The world of quantum computing occupies a strange place. Discoveries constantly show the potential and promise of the quantum method, but teams of developers are still racing to build a computer powerful enough to realize this potential fully.
So who is leading the way, and who is new to the party? And what exactly is a “time crystal”? We cover top stories from around the world.
IBM Develops 127-Qubit Processor
IBM has heavily invested in the quantum field for many years, and its efforts could be paying off as it announces that it has developed a 127-qubit processor.
Qubits are the simplest information units in quantum computing and are the building blocks for any successful model. Bits used in traditional computing represent a value of either 0 or 1, but as they exist in superposition, qubits represent both values simultaneously.
The company’s previous most advanced processor had half this number, making this a significant advance. Researchers and observers still aren’t sure what it could achieve, however. IBM has yet to release information clarifying how the processor, dubbed “Eagle,” could enhance understanding of quantum computing. Still, the possibilities are ripe, with applications ranging from optimized machine learning to molecular modeling.
The race to achieve quantum supremacy—where these machines can outperform traditional systems—is, of course, mired in the battle for technological supremacy between big names. When researchers at Google claimed to have achieved this in a set task in 2019, IBM queried its results. Until key details are released, it appears that other players will view IBM’s progress with the same degree of skepticism.
Finland Joins Quantum Computing Race
Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Center and IQM Finland Oy have collaborated in Helsinki to produce Finland’s first quantum computer. At just 5 qubits, it represents an ongoing learning process of how these machines are built and operated than a functional computer but is an exciting step forward for the nation.
The company has announced plans to follow up with a 50-qubit machine by 2024, potentially having more practical applications. While it’s still early days, it’s exciting to see new players entering the field and perhaps providing a fresh perspective compared to the traditional hegemony of large, U.S.-based tech firms.
The race to upgrade also indicates the broader global trend that faces professionals in the field—that scalability is still poorly understood in quantum computing. Moving from 5 to 50 qubits is a big step, much as IBM’s upgrade from 65 to 127 qubits sounds exciting, but neither is anywhere near the levels required to reach the levels of processing power that researchers believe would put quantum computing on the map.
Team Creates and Observes “Time Crystal”
A multinational team of developers has created and documented the phenomenon known as a “time crystal.” This phase of matter, first proposed in 2012, repeats indefinitely in time. It has baffled researchers after the publication of a proof showing that it didn’t abide by the second law of thermodynamics. However, Vedika Khemani, a senior author of the paper, pointed out that this proof was flawed.
The parties collaborating were:
- Google Quantum AI
- Stanford University
- Oxford University
- The Max Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems
The researchers also observed and captured video of a time crystal for the first time using Google’s Sycamore quantum computer. It’s an exciting development that should enrich our understanding of quantum behavior and inform further research.
When Will We Reach Quantum Supremacy?
Thrilling discoveries with enticing names are always greeted with cautious optimism in the scientific community. The work done by researchers must always be understood in the context that quantum computing is still in its infancy, and we have a way to go before reaching “supremacy.” Work continues around the world.