What is the Quantum Supremacy That Google Claims To Have Achieved?

Google claims to have demonstrated the superiority of the quantum computer over traditional machines. A major breakthrough on the road to creating a device capable of performing much more complex tasks than today’s computing.

This is the Grail of modern computing. Translate the quantum computer from theory to reality. To master the laws of physics on the scale of the infinitely small to create a device with unparalleled computing power with today’s machines capable of solving the most complex problems.

After space in the 1950s, the scientific and technological community is now working to conquer a new frontier, that of quantum computing, a horizon that has been increasingly coveted since the 1980s.

At the forefront of this global technological race are the United States and China, whose major industrialists are investing massively in R&D so as not to remain at the dockside of the announced revolution.

On the American side, Google, IBM and Microsoft are convinced that they will be able to perform quantum calculations that are totally inaccessible to traditional computers in the coming years.

An important step may have been taken in recent days. A month after scaring the information away by mistake, Google announced on Wednesday that it had reached quantum supremacy.

In a press release issued on October 23, the Mountain View firm claims to have “demonstrated its ability to calculate in a few seconds what would take thousands of years for the largest and most advanced supercomputers, thus reaching a major milestone known as quantum supremacy”.

Quantum supremacy is a concept that began in the 1980s. It refers to the moment when the superiority of a quantum computer over a conventional computer over a particular task is demonstrated.

Google engineers, assisted by NASA and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, say they have succeeded in creating a processor that can perform a calculation in 200 seconds when the most advanced of today’s computers would need 10,000 years.

There is Still a Long Way To Go Before The Quantum Revolution

In our current computers, information is binary coded. They can only take two values, o or 1, depending on whether the transistors let an electric current pass through or block it.

This is called a bit. The laws of quantum physics are beyond comprehension. Governed by the principle of wave-particle duality, they allow a multitude of overlapping possibilities.

Instead of using bits, quantum processors juggle with qubits, which have an infinite number of possible states. They will perform calculations in parallel,

when a conventional computer performs them one after the other, and multiply the information processing potential of artificial intelligence systems.

This opens up an infinite field of possibilities for medical research (development of new molecules), transport (traffic optimization), energy management (more efficient batteries) or IT security (more resistant cryptography).

But quantum computing is a delicate matter because it is difficult to stabilize qubits in their quantum state. This requires very specific conditions: simple, cold atoms, isolated from the outside world,

and the difficulties increase as their number increases. As a result, manufacturers are now struggling to exceed 53 qubits.

Welcomed by the White House, delighted to be ahead of China, Google’s performance was nevertheless put into perspective by IBM,

which claims that it could have been achieved in three days with the most powerful of all conventional computers whose computing power would have been assigned to this single task.

Several experts also called for caution, pointing out that this specific calculation was not useful and that there was still a long way to go before the advent of a universal quantum computer.

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