is insanely powerful.
You can read more about how quantum computing works right here.
What does Quantum Supremacy mean for the future of computing?
If Google has actually managed to achieve Quantum Supremacy, this could potentially shake things up in the computing industry. Quantum computing, until now, has only been used for trials and testing and hasn’t really lived up to its hyped potential. However, after this breakthrough, we could see it come into play in many different fields of life much more often.
For example, Quantum Computers can be used to evaluate physics and chemistry simulations to test out complex chemicals. This could potentially result in development of many newer life-saving drugs. Furthermore, quantum computers can also help with better implementation of solar panels.
And, apart from that, there’s always the potential to develop artificial intelligence and self-driving cars to a stage which is just not possible using classical computing.
However, at the end of the day, these use case scenarios are still extremely specific. Quantum Computers cannot perform like our classical computers so they won’t be replacing the computers in our homes and pockets anytime soon either. Quantum Supremacy is still a massive step towards the hopeful unknown though which could prove to be absolutely crucial to humanity in the long run.
Quantum Computers are the future
In 2018, Google unveiled its Bristlecone quantum computer chip with 72 qubits. While the company hasn’t yet revealed whether this is the chip that was used to achieve quantum supremacy, it would be safe to assume that it was because at the time of release, the company stated that it was “cautiously optimistic that quantum supremacy can be achieved with Bristlecone.”
Thanks to their extremely high potential, other big names in the computing industry are also dumping a massive amount of resources into the development of quantum computers. Just earlier this week, IBM unveiled what is its biggest quantum computer yet, having 53 qubits. Others like AT&T are also developing technologies to link quantum computers with each other.