28th October – What is ‘Quantum Supremacy’?

This week, Google has announced that it has reached ‘Quantum Supremacy’ in computing.

What is ‘Quantum Supremacy’?

  • It is a term proposed in 2012 by John Preskill, professor of theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology.
  • It describes the point where quantum computers can do things that classical computers cannot. In Google’s case, researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara have claimed to have developed a processor that took 200 seconds to do a calculation that would have taken a classical computer 10,000 years.

What is a quantum computer?

Our traditional computers work on the basis of the laws of classical physics, specifically by utilising the flow of electricity. A quantum computer, on the other hand, seeks to exploit the laws that govern the behaviour of atoms and subatomic particles. At that tiny scale, many laws of classical physics cease to apply, and the unique laws of quantum physics come into play.

What difference would such a simulation make?

  • It is about processing speed. Let us look at how a classical computer processes information. Bits of information are stored as either 0 or 1. Every string of such digits (bitstrings) represents a unique character or instruction; for example, 01100001 represents the lowercase “a”.
  • In a quantum computer, information is stored in quantum bits, or qubits. And a qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. Quantum physics involves concepts that even physicists describe as weird.
  • The higher the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information stored in them. Compared to the information stored in the same number of bits, the information in qubits rises exponentially. That is what makes a quantum computer so powerful.

Significance –

None, as far as practical applications are concerned. The task performed isn’t super important for this milestone; it’s much more about the fact that the milestone happened in the first place.

Way forward –

The scientists are looking to improve on their work, including detecting and fixing errors. The University of California, Santa Barbara noted that the research has already achieved a very real tool for generating random numbers. Random numbers can be useful in a variety of fields — including protecting encrypted keys for decryption, which could be a potentially thorny issue for governments.

Conclusion –

Quantum computers could one day result in huge advances in science research and technology. Among areas that stand to gain are artificial intelligence, and new drug therapies. All that, however, is a long way away.

SourceThe Indian Express

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