Elizabeth Gibney, Nature
Google claims to reach ‘quantum supremacy,’ which is using a quantum computer to finish a task a traditional computer cannot do. Many people are not convinced that a conventional computer would be unable to complete this task, but the quantum computer could complete the task faster. The task was designed explicitly for quantum computers. Google’s quantum computer is named Sycamore with 53 qubits, which are quantum bits that compute the data within the computer. Qubits are hard to manipulate, but they should be able to carry out tasks faster than a traditional computer. The task was to determine the probability distribution of all possible outcomes from a quantum random number generator. Sycamore finished the task in 3 minutes and 20 seconds. Researchers wanted to see how a supercomputer would differ from Sycamore. They borrowed the Summit supercomputer at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tenessee. Their approach to finish the task using the supercomputer was to break the problem into smaller pieces and extrapolate, making their estimation that Summit would take 10,000 years to finish the same calculation Sycamore completed. However, IBM claimed that Summit could complete the task in two and a half days by using a different approach. Researchers and scientists have to study both the original and IBM’s techniques using Summit. Sycamore is the first to show how fast qubits are, making it essential in continuing the understanding and development of the full potential of quantum computers.