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Curated by RSF Research Staff

The race for Quantum Supremacy

The quantum computing revolution is a serious subject since the 1980s. At that time, theorists realized that a computer based on quantum mechanics had the potential to vastly outperform ordinary, or classical, computers at certain tasks. What makes quantum computer so special it’s because it does give us a third kind of bit where typical computers have only two. In quantum computing, there is quantum superposition — that odd cloud of ‘maybes’ that a particle occupies before we observe its existence cemented as one of two different states — to solving highly complex computational problems. These machines can perform tasks far beyond the capability of today’s strongest supercomputers. This new type of computer will be able to compute mathematical models too complex for standard computers, vastly extending the range and accuracy of weather forecasts and financial market predictions, among other things. That’s not to say quantum computing could never be a useful addition for a home desktop. But to even begin dreaming of the possibilities, there are a whole number of problems to solve first.

The main problem about quantum computer was building a functional one and until recently they were only a lab curiosity. However, the scientists’ dream of developing quantum computers is nearly there. And it Is already becoming a reality with last IBM’s quantum computer beating the famous Watson [1].



There is now a race for the so-called “quantum supremacy”, to reach the capabilities no conventional computer can match. Google wants to be the first.

" They are definitely the world leaders now, there is no doubt about it."

Simon Devitt, Center for Emergent Matter Science, Japan

Google has a plan for quantum computer supremacy. The firm’s plans are secretive, and Google declined to comment on its roadmap. However, they already realized details on a six qubits chips they are on the cusp of a breakthrough.

Google’s Quantum chip with 6-qubits ready for testing


"That process is all working. Now we’re ready to kind of move fast."

John Martinis, leader of the Google research group on Quantum Computing

There are two main questions: the requisite number of qubits to achieve the so-called quantum supremacy, and the reliability of this kind of system. It is a critical question, whether quantum devices without error correction can perform a well-defined computational task beyond the capabilities of state-of-the-art classical computers. Sergio Boixo and his team from Google Inc. are working to find answers to one of these two questions [2]. They studied various simulations of modeling circuits with up to 42 qubits - the largest quantum circuits simulated to date for a computational task that approaches quantum supremacy. Their first conclusion is quantum supremacy can be achieved in the near-term with approximately fifty superconducting qubits. It is a first step but, with IBM and Google competing for it, we won’t have to wait too long before seeing the next steps.

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[2] Characterizing Quantum Supremacy in Near-Term Devices

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