Google recently announced that it has achieved a breakthrough called quantum supremacy in computing. What is quantum supremacy?

  • It means only that researchers have been able to use a quantum computer to perform a single calculation that no conventional computer, even the biggest supercomputer, can perform in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Google’s quantum computer, named Sycamore, claimed ‘supremacy’ because it reportedly did the task in 200 seconds that would have apparently taken a supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. 
What is quantum computing?
  1. Quantum computing is the area of study focused on developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum mechanics, which deals with the behavior of particles at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. 
  2. At that tiny scale, many rules of classical physics cease to apply, and the unique rules of quantum physics come into play.
  3. Quantum Computers encode information as quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in superposition. 
  4. Qubits represent atoms, ions, photons or electrons, and their respective control devices that are working together to act as computer memory and a processor. 
  5. Because a quantum computer can contain these multiple states simultaneously, it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today's most powerful supercomputers. 
Application of Quantum Computer:  Quantum computers could spur the development of new breakthroughs in science, medications to save lives, machine learning methods to diagnose illnesses sooner, materials to make more efficient devices and structures, financial strategies to live well in retirement, and algorithms to quickly direct resources such as ambulances. 
Quantum computing and India 
  • There are no quantum computers in India yet. 
  • In 2018, the Department of Science & Technology unveiled a programme called Quantum-Enabled Science & Technology (QuST) to accelerate research on Quantum computing. 
Quantum computers vs classical computer 
  • Classical computers process information in a binary format, called bits, which can represent either a 0 or 1. Quantum computers, in contrast, use logical units called quantum bits, or qubits for short, that can be put into a quantum state where they can simultaneously represent both 0 and 1 and their correlations. 
  • While the bits in a classical computer all operate independently from one another, in a quantum computer, the status of one qubit affects the status of all the other qubits in the system, so they can all work together to achieve a solution.
What makes a quantum computer so powerful?
  1. This was achieved by developing the architecture of what is known as “qubits”. “Qubits” is short for “quantum bits”, which are to quantum computers what bits are to traditional computers. 
  2. Each bit holds information in the form of one of two values — either 1 or 0 — which can be connected into various combinations. 
  3. On the other hand, a qubit can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. The more the number of qubits, the higher the amount of information, which increases exponentially compared to the information stored in the same number of bits.
Quantum Supremacy What exactly has Google achieved?
  • From the development of a single superconducting qubit, the researchers proceeded to systems including the architecture of 54 qubits. 
  • This architecture led to the 53 qubits being entangled into a superposition state. Preparing this superposition state was accomplished in a matter of microseconds. 
  • The researchers then sampled from this distribution by measuring the qubits a million times in 200 seconds.
Why does it matter?
  1. First, it is important to know that scientists are still a long way from developing a quantum computer. What they have achieved is the development of an architecture of qubits, and the demonstration of its computing capabilities. 
  2. In the long term, scientists are always looking to improve on what they have already achieved. The researchers have a lot of work before hitting their next milestone.
  3. If and when created, a quantum computer could revolutionize scientific research and technological advances. 
  4. It could boost areas like artificial intelligence, lead to new energy sources and even new drug therapies.
Issues involved
  • The development of Quantum Computer may impinge upon the issue of national security
  • They could also override the encryption that protects our computers and the data we use online. 
  • Some researchers cautioned against getting too excited about Google’s achievement since so much more work needs to be done before quantum computers can migrate out of the research lab.
  • Right now, a single quantum machine costs millions of dollars to build. 
As some scientists work on quantum computers, others are devising security techniques that could thwart their code-breaking abilities. Is everyone convinced? Meanwhile, IBM has disputed Google’s assertion that its quantum calculation could not be performed by a traditional computer. IBM has put out a blog post in which it claimed that the computation described by the Google researchers could be achieved by an existing computer in less than two-and-a-half days, not 10,000 years as claimed. Also read: What is quantum supremacy, claimed by Google? What Is Quantum Supremacy?