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IBM Technology

Are We Entering a "Golden Age of Quantum Computing Research"? 86

Lashdots writes: Last month, an elite team at IBM Research announced an advance in quantum computing: it had built a four-qubit square lattice of superconducting qubits, roughly one-quarter-inch square, that was capable of detecting and measuring the two types of quantum computing errors (bit-flip and phase-flip). Previously, it was only possible to address one type of quantum error or the other. The next step is to correct quantum errors.

In a blog post, Mark Ritter, who oversees scientists and engineers at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Laboratory, wrote: "I believe we're entering what will come to be seen as the golden age of quantum computing research." His team, he said, is "on the forefront of efforts to create the first true quantum computer." But what would that mean, and what other big next steps are there?
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Are We Entering a "Golden Age of Quantum Computing Research"?

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  • by gl4ss ( 559668 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @02:20AM (#49696053) Homepage Journal

    how does that even compute into being a golden age?

    is it settled now even if that one companys "quantum computer" can actually solve anything faster than a simulation about what it does for cheaper?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      +1. Stupid headline and sensationalism.
      I suppose we are entering the golden age of flying cars as well.

      • Uh, yeah... []

        They made them for the military when you weren't paying attention. The plan is to use them as a drone ambulance that can carry 800lbs of cargo

      • Well, "square lattice of superconducting qubits" just rolls of the tongue, doesn't it. It sounds like something you'd find on the menu of an avant-garde restaurant.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        The -only- reason quantum computing is getting funding is because of Shor's Algorithm and similar attacks on crypto. Were it not for that, this would be defunded and left on the rocks like the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas.

        In the 1990s, sure, I can see something funded, but these days, if it can't be weaponized, used for defense, used for profit, or used for torturing people, it just won't get funding.

    • You mean the D-Wave computer? It seems to be a common misconception that it's a quantum computer in the sense of using coherent superpositions to perform computations - it is not. It's another kind of quantum computer - it performs quantum annealing, which is a way to use quantum effects to accelerate certain cases of simulated annealing. Whether or not the D-Wave computer can actually do anything faster than more traditional methods is up for discussion, but the only one who ever claimed it was a quantum c
      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        they certainly marketed it as a quantum computer.

        anyways, what I was indeed after was does their thing perform faster than a simulation ran on similarly costing hardware of the supposed process?

        anyways, saying that we're entering the golden age of quantum computers is like saying that we were entering the golden age of hollywood began in 1800's. it's just stupid. maybe it's the golden age for funding for these guys though.

      • by Anonymous Coward


        There was also a point where solving a math problem on paper was faster than using a computer to solve the same problem. Once the technology is established they can work on pushing the needle forward in regards to efficiency. I am sure a horse was much better than the first automobile as well. You just looked a lot cooler riding in the automobile no one else had yet.

    • Analogue computer (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They're analogue computers they can solve the thing they're setup to solve faster than a digital computer.

      So for example, if you set up a system that follows an elliptical curve as a voltage (as opposed to calculating the values of the curve in the floating point unit of a digital computer), then it can crack elliptical curve cryptography a lot faster.

      The buzzword these days seems to be to call these 'quantum' if the analogue aspect is the phase of a photon, but

      • What then is a true quantum computer?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Whiteox ( 919863 )

          The bit is either there, or it's not. And if you look at it, then it may not be there or it might, but you don't know because 50% of the time it may be entangled with another bit yet you can't observe it because if you do you know that the other bit is the opposite of the bit you would be looking at if it existed on this side of a wormhole. Simple really.

        • What then is a true quantum computer?

          All computers, all things, you, me, /., twinkies. They are all quantum.

      • by gweihir ( 88907 )

        Only for low precisions. For example, you can get 24 bit A/D converters, but you cannot get fast and accurate ones due to fundamental limits. For example, the ones typically used in electronic scales only to 10 conversions or so per second. And 24 bit is about the useful limit. While you can get A/D converters up to 32 bit, accuracy is not 32 bit in them. That about limits what you can do. For comparison, an IEEE754 Doubke has 56 bit accuracy and scales via exponent and hence can use that accuracy over almo

      • They're analogue computers they can solve the thing they're setup to solve faster than a digital computer.

        So for example, if you set up a system that follows an elliptical curve as a voltage (as opposed to calculating the values of the curve in the floating point unit of a digital computer), then it can crack elliptical curve cryptography a lot faster.

        The buzzword these days seems to be to call these 'quantum' if the analogue aspect is the phase of a photon, but that's just marketing nonsense.

        You do know that elliptic curve crypto isn't done on a real plane that can be approximated with floats or volts? It's done (or should be done) within a prime field. There is not a continuous analog representation that does that. []

    • by gweihir ( 88907 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @05:19AM (#49696469)

      No, nothing is settled. It may still well turn out that computations do not scale to a relevant number of q-bits and it may be that doing computations takes extremely long and has an increase for more complex computations that eliminates all advantages. In fact, looking at alternative computing mechanisms, such as Josephson gates, it seems quite likely that the hype will keep for another 10 years or so before the community finally admits defeat. One reason could be that complexity of doing computations or number of repetitions needed increase the effort exponentially in the number of bits employs. And unlike classical computers, you cannot divide problems for QCs into smaller ones, you always need enough q-bits to get the whole problem in in one go.

      Also, for many problems, QCs are simply unsuitable or do not help much. For example for breaking ciphers in a known plaintext scenario, a working QC reduced the number of bits to half. With that AES-256 is still completely secure and AES-128 may be secure if each of the O(2^64) non-elementary computation steps needed takes long. Even Shor's algorithm for factorization needs O(n^3) quantum gates for n bits and as it is probabilistic, and hence a number of repetitions in addition that also grows in n. It is quite possible to increase n into regions where no known QC can solve the problem. (Currently, that border is n = 5 or so and has been for a long, long time).

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Josephson junctions are used daily all over the world so I don't understand your point. There's nothing called a Josephson gate - however one can use Josephson junctions to form gates of different forms - RSFQ and RQL are the most common at the moment.

        The reason we don't use computers based on JJ are many - semiconductor logic is well known and very cheap, I'll include III - V semiconductors here even though they are much more expensive than silicon based logic they are still cheaper than superconductive wa

        • by gweihir ( 88907 )

          The predictions at that time was that computers would be entirely built of Josephson-circuitry and be super-fast as a consequence. They just needed to solve a few problems, like the supercooling and integration and the like. Turns out these were prohibitive for the question of basing computers mostly on JJs. That is not to say these things are not useful or do not have applications. They are just not suitable to revolutionize computing, as they are special-purpose devices.

          Quantum technology is in quite a fe

    • it is indeed a golden age, for grandiose claims about quantum computing made for the purpose of scamming investors

  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 15, 2015 @02:23AM (#49696057)

    Betteridge's law of headlines []

    IMHO, QC is a dirty money-grab / scam. Don't waste our time until you've got at least 64 entangled qbits.

    • Betterige's law (aka Hinchliffe's Rule) is neither true, nor false.

      Since 1995, it cannot be evaluated, see https://newtonexcelbach.wordpr... []

      Gödel and Heisenberg would have been proud!

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Are the headlines sensationalist? Yes. Is QC a scam? I don't think so. It's not there yet, that part is true, but we're almost at the point where it's no longer a physics problem, just an engineering problem.
      It's not going to break all encryption or anything like that, but in 30 years when we do get the 64 (or idealistically, 1024) qubit computer it will be similar to early computers in the 50s. You will buy a machine the size of a room to do specialized computation on your specific problem. For now though,

  • by Guy From V ( 1453391 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @02:32AM (#49696083) Homepage


  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @03:19AM (#49696207) Homepage

    What will the programming languages be like?

    perhaps i = 1 to something
              maybe print i
    next i


    • There is a small typo in there, you can't close that kind of loop with "next i", although you'll find that "another i" may work in some way.

    • What will the programming languages be like

      Perl. It was simply ahead of its time.

  • " But what would that mean, and what other big next steps are there?" Step 1. Quantum blobs for drivers. Step 2. Quantum NDA for quantum driver development. Step 3. Quantum blobby firmware that you can use from their quantum app center only. Step 4. Quantum secure boot. You cannot install quantum linux on this quantum computer, quantum corporates are quantum mechanically holding you from your quantum .... Step 5. Stallman dies accidentally in a Schroedinger quantum experiment because he tried to persuade p
  • by bargainsale ( 1038112 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @03:32AM (#49696237)
    Yes and no
  • by Anonymous Coward

    is the cat included or not or both?

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @05:40AM (#49696523)

    Ask me again after you've opened the box and agreed to the shrink wrap license on the D-Wave you just bought...

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Friday May 15, 2015 @05:47AM (#49696537)

    The Golden Age of research on any cutting edge technology is that point at which deep pockets take it seriously enough to spend serious money and give researches comfortable timelines while at the same time have limited expectations of tangible and useful results.

    • So in other words it's the golden age of bitcoins.
      By the way, we're allegedly past the golden age if you believe D-Wave. Unfortunately D-Wave is a load of crap.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    the quantum sneakers, so I can take a quantum leap.

What the large print giveth, the small print taketh away.