|English: Qubits are made up of controlled particles and the means of control (e.g. devices that trap particles and switch them from one state to another). There are 4 established qubit candidates: ion traps, quantum dots, semiconductor impurities, and superconducting circuits. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Microsoft’s Quantum Computer
Since the physicist Richard Feynman first suggested the idea of a quantum computer in 1982, theorists have proved that such a machine could solve problems that would take the fastest conventional computers hundreds of millions of years or longer. Quantum computers might, for example, give researchers better tools to design novel medicines or super-efficient solar cells. They could revolutionize artificial intelligence. .........“What we’re doing is analogous to setting out to make the first transistor,” says Peter Lee, Microsoft’s head of research. “What we’re doing is analogous to setting out to make the first transistor,” says Peter Lee, Microsoft’s head of research. .... a machine made up of only hundreds of qubits could run chemistry simulations beyond the capacity of any existing supercomputer. ...... a corporation widely thought to be stuck in computing’s past may unlock its future. ...... A mathematical prodigy who entered UC Berkeley at the age of 16 and grad school two years later, Freedman was 30 when he solved a version of one of the longest-standing problems in mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture. He worked it out without writing anything down, visualizing the distortion of four-dimensional shapes in his head. “I had seen my way through the argument,” Freedman recalls. When he translated that inner vision into a 95-page proof, it earned the Fields Medal, the highest honor in mathematics. ......... he was drawn into physics in 1988 after a colleague discovered a connection between some of the math describing the topology of knots and a theory explaining certain quantum phenomena. “It was a beautiful thing,” says Freedman. He immediately saw that this connection could allow a machine governed by that same quantum physics to solve problems too hard for conventional computers. Ignorant that the concept of quantum computing already existed, he had independently reinvented it. ....... A qubit can enter a quantum state known as superposition, which effectively represents 0 and 1 at the same time. Once in a superposition state, qubits can become linked, or “entangled,” in a way that means any operation affecting one instantly changes the fate of another. Because of superposition and entanglement, a single operation in a quantum computer can execute parts of a calculation that would take many, many more operations for an equivalent number of ordinary bits. A quantum computer can essentially explore a huge number of possible computational pathways in parallel. For some types of problems, a quantum computer’s advantage over a conventional one grows exponentially with the amount of data to be crunched. ........ “They change the foundation of computer science and what we mean by what is computable.” ....... The largest number of qubits that have been operated together is just seven. ...... The conventional approach being pursued by Microsoft offers a fully programmable computer—the equivalent of a full toolbox. ...... To speed progress and set the stage for possible mass production, Microsoft has begun working with industrial companies to secure supplies of semiconductor nanowires and the superconducting electronics that would be needed to control a topological qubit. ........ At Bell Labs in New Jersey .. If he is right, Willett is farther along than anyone who is working with Microsoft. And in his series of small, careworn labs, he is now preparing to build what—if it works—will be the world’s first topological qubit. “We’re making the transition from the science to the technology now,” he says. His effort has historical echoes. Down the corridor from his labs is a glass display case with the first transistor inside, made on this site in 1947. ......... Willett sees himself as an academic colleague of the Microsoft researchers rather than a corporate competitor, and he still gets invited to Freedman’s twice-yearly symposiums that bring Microsoft collaborators and other leading physicists to Santa Barbara. But Microsoft management has been more evident at recent meetings, Willett says, and he has sometimes felt that his being from another corporation made things awkward. ....... For Microsoft to open up a practical route to quantum computing would be surprising. For the withered Bell Labs, owned by a company not even in the computing business, it would be astounding. ....... Microsoft’s leafy campus in Redmond .. In the main research building, Krysta Svore leads a dozen people working on software for computers that may never exist. The team is figuring out what the first generation of quantum computers could do for us. ....... No quantum computer is ever going to fit into your pocket, because of the way qubits need to be supercooled ...... they would be used like data centers or supercomputers to power services over the Internet, or to solve problems that allow other technologies to be improved. ....... One promising idea is to use quantum computers for superpowered chemistry simulations that could accelerate progress on major problems in areas such as health or energy. A quantum computer could simulate reality so precisely that it could replace years of plodding lab work ...... Today roughly a third of U.S. supercomputer time is dedicated to simulations for chemistry or materials science, according to the Department of Energy. ...... quantum computers can be used for machine learning ...... Recent advances in image and speech recognition have triggered a frenzy of new research in artificial intelligence. ...... the first company to build a quantum computer might gain an advantage virtually unprecedented in the history of technology. “We believe that there’s a chance to do something that could be the foundation of a whole new economy” ..... It’s as if qubit technology is in a superposition between changing the world and decohering into nothing more than a series of obscure research papers.