Commercial Quantum Computer?

Quantum computers could revolutionize the way we tackle problems that stump even the best classical computers.
Single atom transistor recently introduced has been seen as a tool that could lead the way to building a quantum computer. For general introduction how quantum computer work, read A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work article.

D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer article tells that computing company D-Wave has announced that they’re selling a quantum computing system commercially, which they’re calling the D-Wave One. D-Wave system comes equipped with a 128-qubit processor that’s designed to perform discrete optimization operations. The processor uses quantum annealing to perform these operations.

D-Wave is advertisting a number of different applications for its quantum computing system, primarily in the field of artificial intelligence. According to the company, its system can handle virtually any AI application that can be translated to a Markov random field.

dwave

Learning to program the D-Wave One blog article tells that the processor in the D-Wave One – codenamed Rainier – is designed to perform a single mathematical operation called discrete optimization. It is a special purpose processor. When writing applications the D-Wave One is used only for the steps in your task that involve solving optimization problems. All the other parts of your code still run on your conventional systems of choice. Rainier solves optimization problems using quantum annealing (QA), which is a class of problem solving approaches that use quantum effects to help get better solutions, faster. Learning to program the D-Wave One is the first in a series of blog posts describing the algorithms we have run on D-Wave quantum computers, and how to use these to build interesting applications.

But is this the start of the quantum computers era? Maybe not. D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer article comments tell a story that this computer might not be the quantum computer you might be waiting for. It seem that the name “quantum computer” is a bit misleading for this product. There are serious controversies around the working and “quantumness” of the machine. D-Wave has been heavily criticized by some scientists in the quantum computing field. First sale for quantum computing article tells that uncertainty persists around how the impressive black monolith known as D-Wave One actually works. Computer scientists have long questioned whether D-Wave’s systems truly exploit quantum physics on their products.

Slashdot article D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer comments tell that this has the same central problem as before. D-Wave’s computers haven’t demonstrated that their commercial bits are entangled. There’s no way to really distinguish what they are doing from essentially classical simulated annealing. Recommended reading that is skeptical of D-Wave’s claims is much of what Scott Aaronson has wrote about them. See for example http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=639, http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=198 although interestingly after he visited D-Wave’s labs in person his views changed slightly and became slightly more sympathetic to them http://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=954.

So it is hard to say if the “128 qubits” part is snake oil or for real. If the 128 “qubits” aren’t entangled at all, which means it is useless for any of the quantum algorithms that one generally thinks of. It seem that this device simply has 128 separate “qubits” that are queried individually, and is, essentially an augmented classical computer that gains a few minor advantages in some very specific algorithms (i.e. the quantum annealing algorithm) due to this qubit querying, but is otherwise indistinguishable from a really expensive classical computer for any other purpose. This has the same central problem as before: D-Wave’s computers haven’t demonstrated that their commercial bits are entangled.

Rather than constantly adding more qubits and issuing more hard-to-evaluate announcements, while leaving the scientific characterization of its devices in a state of limbo, why doesn’t D-Wave just focus all its efforts on demonstrating entanglement, or otherwise getting stronger evidence for a quantum role in the apparent speedup? There’s a reason why academic quantum computing groups focus on pushing down decoherence and demonstrating entanglement in 2, 3, or 4 qubits: because that way, at least you know that the qubits are qubits! Suppose D-Wave were marketing a classical, special-purpose, $10-million computer designed to perform simulated annealing, for 90-bit Ising spin glass problems with a certain fixed topology, somewhat better than an off-the-shelf computing cluster. Would there be even 5% of the public interest that there is now?

72 Comments

  1. Tomi Engdahl says:
    How D-Wave began selling its quantum computer amid suspicion that it relied on classical computing:

    The Age of Quantum Computing Has (Almost) Arrived
    http://www.wired.com/2014/05/quantum-computing/

    Inside the Black Box

    The guts of a D-Wave don’t look like any other computer. Instead of metals etched into silicon, the central processor is made of loops of the metal niobium, surrounded by components designed to protect it from heat, vibration, and electromagnetic noise. Isolate those niobium loops well enough from the outside world and you get a quantum computer, thousands of times faster than the machine on your desk—or so the company claims. —Cameron Bird

    Is the D-wave actually quantum? if noise is disentangling the qubits, it’s just an expensive classical computer.

    Reply
  2. Tomi Engdahl says:
    First Browser-Based Quantum Computer Simulator Released
    http://developers.slashdot.org/story/14/05/21/2222221/first-browser-based-quantum-computer-simulator-released

    “Google researchers unveiled the first browser-based, GPU-powered Quantum Computing Playground. With a typical GPU card you can simulate up to 22 qubits, write, debug, and share your programs”

    Reply
  3. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Quantum Computing Playground
    http://www.chromeexperiments.com/detail/quantum-computing-playground/

    Quantum Computing Playground is a browser-based WebGL Chrome Experiment. It features a GPU-accelerated quantum computer with a simple IDE interface, and its own scripting language with debugging and 3D quantum state visualization features. Quantum Playground can efficiently simulate quantum registers up to 22 qubits, run Grover’s and Shor’s algorithms, and has a variety of quantum gates built into the scripting language itself.

    Technology: WebGL, JavaScript, HTML5, AngularJS, Bootstrap

    Reply
  4. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Get UNCRACKABLE quantum keys – from a smartphone
    Would take ’1018 times the age of the universe’ to guess
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/30/get_uncrackable_quantum_keys_from_a_smartphone/

    Your smartphone is a quantum device that can be used to generate truly random keys, according to boffins at the University of Geneva.

    The authors say that smartphone CMOS cameras are now sensitive enough to take the place of expensive kit. “Their readout noise is of the order of a few electrons and their quantum efficiencies can achieve 80 per cent”, the paper states.

    That’s a lot cheaper than the QRNG kit currently on offer – although it’s more expensive than visiting the ANU’s https://qrng.anu.edu.au/RainBin.php online QRNG site.

    Reply
  5. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Quantum teleportation gets reliable at Delft
    ‘Einstein wrong!’ is always so popular
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/02/quantum_teleportation_gets_reliable_at_delft/

    A research group at Delft University of Technology has set the lesser-brained among the world’s science writers in an absolute tizz by demonstrating what it describes as reliable quantum teleportation.

    Of course, mention quantum phenomena like entanglement (and therefore teleportation) and the only angle anyone can think of is “Einstein was wrong”, as if the whole idea were new.

    Unless they’re completely off beam and think this is the first quantum teleportation ever.

    Its paper, published at Science (abstract) and available in pre-print version at Arxiv, claims not to be the first information teleportation, but rather the first reliable teleportation.

    Getting quantum-scale particles – electrons, photons, or even atoms – entangled is difficult, separating them is difficult, measuring their state is difficult, and most of all, preserving entanglement in the presence of noise is difficult.

    That makes error rates a problem: noise destroys entanglement, and if you’re communicating information via quantum states, that might mean dozens of states have to be prepared and measured.

    Reliable “single-shot” entanglement measurements would therefore make quantum communications systems operate at much higher bitrates than today.

    The Delft group, led by professor Ronald Hanson, are laying claim to reliable information teleportation between qubit pairs separated by three metres.

    As Hanson says in the release, “The unique thing about our method is that the teleportation is guaranteed to work 100 per cent. The information will always reach its destination, so to speak. And, moreover, the method also has the potential of being 100 per cent accurate.”

    Reply
  6. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Quantum Cryptography
    http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/quantum-cryptography

    Classical cryptography provides security based on unproven mathematical assumptions and depends on the technology available to an eavesdropper. But, these things might not be enough in the near future to guarantee cyber security. We need something that provides unconditional security. We need quantum cryptography.

    What is quantum cryptography? Quantum cryptography is a complex topic, because it brings into play something most people find hard to understand—quantum mechanics. So first, let’s focus on some basic quantum physics that you’ll need to know to understand this article.

    Reply
  7. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Boffins discover ‘practical requirements’ for ‘realistic’ QUANTUM COMPUTER
    One of key ingredients is ‘contextual’ magic states
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/quantum_computing_contextuality_magic_states_university_waterloo/

    Canadian boffins have brought quantum computers a step closer to reality by identifying one feature that will be key to finally building one – contextuality.

    Our computers use the binary system of 1 and 0s. Quantum computers use qubits (quantum bits), which can exist in “superposition”, meaning that they can be a 0 or a 1 and everything in between… simultaneously.

    Quantum researchers have known for 50 years that context is king when it comes to quantum theory.

    To make the system work properly, quantum computing boffins need a way of controlling “the fragile quantum states”. One such way of doing so is building a particular type of noise-resistant environment, and “magic-state distillation” is one approach to doing this.

    The new study has found that contextuality could be key to the “magical state” model of fault-tolerant quantum computation.

    Reply
  8. Tomi Engdahl says:
    D-Wave disputes benchmark study showing sluggish quantum computer
    Faulty benchmarks and sampling methods all wrong, claim Canadian quantumoids
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/20/dwave_disputes_benchmarking_study_showing_sluggish_quantum_computer/

    Quantum computing device manufacturer D-Wave is disputing a recently published study that claims the Canadian firm’s systems aren’t reliably faster than more-conventional computing systems.

    Reply
  9. marcolongo.org says:
    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I certainly loved every bit of it.
    I have got you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…
    Reply
  10. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Microsoft Makes Bet Quantum Computing Is Next Breakthrough
    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/24/technology/microsoft-makes-a-bet-on-quantum-computing-research.html?_r=0

    Modern computers are not unlike the looms of the industrial revolution: They follow programmed instructions to weave intricate patterns.

    Now a group of physicists and computer scientists who are funded by Microsoft are trying to take the analogy of interwoven threads to what some believe will be the next great leap in computing, so-called quantum computing.

    If they are right, their research could lead to the design of computers that are far more powerful than today’s supercomputers and could solve problems in fields as diverse as chemistry, material science, artificial intelligence and code-breaking.

    The proposed Microsoft computer is mind-bending even by the standards of the mostly hypothetical world of quantum computing.

    In the approach that Microsoft is pursuing, which is described as “topological quantum computing,” precisely controlling the motions of pairs of subatomic particles as they wind around one another would manipulate entangled quantum bits. Although the process of braiding particles takes place at subatomic scales, it is evocative of the motions of a weaver overlapping threads to create a pattern.

    By weaving the particles around one another, topological quantum computers would generate imaginary threads whose knots and twists would create a powerful computing system. Most important, the mathematics of their motions would correct errors that have so far proved to be the most daunting challenge facing quantum computer designers.

    Reply
  11. Tomi Engdahl says:
    D-Wave Systems Raises $28.4 Million Round
    http://techcrunch.com/2014/07/10/d-wave-systems-raises-28-4-million-round/

    Quantum computing technology company D-Wave Systems has raised a new $28.4 million round of funding, according to a new filing on the SEC’s site.

    Reply
  12. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
    Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don’t lose their shape
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/08/11/another_step_forward_for_diamondbased_quantum_computers/

    Building simple quantum gates is common, but creating something that could be built on transistor-like scale is a huge challenge. Now, boffins from the Technical University of Vienna, Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, and NTT’s Basic Research Labs are offering an architecture they reckon can be scaled up.

    What the researchers are offering, they believe, is a basic architecture they think would support a scalable quantum computer based on spins of nitrogen atoms in diamonds.

    The architecture uses nitrogen atoms that can occupy two spin states, injected into a diamond, with each nitrogen defect trapped in a two-mirror optical resonator. Optical fibres let the engineers couple photons to this quantum system, allowing them to work with it without destroying the nitrogen atom spins.

    Reply
  13. Tomi Engdahl says:
    The Man Who Will Build Google’s Elusive Quantum Computer
    http://www.wired.com/2014/09/martinis/

    John Martinis is one of the world’s foremost experts on quantum computing, a growing field of science that aims to process information at super high speeds using strange physics of very tiny particles such as electrons and photons. And now, after years as a physics professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, he’s headed for Google.

    This week, the Google Quantum A.I. Lab announced that it hired Martinis and his Santa Barbara team to build a new breed of quantum computing hardware. Though Martinis will maintain his affiliation with UC Santa Barbara and continue to mentor his PhD students there, he will spend most of his time on his research at Google. The move proves that Google is serious about quantum computing, and given the company’s vast influence and deep pockets, it could provide a serious shot in the arm for quantum computer research as a whole.

    Martinis is among those questioning D-Wave’s claims. Last June, Science published a paper co-authored by Martinis and several other scientists concluding that D-Wave’s machines aren’t actually faster than normal laptops and desktops. But he’s no D-Wave hater. Martinis has been working with D-Wave’s machines for a few years now and says he has long been impressed with the work the company has done.

    Meanwhile, D-Wave has been mostly focused on trying to build machines with as many qubits as possible, but it hasn’t focused much on the problem of decoherence, Martinis says. By combining D-Wave’s work on achieving scale with their own work on stability, Martinis and his team think they can push the whole field of quantum computing further.

    Reply
  14. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Google’s First Quantum Computer Will Build on D-Wave’s Approach
    http://spectrum.ieee.org/tech-talk/computing/hardware/googles-first-quantum-computer-will-build-on-dwaves-approach

    Most quantum computing labs hope to slowly build universal “gate-model” machines that could perform as super-fast versions of today’s classical computers. Such labs have tended to cast a skeptical eye upon D-Wave, the Canadian company that has rapidly developed a more specialized type of quantum computing machine for lease to corporate customers such as Google and Lockheed Martin. In the latest twist, Google has hired an academic team of researchers to help build the first Google quantum computer based on the specialized D-Wave approach rather than on a universal gate-model blueprint.

    The Google announcement of its plan to build new quantum computing hardware coincided with its hiring of John Martinis, a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, last week. Martinis has led an academic team in developing error correction techniques that can stabilize the quantum bits—called qubits—used by quantum computers to perform many simultaneous calculations by representing both 0 and 1 states at the same time.

    Reply
  15. Tomi Engdahl says:
    The sound of silence: One excited atom is so quiet that the human ear cannot detect it
    Listen! Is this a Quantum Communications Leap?
    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/09/13/scientists_capture_sound_of_one_atom_quantum_computing/

    Boffins believe they have successfully demonstrated the sound a single atom makes when excited – even though it is completely inaudible to the human ear.

    According to a paper published in Science magazine on Thursday, researchers at the University of Columbia and Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology “captured” the very soft sound.

    The discovery could eventually unlock the basic science for new quantum computing devices, reported Motherboard, which spoke to the paper’s co-author Göran Johansson.

    “Basically, when you excite the atom, it creates a sound, one phonon at a time, according to theory. It’s the weakest possible sound possible at the frequency [that it vibrates],” Johansson said.

    The artificial atom was created using a semiconducting circuit, such as those found in small quantum computers.

    Reply
  16. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Tiny Graphene Drum for Future Quantum Computer and Sensor Technologies
    http://video.techbriefs.com/video/Tiny-Graphene-Drum-for-Future-Q;Photonics

    Scientists from Netherlands’ Delft University of Technology have demonstrated that they can detect extremely small changes in position and forces on very small drums of graphene.

    Reply
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    Reply
  18. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics
    http://science.slashdot.org/story/14/10/12/2219235/microsofts-quantum-mechanics

    MIT Technology Review has an excellent article summarizing the current state of quantum computing. It focuses on the efforts of Microsoft and Alcatel-Lucent’s Bell Labs to build stable qubits over the past few years.

    Microsoft’s Quantum Mechanics
    http://www.technologyreview.com/photoessay/531606/microsofts-quantum-mechanics/

    Can an aging corporation’s adventures in fundamental physics research open a new era of unimaginably powerful computers?

    Microsoft is now almost a decade into that project and has just begun to talk publicly about it. If it succeeds, the world could change dramatically. 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.

    Progress toward that computational nirvana has been slow because no one has been able to make a reliable enough version of the basic building block of a quantum computer: a quantum bit, or qubit, which uses quantum effects to encode data. Academic and government researchers and corporate labs at IBM and Hewlett-Packard have all built them. Small numbers have been wired together, and the resulting devices are improving. But no one can control the physics well enough for these qubits to serve as the basis of a practical general-purpose computer.

    Reply
  19. Tomi Engdahl says:
    First Demonstration of Artificial Intelligence On a Quantum Computer
    http://tech.slashdot.org/story/14/10/15/139227/first-demonstration-of-artificial-intelligence-on-a-quantum-computer

    Machine learning algorithms use a training dataset to learn how to recognize features in images and use this ‘knowledge’ to spot the same features in new images. The computational complexity of this task is such that the time required to solve it increases in polynomial time with the number of images in the training set and the complexity of the “learned” feature.

    Now, a Chinese team has successfully implemented this artificial intelligence algorithm on a working quantum computer, for the first time.

    First Demonstration Of Artificial Intelligence On A Quantum Computer
    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/first-demonstration-of-artificial-intelligence-on-a-quantum-computer-17a6b9d1c5fb

    A Chinese team of physicists have trained a quantum computer to recognise handwritten characters, the first demonstration of “quantum artificial intelligence”

    Today, Zhaokai Li and pals at the University of Science and Technology of China in Hefei demonstrate machine learning on a quantum computer for the first time. Their quantum computer can recognise handwritten characters, just as humans can do, in what Li and co are calling the first demonstration of “quantum artificial intelligence”.

    To keep the experiment simple, the team trained their machine to recognise the difference between a handwritten 6 and a handwritten 9. The vectors representing 6s and 9s can then be compared in this feature space to work out how best to distinguish between them. In effect, the computer finds a hyperplane in the feature space that separates the vectors representing 6s from those representing 9s.

    That makes the task of recognising other 6s or 9s straightforward. For each new image of a character, the computer has to decide which side of the dividing line the vector sits.

    Reply
  20. Tomi Engdahl says:
    Quantum Experiment Shows How Time ‘Emerges’ from Entanglement
    https://medium.com/the-physics-arxiv-blog/quantum-experiment-shows-how-time-emerges-from-entanglement-d5d3dc850933

    Time is an emergent phenomenon that is a side effect of quantum entanglement, say physicists. And they have the first experimental results to prove it

    Reply
  21. Tomi Engdahl says:
    A leap into quantum computing
    http://www.edn-europe.com/en/a-leap-into-quantum-computing.html?cmp_id=7&news_id=10004880&vID=209#.VD9rlxZsUik

    This is the first in an occasional series that will describe some of the current work being done, and challenges in the field of quantum computing. I will also use this soap box to attempt to intrigue fellow electrical engineers into considering the field as a viable area of research, as many of the challenges currently plaguing the field fall under engineering disciplines.

    Reply

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