Google's quantum computer outpaces supercomputers by '47 years'

The team employed a benchmark known as random circuit sampling, which extracts data from randomly generated quantum processes.
Ameya Paleja
Stock image of a quantum computer
Stock image of a quantum computer


Researchers working on Google's quantum computer, Sycamore, have claimed that the latest iteration can compute complex calculations in seconds, which would typically require the fastest supercomputer approximately "47 years" to accomplish. The findings were published on a pre-print server and have not been peer-reviewed.

For several years, the company has been dedicated to this field and achieved a comparable milestone in 2019 when it unveiled its Sycamore quantum computer, powered by 53 qubits.

A qubit is short for a quantum bit, the smallest unit of data in a quantum computer. Unlike bits in a binary computer that can either be a '0' or a '1', a qubit can be both 0 or 1 at the same time allowing complex calculations to be performed at astonishing speeds.

Beating the fastest supercomputer

Over time, researchers involved in building quantum computers have been striving to outperform the contemporary supercomputers.

This accomplishment has been realized on numerous occasions. As quantum computers continue to grow in terms of their qubit count, they have begun surpassing supercomputers in multiple instances.

Four years ago, the 53-qubit Sycamore was only a second ahead of today's fastest supercomputer, Frontier. Based on the researchers' estimation, it is believed that Frontier would take approximately 6.18 seconds to complete the calculation on the quantum computer.

Since then, researchers have added 17 qubits to the Sycamore. However, due to the exponential growth in its computational capacity, it is projected that Frontier would require 47 years to complete a calculation of that magnitude.

The team employed a benchmark known as random circuit sampling, which extracts data from randomly generated quantum processes. This approach helps mitigate the potential interference of noise during the calculation.

Google's quantum computer outpaces supercomputers by '47 years'
Quantum computers need to move beyond academic realms to real life ones

What practical applications do these computations serve?

Experts told The Telegraph that humanity is well beyond the point where it can claim quantum supremacy - indicating that quantum computers have significantly outpaced supercomputers.

However, the fundamental question remains: What possibilities and applications can one unlock with such capabilities?

For quite some time, we have been aware that quantum computing holds the potential to address challenges like climate change, discover treatments for incurable diseases, and more. But beyond academic research focused on solving complex mathematical problems or achieving certain benchmarks, quantum computers have made limited progress in addressing real-life issues.

It continues to be a distant dream for now. Even as scientists increase the number of qubits in their quantum systems, they still haven't figured out ways to deal with "quantum noise" or how to operate the computers without requiring extremely low temperatures.

As Microsoft suggested last month, we are still in the early stages of quantum computing and perhaps have just taken our first steps in this direction. In order for quantum computers to have a substantial impact on our daily lives, it is essential to develop a quantum supercomputer that can achieve immense operational speeds on the scale of one million quantum operations per second, while maintaining low error rates (10-12).

Present-day quantum computers could be considered to be at the early stages of this scale, and there is still a considerable journey ahead before they can yield significant practical outcomes. Until then, these occasional triumphs over supercomputers are all we have to showcase.

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