Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Microsoft searches for the first qubit

The NY Times reports:
Microsoft is putting its considerable financial and engineering muscle into the experimental field of quantum computing as it works to build a machine that could tackle problems beyond the reach of today’s digital computers.

There is a growing optimism in the tech world that quantum computers, superpowerful devices that were once the stuff of science fiction, are possible — and may even be practical. If these machines work, they will have an impact on work in areas such as drug design and artificial intelligence, as well as offer a better understanding of the foundations of modern physics.

Microsoft’s decision to move from pure research to an expensive effort to build a working prototype underscores a global competition among technology companies, including Google and IBM, which are also making significant investments in search of breakthroughs. ...

Microsoft now believes that it is close enough to designing the basic qubit building block that the company is ready to begin engineering a complete computer, said Todd Holmdahl, ...

“Once we get the first qubit figured out, we have a road map that allows us to go to thousands of qubits in a rather straightforward way,” Mr. Holmdahl said.

There is still a debate among physicists and computer scientists over whether quantum computers that perform useful calculations will ever be created.
Reading carefully, we learn:

1. No one has shown that quantum computers are even possible.
2. No one has even made that first qubit.
3. Big bucks are being spent, with big promises.

If physicists and computer scientists are debating whether quantum computers performing useful calculations will ever be created, then they may be impossible, and talk about them is speculation.

This situation has not changed much for about 20 years, except that much more money is being pumped into R&D, and more ppl are claiming that a breakthru is imminent.

I say it is all a scam. Five years from now, we still will not have a scalable qubit. Quantum supremacy will still be an unproven concept.

Update: Scott Aaronson adds:
I don’t really know more about this new initiative beyond what’s in the articles, but I know many of the people involved, they’re some of the most serious in the business, and Microsoft intensifying its commitment to QC can only be good for the field. I wish the new effort every success, despite being personally agnostic between superconducting qubits, trapped ions, photonics, nonabelian anyons, and other QC hardware proposals — whichever one gets there first is fine with me!
Big money, serious ppl, extravagant hype, and no one understands how they are going to achieve anything.

1 comment:

  1. The plan to build the first quantum computer is much like the South Park skit about the underwear gnomes.
    Step 1. Steal Underwear.
    Step 2. ?
    Step 3. Profit!!!

    That Step 2 part is more than an minor problem.
    Likewise, I notice people in 'science' act like political party flunkies in how they circle the wagons around bad ideas. They practically are screaming "Who cares if it doesn't work, had no chance in hell of ever working, it's funding for the holy cause of SCIENCE!"

    Which is why I believe government funded research needs to be utterly decimated down to bare essentials with strictly defined goals that must be met with some measure of success to be allowed to continue. Government science has become its own special interest group, it exists merely to continue and employ itself by keeping the money flowing by any means they deem necessary.