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THE QUBIT CAPER

THE NEWS ON October 23, 2019, was fast and furious, its updates and scientific self-corrections occurring within hours. Here are tidbits on quantum supremacy, together with SimanaitisSays comments on this strange new world of superposition, entanglement, and computer qubits.

Bits Versus Qubits. Digital computers count on two fingers, 0 and 1, off and on. These two-state bits operate incredibly quickly, though, which gives digital computing its immense utility.

A contrast of digital versus quantum computing: The digital bit is discretely two-state; the quantum bit has probabilistic combinations of on/off states simultaneously.

In the strange world of atomic levels, the concept of superposition gives a quantum bit, a qubit, for short, a probabilistic richness of simultaneous on/off states. There’s also the concept of entanglement: When two particles interact physically and then are separated—even arbitrarily far apart—their measured properties remain correlated.

Way Back in 2013… As noted in “Computing with Quanta” at SimanaitisSays, March 25, 2013, this “entirely new kind of computer offers capabilities unbelievably beyond those of today’s most sophisticated machines. What’s more, some say quantum computers are only five years from commercialization.”

Three Years and Nine Months Later. In a “Quantum Computer Update,” SimanaitisSays, December 28, 2016, a researcher described the immense potential of quantum computing: “An algorithm using, say, five entangled qubits can effectively do 25 or 32 computations at once, whereas a classical computer would have to do these 32 computations in succession.”

Fast Foreward to 2018. “A Tech Trio of Merit,” SimanaitisSays, January 20, 2018, cited the idea of “quantum supremacy, superiority in performing computational tasks beyond any digital device.”

Quantum entanglement doubles processing power with each added qubit. “However,” as noted then, “the challenge has been getting these added qubits to behave.”

The item’s conclusion suggested aspects of world politics and business competition “… in what’s been called ‘the space race of the 21st century.’ ” China is also working intensely on quantum computing. And so is Google.

Image from AAAS Science, October 23, 2019.

Google’s Achievement At sciencenews.org, October 23, 2019, Emily Conover writes, “For the first time, a quantum computer has solved a problem that can’t be performed by a standard computer—at least not within a reasonable amount of time….”

Google’s quantum computer. Image from Google in The New York Times, October 23, 2019.

This claim was made by Google A.I. Quantum’s Frank Arute, et al. in Nature, October 23, 2019. From its Abstract: “Our Sycamore processor takes about 200 seconds to sample one instance of a quantum circuit a million times—our benchmarks currently indicate that the equivalent task for a state-of-the-art classical supercomputer would take approximately 10,000 years.”

This comparison certainly gave newscasters a great sound bite. Or is that byte?

IBM’s Response. Adrian Cho gives details in AAAS Science,“IBM Casts Doubt on Google’s Claims of Quantum Supremacy,” October 23, 2019. Cho cites the Google achievement with its 53-qubit computer performing “… in 200 seconds, an arcane task what would take 10,000 years for Summit, a supercomputer IBM built for the Department of Energy that is currently the world’s fastest.”

He also notes, “But IBM appears to have already rebutted Google’s claim.”

In fact, IBM says, “We argue that an ideal simulation of the same task can be performed on a classical system in 2.5 days and with far greater fidelity.”

It ain’t over ’til the fat qubit computes. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

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