Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Microsoft pushes cloud quantum computing

The last NPR Science Friday episode featured some Microsoft propaganda:
The Ultimate Parallel Processor: Quantum Bits

Certain calculations could take even the most advanced supercomputers billions of years to solve. But quantum computers, says Microsoft researcher Krysta Svore, might be able to dispatch what she calls “lifetime-of-the-universe” problems in a matter of hours or days.
She implied that Microsoft would be solving these problems for the public in its cloud services in 5 or 10 years.

I have repeatedly posted skepticism about the achievability of quantum computers, and how the supposed progress on problems like 3x5=15 is no progress at all.

But even if Microsoft succdessfully builds a quantum computer, it would have no practical value to the public. The main theoretical advantage is factoring large numbers and breaking secure internet connections.

That would not be good for society. It would be a disaster. All of the billions of computers in the world would have to be re-engineered to use different cryptographic methods that are slower, more expensive, less reliable, and are of more dubious security. Only thieves and criminals would be buying those Microsoft cloud services.

Microsoft is essentially promising to offer hacker tools to criminals to destroy everyone's security.

Some quantum computer advocates will argue that a quantum computer has other uses, such as doing unindexed database searches, and similating chemical reactions. While there is some theoretical complexity advantage in artificial scenarios, there is no practical advantage for any real world problem that anyone has found. Databases would still be better searched by indexing them and using conventional computers. Likewise, there are methods for simulating chemical reactions that are far better than using a quantum computer.

She explained quantum computers as the ultimate parallel processor because it can process qubits as being 0 and 1 at the same time, thereby giving an exponential speedup. Scott Aaronson posts that this view is inaccurate, and leads to an inflated view of what quantum computers are all about. He is writing a whole book on this subject, but I doubt that it will slow down the quantum computer hype machine.

Science Friday also had this, in celebration of Pi Day, 3-14 (yesterday):
Mathematician James Grime of the YouTube channel Numberphile has determined that 39 digits of pi—3.14159265358979323846264338327950288420 — would suffice to calculate the circumference of the known universe to the width of a hydrogen atom.
No, this is nonsense, and Grime gives mathematicians a bad name.

The radium of the known universe is only known to about 1 signficant figure, so using Pi=3 is sufficient for any such calculation. Furthermore, the universe is not Euclidean on that scale, so Pi is not the circumference/diameter ratio.

I do not know any physical situation where more than about 6 decimal places are needed. I would be very surprised if more than 10 were ever needed.


  1. Roger,
    What do you mean the universe is not Euclidean on that scale?? How in the hell would you be able to tell? Because of the big kabloeey? 'Exponential' inflation?

    The thing that cracks me up about people who like to say the universe is non-Euclidean, is that distance, velocity, and size (area, volume, meter) are meaningless unless the universe IS Euclidean. Think about it. Velocities, angles, areas, circumferences, accelerations, are all pretty much meaningless goo if you are going to play around with your lines not being actual straight lines (trig is useless without them)and by claiming that space can be compressed or stretched like matter(measurement is meaningless if your meter can change size from place to place). Sorry but no, I don't play with foolish conventions or fads that make measurement impossible, it kind of defeats the concept of science altogether.

    Mathematicians deserve their bad name, as their profession has a long and illustrious history of being the refuge of charlatans, thieves, and card cheats.
    If you wish to put the bloody mathematicians in the same hell they propose for physics, inform them that the distance between their precious numbers will vary from place to place, the number three will become four from time to time on Tuesdays (after happy hour), and constants will no longer be constant, and heck, if space can be treated as reified taffy, so can numbers (why not? they are imaginary after all!). While we are at it, lets also inform them that math is relative from place to place. After this has been done, tell them to 'just shut up and calculate'(et tu Feynman).

    I find it simply adorable when 'experts' exclude themselves from the consequences of their own messes.

  2. Have you loaded Visual Studio lately? They need a supercomputer because they write such awful code. They can't even sway people from using retarded basement software like Linux. Outside of live ray tracing, I can't find anything present machines CAN'T DO! To emphasize speed and storage is to downplay substance. Software was written better when we had more hardware limits. Alan Kay made an entire development system with apps in about 2.8 MB. The present Squeak environment executable is about 1.8 MB. OSs are redundant.

    The real problem is that Computer "Science" is driven by fads and people like Alan Kay have said this directly. Back in the 90s he made the statement that "what Andy [Grove] giveth, Bill [Gates] taketh away." I can't believe I'm using an i7 with 8GB of RAM and an nVidia card and my web pages are constantly sputtering and freezing. Places like MIT and the data science community are even encouraging the use of slow languages like Python, while Julia provides the same functionality at C-like speed. These people keep releasing languages like it's the Tower of Babel and they can't even prove empirical benefits over Lisp! The web is an outdated mess and people can't even perform optimizations but sprawl code bases to hundreds of millions of lines. Just look at the size of the ACPI repository. Models of the universe use less SLOC.

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    2. Roger, you always talk about how stupid Intel was with the Itanium. How about ACPI (see my post)? Linus Torvalds in 2003: "ACPI is a complete design disaster in every way. But we're kind of stuck with it. If any Intel people are listening to this and you had anything to do with ACPI, shoot yourself now, before you reproduce."

  3. Roger,
    you said:
    That would not be good for society. It would be a disaster. All of the billions of computers in the world would have to be re-engineered to use different cryptographic methods that are slower, more expensive, less reliable, and are of more dubious security. Only thieves and criminals would be buying those Microsoft cloud services."

    Windows 10 technically fits the description of malicious adware, spyware, social engineered attacks and malware. It gathers keystrokes (to better serve you),every website you connect to through the metro desktop(yet more telemetry to better serve you), every website you visit through their bing search engine, they send your entire calendar your contacts and your passwords to one of over twenty three different data gathering points (it's just harmless telemetry again). Microsoft also states in their EULA that if while mining their...telemetry they have gathered on you...that if they think you have committed any kind of crime they don't like, they will turn it over to law enforcement for prosecution. Considering that Loretta Lynch (great last name there for an AG) has admitted to mulling over if people who deny manmade global warming should be prosecuted legally, please understand that merely disagreeing with political positions would be considered a 'crime' and MS would gleefully rat on you through your own computer. MS also says they reserve the right to sell your personal data for their profit to anyone they are presently doing business with (I'm not sure how they can call that 'telemetry' but they do). Cortana is basically just a personal data vacuum cleaner, if you use it you have given MS open access to every file on your computer (many of which MS admits they will be downloading to one of their cloud systems for their own purposes...telemetry don'cha know!).

    Now what concern did you have about MS helping criminals hacking private data again? MS is no longer interested in making operating systems (they have even said as much), they are a 'service provider' model now, which begs the question, services to whom? Certainly not the person using their OS.

    If MS actually could invent 'quantum' anything that could break encryption or security measures, they would also be a fantastic target for anyone wishing to hack their data mining operations. Think of all those passwords and private information all in a convenient one stop location!

  4. Roger, our Canadian Prime Minister made some comments about Quantum computing today in a news conference - check them out!