Chinese claim to have built a quantum computer 100 trillion times faster than the world’s most advanced supercomputer

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Chinese Scientists Claim Breakthrough in Quantum Computing Race

Source: Bloomberg

By Shiyin Chen, December 3, 2020, 10:05 PM EST

  •  Race toward radical leaps in computing power heating up
  •  Another front in the wide-ranging U.S.-China tech contest

Chinese scientists claim to have built a quantum computer that is able to perform certain computations nearly 100 trillion times faster than the world’s most advanced supercomputer, representing the first milestone in the country’s efforts to develop the technology.

The researchers have built a quantum computer prototype that is able to detect up to 76 photons through Gaussian boson sampling, a standard simulation algorithm, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing research published in Science magazine. That’s exponentially faster than existing supercomputers.

The breakthrough represents a quantum computational advantage, also known as quantum supremacy, in which no traditional computer can perform the same task in a reasonable amount of time and is unlikely to be overturned by algorithmic or hardware improvements, according to the research.What to know in techGet insights from reporters around the world in the Fully Charged newsletter.EmailSign UpBy submitting my information, I agree to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Service and to receive offers and promotions from Bloomberg.

While still in its infancy, quantum computing is seen as the key to radically improving the processing speed and power of computers, enabling them to simulate large systems and drive advances in physics, chemistry and other fields. Chinese researchers are competing against major U.S. corporations from Alphabet Inc.’s Google to Inc. and Microsoft Corp. for a lead in the technology, which has become yet another front in the U.S.-China tech race.

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  1. Something intriguing happened last week. A paper about quantum computing by a Google researcher making a startling claim appeared on a Nasa website – and then disappeared shortly afterwards. Conspiracy theorists immediately suspected that something sinister involving the National Security Agency was afoot. Spiritualists thought that it confirmed what they’ve always suspected about quantum phenomena. (It was, as one wag put it to me, a clear case of “Schrödinger’s Paper”.) Adherents of the cock-up theory of history (this columnist included) concluded that someone had just pushed the “publish” button prematurely, a suspicion apparently confirmed later by stories that the paper was intended for a major scientific journal before being published on the web.

    Why was the elusive paper’s claim startling? It was because – according to the Financial Times – it asserted that a quantum computer built by Google could perform a calculation “in three minutes and 20 seconds that would take today’s most advanced classical computer … approximately 10,000 years”. As someone once said of the book of Genesis, this would be “important if true”. A more mischievous thought was: how would the researchers check that the quantum machine’s calculation was correct?

    A quantum computer is one that harnesses phenomena from quantum physics, the study of the behaviour of subatomic particles, which is one of the most arcane specialisms known to humankind. We all inhabit – and intuitively understand – a world governed by Newtonian physics – which explains the behaviour of tangible things such as billiard balls, planets and falling apples. But it turns out that Newton’s laws don’t apply to subatomic particles; quantum theory evolved to explain what goes on in that strange space. The polite term for what goes on there is “counter-intuitive”. The less polite term is “weird”. In certain situations, for example, quantum theory says that one subatomic particle’s behaviour is bound up with that of another, even if the second one is on the other side of the galaxy. This is known as “entanglement”. Another principle is that a particle can be in two different states at the same time – as with Schrödinger’s imaginary cat, who was both alive and dead at the same time. This is known in the jargon as “superposition”.

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