On the 20th of September the world has reached a new milestone in the evergoing research for technological improvement.
Such achievement is called “Quantum Supremacy”, these 2 words define the event in which a quantum computer has finally been able to calculate something that a regular computer wouldn’t have ever been able to do.
What are Quantum Computers?
Quantum Computers are the stepchild of human research on the fundamental particles which are at the basis of our universe and the exploitation of their properties, in particular quantum entanglement and superposition. Diving into a deep explanation on how they work would be a very complex task so, we can make few assumptions which help us understanding in a better way how do they work.
“Normal computers” are based on transistors and basic logic gates which can represent only a state at the time, either 1 or 0.
Quantum computers on the other hand, are built by qubits, very futuristic elements of technology which can represent, and “blend”, at the same time 1s and 0s to be able to crunch through very difficult calculation in a short amount of time. Once the qubits are set the process is rather simple, put some of these units onto a single board, combine them all together, bring them to a temperature near the absolute zero, create a special algorithm and you’ve created you DIY Quantum Computer
Will we ever use them?
Well, yes, but also no. Quantum Computers represent the new frontier of calculations but, are not suited for domestic or even for commercial use. It is almost certainly impossible that privates will be able to buy them to put them in their Houses and browse the internet. On the other hand, they will be the next breakthrough in specialized fields such as chemistry, pharmaceuticals, agriculture. Our contemporary personal computers are very bad when it comes to simulations, they take a long time and cannot even solve certain tasks. Quantum Computers will solve this problem and maybe open-up new possibilities, for example, we might even be able to eliminate animal testing since such machines can compute huge amounts of data dealing with chemical simulation.
The recent development made in this field was by a supercomputer made by Google composed of 72 qubits, (the building blocks of quantum computing), this machine was put to the test of completing a very specific task that would’ve taken a normal computer about 10000 years. The machine was able to calculate it in just 220 seconds, which proved for the first time that not only quantum computers can be faster than normal ones but, in certain specific cases, can actually accomplish calculation that would otherwise be impossible.
What does this all mean??
Quantum Supremacy has shown that the field is ready quantum computers are making big steps forward.
The last significant breakthrough was the 1994 Shor’s algorithm, which showed that quantum computers can make tremendously complex calculation in a very short amount of time (they are so powerful that they could completely bypass our banking security system based on prime numbers). After many years we are finally understanding better their functioning and how to exploit such marvellous technology.
The other important impact of Quantum Supremacy is the perception. Media and scientist are now reporting that a Quantum computer has finally surpassed a normal computer, even if going deeper we find that this happened only on one instance and that the task was tailor made for such computer, the headlines and the core content is very important to create interest in a field which has stagnated for a while in the recent years.
Right now, we are just at the tip of the iceberg, Quantum Computers have a long way to go but, the recent breakthrough of Quantum Supremacy has put such technology on the spot just like the first airplane in 1904. The Wright brothers’ invention wasn’t really useful and other methods of transportation worked better, but it was a proof of concept and showed that a new way was possible and that it was achievable.