The race to achieve quantum supremacy, explained

In a recently published paper, Google claimed it had achieved quantum supremacy – a milestone in quantum computing – which is the ability of a quantum computer to solve problems which classical computers can’t.

According to the blog post, Google developed a 54-qubit processor named “Sycamore” for the quantum supremacy experiment. The experiment, involving generation of random numbers, computed the output in only 200 seconds compared to the 10,000 years required by the world’s fastest supercomputer (Summit) to perform the same.

But it wasn’t long before IBM – a major player in quantum computing – published a blog post where it disputed Google’s claim on achieving quantum supremacy.

“When their comparison to classical was made, they relied on an advanced simulation that leverages parallelism, fast and error-free computation, and large aggregate RAM, but failed to fully account for plentiful disk storage”, IBM said.

The researchers at IBM argued that had Google considered optimum hard disk storage and leveraged the supercomputer’s capabilities, the simulation of the same experiment would have been performed in just 2.5 days.

Google didn’t comment on IBM’s claim and neither Google nor IBM has provided enough details to support their respective claims. But since Google’s paper is out for scientists to go through, the company’s claim will be validated soon.

Being a fast-growing and popular field of research, quantum computing is getting over-hyped more or less as artificial intelligence is. “Quantum supremacy” is the latest buzzword in the field and tech giants are on a race to achieve the irresistible.

But what matters is the positive impact quantum machines make once they achieve quantum supremacy and are capable of solving real-world problems.

“For example, we can envision quantum computing helping to design new materials — lightweight batteries for cars and airplanes, new catalysts that can produce fertilizer more efficiently (a process that today produces over 2% of the world’s carbon emissions), and more effective medicines”, Google said in the blog post.


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