The Grapevine

Google Finally Claims Quantum Supremacy

After a month of letting rumors about Google, reporting that it has achieved quantum supremacy swirl in the oven, the American multinational technology company finally did just that, reporting that for the first time ever, their quantum computer has performed a calculation that can’t be achieved with any classical computer.

Announced this Wednesday, researchers from Google have reported that it has finally reached quantum supremacy (a long-anticipated step toward useful quantum computers) via its quantum supercomputer, Sycamore.

Per the researchers, the task and calculation was reportedly made on a chip that only has 53 qubits, which is the quantum version of the bits found in common, everyday computers.

“It’s fascinating that we can do something so powerful with such a small chip,” quantum physicist Mária Kieferová of the University of Technology Sydney, who was not involved with the study, said. 

However, this doesn’t mean that quantum computers would be taking over sooner. For one thing, the calculation made by Sycamore is not a particularly useful one, since it’s designed to play to the strengths of the quantum computer itself, and is therefore designed to be very hard, almost impossible, for a non-quantum computer to do. The quantum chip must also first be cooled to near absolute zero for it to even function and perform the calculation.

Furthermore, the official announcement made by Google apparently follows an unintentional posting of the study’s earlier version on NASA website back in September. The paper has since been taken down, although copies of it have already been made, which were then shared among many researchers.

Quantum Hype

Proposed back in 2012 by theoretical physicist John Preskill, the concept of quantum supremacy has attracted controversy and even hype, as the term lends itself to it. However, some quantum physicists argue that quantum supremacy is not useful at all, and as such, time should be spent focusing on metrics that is actually practical.

Nevertheless, Preskill believes that the fact that Google was able to achieve it is a clear milestone in computing. Furthermore, it’s also an advance in the scientists’ understanding of quantum mechanics.

Google image A new study finds that public awareness campaigns like The Great American Smokeout do actually motivate people to seek out further information, especially on the internet. LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images