Thursday, June 2, 2011

Quantum computer sold

SciAm reports:
It could turn out to be a milestone for quantum computing. Last week, D-Wave Systems of Burnaby in British Columbia, Canada, announced the first sale of a commercial quantum computer, to global security firm Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Maryland.

Yet perhaps fittingly for a quantum device, uncertainty persists around how the impressive black monolith known as D-Wave One actually works. Computer scientists have long questioned whether D-Wave's systems truly exploit quantum physics, ...

D-Wave's co-founder, Geordie Rose, says that the sale demonstrates that quantum computing is finally living up to its decades-long promise. Aaronson, however, thinks that the computer-science community will need more convincing. "Just because a flagship company has bought the system, doesn't mean that it now works," he says.

That mistrust goes back to 2007, when D-Wave apparently demonstrated a 16-qubit computer that could solve a Sudoku puzzle. Many computer scientists and physicists suggested that the device was actually being driven by plain old classical physics. At the time, D-Wave did not respond with any publications ruling out this possibility.
I don't doubt that it exploits quantum physics. It is hard to make a computer that does not. The magazine has another article, the current June 2011 cover story, which says: "Quantum mechanics is not just about teeny particles. It applies to things of all sizes: birds, plants, maybe even people". But I do doubt that any true qubits are involved.

Vlatko Vedral, the author of that SciAm article, has a separate claim that you can cool a quantum computer by erasing an entangled bit. No, I do not believe that anyone will even succeed in such an experiment.

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