Google Claims Quantum Supremacy in Briefly Posted Paper

In a paper briefly posted to the NASA website, Google stated that it conducted an experimental demonstration that proved the supremacy of a quantum computer, dubbed Sycamore, over a traditional one. Although the quantum computer is “unproven,” it offers the possibility of solving “formerly ungraspable mathematical problems.” A Google source hinted that NASA published the paper before it could be vetted via scientific peer review. Since the article was pulled off the site, Google has not acknowledged its existence.

Fortune, which obtained a copy of the article, reports that “if the paper holds up under the scrutiny of the scientific community, it will herald a watershed moment in quantum science.”

The Google scientists wrote that “quantum speedup is achievable in a real-world system and is not precluded by any hidden physical laws,” also predicting that quantum computing power will “grow at a double exponential rate.”

The paper described the experiment, which “sampled randomly generated numbers produced through a specialized scenario involving quantum phenomena.” They then wrote that “while our processor takes about 200 seconds to sample one instance of the quantum circuit 1 million times, a state-of-the-art supercomputer would require approximately 10,000 years to perform the equivalent task.”

They also revealed that Sycamore contained 53-qubits (quantum bits), scaled back from Bristlecone’s 72-qubits, an earlier design. “Quantum processors based on superconducting qubits can now perform computations … beyond the reach of the fastest classical supercomputers available today,” they concluded. “To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor.”

IBM Research head Dario Gil, however, “advises against using quantum supremacy as a metric with which to measure progress in the field,” noting that Google’s experiment has “no practical applications.” “Quantum computers will never reign ‘supreme’ over classical computers, but will rather work in concert with them, since each have their unique strengths,” he said.

Intel Labs director of quantum hardware Jim Clarke said that, although the company believes in the potential, “a commercially viable quantum computer will require” more scientific advancements to become viable.

CNET, which described IBM’s new 53-qubit quantum computer here, noted that “quantum computing, which can simultaneously evaluate multiple possibilities, will likely be used for physics and chemistry simulations that aren’t possible with classical computers … [as well as help in the development of] new drugs and solar panels … artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, and even manage investment portfolios.”

Related:
Google’s ‘Quantum Supremacy’ Isn’t the End of Encryption, Wired, 9/24/19