Boffins from China push quantum computing envelope for 'supremacy' in emerging photon field

Light-based quantum system bests classical supercomputer


Boffins from China say they have managed to detect as many as 76 photons using a quantum computer, a result said to be the second demonstration of "quantum supremacy" or "quantum primacy" – solving a problem that a quantum computer can do far better than a classical computer.

Physicists from Shanghai's University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), led by Chao-Yang Lu and Jian-Wei Pan, reported their results in a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

The researchers conducted a Gaussian Boson Sampling test, a variation on the Boson Sampling technique proposed in 2010 by Scott Aaronson, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin, and Alex Arkhipov, at the time a doctoral student.

The experiment involves sending photons through a beam splitting system and measuring their distribution – a task that a quantum computer turns out to be far better at doing than a traditional supercomputer.

The Chinese team developed an apparatus, dubbed Jiuzhang, that consists of a laser, mirrors, prisms, and photon detectors. The group reported that they achieved a sampling rate that's "~1014 faster than using the state-of-the-art simulation strategy and supercomputers."

robot

Intel Labs unleashes its boffins with tales of quantum computing, secure databases and the end of debugging

READ MORE

So there it is, further evidence that quantum computers really can do certain calculations better than classical computers. The result adds weight to Google's quantum supremacy experiment last year and also surpasses it: As Aaronson stated Thursday in a blog post, this is the first time the advantage of quantum computing has been demonstrated using photonics (light) rather than superconducting qubits.

But the USTC experiment represents only one step in a long journey toward practical quantum computing. The research, Aaronson observes, is not synonymous with a useful, universal, scaleable or fault-tolerant quantum computing – all milestones that have yet to be achieved.

As a gauge of the gap between quantum computing today and where it needs to go to become commercially viable, Anne Matsuura, director of quantum and molecular technologies at Intel, said in a presentation on Thursday that because effective error correction in quantum systems requires tens of qubits to pick one logical qubit, Intel believes "that a commercial scale system will really require millions of qubits."

Google's system topped out at 53 qubits. IBM managed a 65-qubit machine in September and promised a 1,000-qubit device by 2023.

Aaronson also touched on another challenge facing those developing quantum computing systems: Validating results using costly supercomputing power.

He was among the reviewers of the USTC paper and said he asked the researchers why they only bothered to validate the results of their experiment for up to 26-30 photons. Surely, he argued, they could verify to 40 or 50 using existing computers.

"A couple weeks later, the authors responded, saying that they’d now verified their results up to n=40, but it burned $400,000 worth of supercomputer time so they decided to stop there," he wrote.

And don't even think about trying to fully replicate the Jiuzhang results using a classical computer. The USTC paper estimates that the time cost for the TaihuLight (Fugaku) supercomputer to generate the same number of samples in 200 seconds as the Jiuzhang device would be 2.5bn years.

Among cloud service providers that bill for compute time, you can imagine the appeal of this sort of research. ®

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • McKinsey thinks quantum computing could create $80b in revenue ... eventually
    Figure is 'value at stake' but 'not the actual value' which itself is a quantum statement

    In the hype-tastic world of quantum computing, consulting giant McKinsey & Company claims that the still-nascent field has the potential to create $80 billion in new revenue for businesses across industries.

    It's a claim McKinsey has repeated nearly two dozen times on Twitter since March to promote its growing collection of research diving into various aspects of quantum computing, from startup and government funding to use cases and its potential impact on a range of industries.

    The consulting giant believes this $80 billion figure represents the "value at stake" for quantum computing players but not the actual value that use cases could create [PDF]. This includes companies working in all aspects of quantum computing, from component makers to service providers.

    Continue reading
  • Governments opt for XaaS, dump datacenters in droves
    Outsource all the things! To whom? The lowest bidder of course, says Gartner

    The world's governments are eager to let someone else handle their IT headaches, according to a recent Gartner report, which found a healthy appetite for "anything-as-a-service" (XaaS) platforms to cut the costs of bureaucracy.

    These trends will push government IT spending to $565 billion in 2022, up 5 percent from last year, the analyst house claims. Gartner believes the majority of new government IT investments will be on service platforms by 2026.

    "The pandemic sped up public-sector adoption of cloud solutions and the XaaS model for accelerated legacy modernization and new service implementations," Gartner analyst Daniel Snyder said in a release. "Fifty-four percent of government CIOs responding to the 2022 Gartner CIO survey indicated that they expect to allocate additional funding to cloud platforms in 2022, while 35 percent will decrease investments in legacy infrastructure and datacenter technologies."

    Continue reading
  • TikTok: Yes, some staff in China can access US data
    We thought you guys were into this whole information hoarding thing

    TikTok, owned by Chinese outfit ByteDance, last month said it was making an effort to minimize the amount of data from US users that gets transferred outside of America, following reports that company engineers in the Middle Kingdom had access to US customer data.

    "100 percent of US user traffic is being routed to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure," TikTok said in a June 17, 2022 post, while acknowledging that customer information still got backed up to its data center in Singapore. The biz promised to delete US users' private data from its own servers and to "fully pivot to Oracle cloud servers located in the US."

    That pivot has not yet been completed. According to a June 30, 2022 letter [PDF] from TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew, obtained by the New York Times on Friday, some China-based employees with sufficient security clearance can still access data from US TikTok users, including public videos and comments.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022