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Online course trains students in the bizarre world of quantum computing – Livescience.com

Posted: May 2, 2020 at 11:47 pm


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When the bizarre world of quantum physics where a "cat" can be both alive and dead, and particles a galaxy apart are connected is merged with computer technology, the result is unprecedented power to anyone who masters this technology first.

There is an obvious dark side. Imagine a world where online bank accounts could be easily hacked into and robbed. But this power can also be turned to good, allowing new drugs to be designed with unprecedented speed to cure disease. To prepare for such a future, many countries are investing billions to unlock the potential of what is called quantum computing. With an eye toward the future, a group of researchers at Fermilab,a particle physics laboratory in Batavia, Ill., has worked with high-school teachers to develop a program to train their students in this emerging field.

This program, called "Quantum Computing as a High School Module," was developed in collaboration with young students in mind. But it's also a perfect diversion for science enthusiasts of any age who suddenly have a lot of time on their hands.

This online training course introduces students to quantum concepts, including superposition, qubits, encryption, and many others. These additional concepts include quantum measurement, entanglement and teleportation; students will also learn and how to use quantum computers to prevent hacking. The course is also appropriate for community college or undergraduate students in areas outside of physics, such as computer science, engineering or mathematics, as well as a science literate public. One of the course's teachers, Ranbel Sun wrote, "It was great to work with a couple of America's smartest researchers to make sure that the science was right. Combining their knowledge and our teaching experience, we have developed an understandable learning program which bridges the gap between popular media and college textbooks."

Related: 12 stunning quantum physics experiments

Quantum computing uses the principles of quantum physics, which were developed in the early 1900s. Quantum physics describes the tiny realm of atoms, where the laws of nature seem to be very different from the world we can see. In this microcosm, electrons and particles of light called photons simultaneously act as both waves and particles a seeming absurdity, but one that is well accepted among scientists.

This non-intuitive quantum behavior has been exploited to develop powerful technologies, like the lasers and transistors that form the backbone of our technological society. Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman was the first to suggest that computers could be built to directly exploit the laws of quantum mechanics. If successful, these quantum computers could solve incredibly important and difficult problems that are too complex for even the most powerful modern supercomputers to solve. Last year, Google used a quantum computer called Sycamore to solve a problem thought to be virtually unsolvable by conventional computers; a calculation that would take the most powerful supercomputers 10,000 years to finish was solved in just 200 seconds by Sycamore.

The familiar computer on your desk uses a vast array of objects called bits to operate. Bits are basically simple switches that can be either on or off, which is mathematically equivalent to ones and zeros. Quantum computers rely on qubits, which can simultaneously be both on and off at the same time. This peculiar feature is common in the quantum world and is called superposition: being in two states at once. Researcher Ciaran Hughes said, "The quantum world is very different from the familiar one, which leads to opportunities not available using classical computers."

In 1994, Peter Shor invented an algorithm that revealed the power of quantum computing. His algorithm would allow quantum computers to factorize a number enormously faster than any classically known algorithm. Factorizing numbers is important because the encryption system used by computers to communicate securely relies on the mathematics of prime numbers. Prime numbers are numbers that are divisible only by one and themselves.

In a standard encryption algorithm, two very large prime numbers are multiplied together, resulting in an even larger number. The key to breaking the security code is to take the large number and find the two prime numbers that were multiplied together to make it. Finding these prime numbers is extremely hard for ordinary computers and can take centuries to accomplish.

However, using Shor's quantum algorithm, finding these prime factors is much easier. A working quantum computer would make our standard method of encryption no longer secure, resulting in the need for new encryption methods. Fermilab researcher Jessica Turner said, "Quantum computing is a very new way of thinking and will be revolutionary, but only if we can develop programmers with quantum intuition."

Obviously, any nation state or individual who is able to crack encryption codes will have a huge information advantage. The competition to develop working quantum computers is the new space race.

Quantum computing has the potential to overturn how computers securely communicate: from health care, to financial services and online security. Like it or not, the future is quantum computing. To fully reap the rewards of this quantum revolution requires a quantum fluent workforce. This new program is a very helpful step towards that goal.

The researchers have made their training program freely available.

Originally published on Live Science.

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Devs: Here’s the real science behind the quantum computing TV show – New Scientist News

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By Rowan Hooper

BBC/FX Networks

TV Devs BBC iPlayer and FX on Hulu

Halfway through episode two of Devs, there is a scene that caused me first to gasp, and then to swear out loud. A genuine WTF moment. If this is what I think it is, I thought, it is breathtakingly audacious. And so it turns out. The show is intelligent, beautiful and ambitious, and to aid in your viewing pleasure, this spoiler-free review introduces some of the cool science it explores.

Alex Garlands eight-part seriesopens with protagonists Lilyand Sergei, who live in a gorgeous apartment in San Francisco. Like their real-world counterparts, people who work atFacebook orGoogle, the pair take the shuttle bus to work.

They work at Amaya, a powerful but secretive technology company hidden among the redwoods. Looming over the trees is a massive, creepy statue of a girl: the Amaya the company is named for.

We see the company tag line asLily and Sergei get off the bus: Your quantum future. Is it just athrow-away tag, or should we think about what that line means more precisely?

Sergei, we learn, works on artificial intelligence algorithms. At the start of the show, he gets some time with the boss, Forest, todemonstrate the project he has been working on. He has managed to model the behaviour of a nematode worm. His team has simulated the worm by recreating all 302 of its neurons and digitally wiring them up. This is basically the WormBot project, an attempt to recreate a life form completely in digital code. The complete map of the connections between the 302 neurons of the nematode waspublished in 2019.

We dont yet have the processing power to recreate theseconnections dynamically in a computer, but when we do, it will be interesting to consider if the resulting digital worm, a complete replica of an organic creature, should be considered alive.

We dont know if Sergeis simulation is alive, but it is so good, he can accurately predict the behaviour of the organic original, a real worm it is apparently simulating, up to 10 seconds in thefuture. This is what I like about Garlands stuff: the show has only just started and we have already got some really deep questions about scientific research that is actually happening.

Sergei then invokes the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics conceived by Hugh Everett. Although Forest dismisses this idea, it is worth getting yourhead around it because the show comes back to it. Adherents say that the maths of quantum physics means the universe isrepeatedly splitting into different versions, creating a vast multiverse of possible outcomes.

At the core of Amaya is the ultrasecretive section where thedevelopers work. No one outside the devs team knows what it is developing, but we suspect it must be something with quantum computers. I wondered whether the devssection is trying to do with the 86 billion neurons of thehuman brain what Sergei has been doing with the 302 neurons of the nematode.

We start to find out when Sergei is selected for a role in devs. He must first pass a vetting process (he is asked if he is religious, a question that makes sense later) and then he is granted access to the devs compound sealed by alead Faraday cage, gold mesh andan unbroken vacuum.

Inside is a quantum computer more powerful than any currently in existence. How many qubits does it run, asks Sergei, looking inawe at the thing (it is beautiful, abit like the machines being developed by Google and IBM). Anumber that it is meaningless to state, says Forest. As a reference point, the best quantum computers currently manage around 50 qubits, or quantum bits. We can only assume that Forest has solved the problem ofdecoherence when external interference such as heat or electromagnetic fields cause qubits to lose their quantum properties and created a quantum computer with fantasticprocessing power.

So what are the devs using it for? Sergei is asked to guess, and then left to work it out for himself from gazing at the code. He figures it out before we do. Then comes that WTF moment. To say any more will give away the surprise. Yet as someone remarks, the world is deterministic, but with this machine we are gaining magical powers. Devs has its flaws, but it is energising and exciting to see TV this thoughtful: it cast a spell on me.

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New Princeton study takes superconductivity to the edge – Princeton University

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A discovery that long eluded physicists has been detected in a laboratory at Princeton. A team of physicists detected superconducting currents the flow of electrons without wasting energy along the exterior edge of a superconducting material. The finding was published May 1 in the journal Science.

Researchers at Princeton have discovered superconducting currents traveling along the outer edges of a superconductor with topological properties, suggesting a route to topological superconductivity that could be useful in future quantum computers. The superconductivity is represented by the black center of the diagram indicating no resistance to the current flow. The jagged pattern indicates the oscillation of the supercurrent, which varies with the strength of an applied magnetic field.

Image courtesy of Stephan Kim, Princeton University

The superconductor that the researchers studied is also a topological semi-metal, a material that comes with its own unusual electronic properties. The finding suggests ways to unlock a new era of "topological superconductivity" that could have value for quantum computing.

"To our knowledge, this is the first observation of an edge supercurrent in any superconductor," said Nai Phuan Ong, Princeton's Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics and the senior author on the study.Learn more about topological materials in thisessayby Ong.

N. Phuan Ong, Princeton's Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics

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Denise Applewhite, Office of Communications

"Our motivating question was, what happens when the interior of the material is not an insulator but a superconductor?" Ong said. "What novel features arise when superconductivity occurs in a topological material?"

Although conventional superconductors already enjoy widespread usage in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and long-distance transmission lines, new types of superconductivity could unleash the ability to move beyond the limitations of our familiar technologies.

Researchers at Princeton and elsewhere have been exploring the connections between superconductivity and topological insulators materials whose non-conformist electronic behaviors were the subject of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics for F. Duncan Haldane, Princeton's Sherman Fairchild University Professor of Physics.

Topological insulators are crystals that have an insulating interior and a conducting surface, like a brownie wrapped in tin foil. In conducting materials, electrons can hop from atom to atom, allowing electric current to flow. Insulators are materials in which the electrons are stuck and cannot move. Yet curiously, topological insulators allow the movement of electrons on their surface but not in their interior.

To explore superconductivity in topological materials, the researchers turned to a crystalline material called molybdenum ditelluride, which has topological properties and is also a superconductor once the temperature dips below a frigid 100 milliKelvin, which is -459 degrees Fahrenheit.

"Most of the experiments done so far have involved trying to 'inject' superconductivity into topological materials by putting the one material in close proximity to the other," said Stephan Kim, a graduate student in electrical engineering, who conducted many of the experiments. "What is different about our measurement is we did not inject superconductivity and yet we were able to show the signatures of edge states."

Stephan Kim, a graduate student in the Department of Electrical Engineering, conducted experiments demonstrating supercurrents in a topological material.

The team first grew crystals in the laboratory and then cooled them down to a temperature where superconductivity occurs. They then applied a weak magnetic field while measuring the current flow through the crystal. They observed that a quantity called the critical current displays oscillations, which appear as a saw-tooth pattern, as the magnetic field is increased.

Both the height of the oscillations and the frequency of the oscillations fit with predictions of how these fluctuations arise from the quantum behavior of electrons confined to the edges of the materials.

"When we finished the data analysis for the first sample, I looked at my computer screen and could not believe my eyes, the oscillations we observed were just so beautiful and yet so mysterious," said Wudi Wang, who as first author led the study and earned his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 2019. "It's like a puzzle that started to reveal itself and is waiting to be solved. Later, as we collected more data from different samples, I was surprisedat how perfectly the data fit together."

Researchers have long known that superconductivity arises when electrons, which normally move about randomly, bind into twos to form Cooper pairs, which in a sense dance to the same beat. "A rough analogy is a billion couples executing the same tightly scripted dance choreography," Ong said.

The script the electrons are following is called the superconductor's wave function, which may be regarded roughly as a ribbon stretched along the length of the superconducting wire, Ong said. A slight twist of the wave function compels all Cooper pairs in a long wire to move with the same velocity as a "superfluid" in other words acting like a single collection rather than like individual particles that flows without producing heating.

If there are no twists along the ribbon, Ong said, the Cooper pairs are stationary and no current flows. If the researchers expose the superconductor to a weak magnetic field, this adds an additional contribution to the twisting that the researchers call the magnetic flux, which, for very small particles such as electrons, follows the rules of quantum mechanics.

The researchers anticipated that these two contributors to the number of twists, the superfluid velocity and the magnetic flux, work together to maintain the number of twists as an exact integer, a whole number such as 2, 3 or 4 rather than a 3.2 or a 3.7. They predicted that as the magnetic flux increases smoothly, the superfluid velocity would increase in a saw-tooth pattern as the superfluid velocity adjusts to cancel the extra .2 or add .3 to get an exact number of twists.

Wudi Wang, the first author on the study, led the study and conducted many of the experiments. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from Princeton in 2019.

The team measured the superfluid current as they varied the magnetic flux and found that indeed the saw-tooth pattern was visible.

In molybdenum ditelluride and other so-called Weyl semimetals, this Cooper-pairing of electrons in the bulk appears to induce a similar pairing on the edges.

The researchers noted that the reason why the edge supercurrent remains independent of the bulk supercurrent is currently not well understood. Ong compared the electrons moving collectively, also called condensates, to puddles of liquid.

"From classical expectations, one would expect two fluid puddles that are in direct contact to merge into one," Ong said. "Yet the experiment shows that the edge condensates remain distinct from that in the bulk of the crystal."

The research team speculates that the mechanism that keeps the two condensates from mixing is the topological protection inherited from the protected edge states in molybdenum ditelluride. The group hopes to apply the same experimental technique to search for edge supercurrents in other unconventional superconductors.

"There are probably scores of them out there," Ong said.

Funding: The research was supported by the U.S. Army Research Office (W911NF-16-1-0116). The dilution refrigerator experiments were supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DE- SC0017863). N.P.O. and R.J.C. acknowledge support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundations Emergent Phenomena in Quantum Systems Initiative through grants GBMF4539 (N.P.O.) and GBMF-4412 (R.J.C.). The growth and characterization of crystals were performed by F.A.C. and R.J.C., with support from the National Science Foundation (NSF MRSEC grant DMR 1420541).

The study, "Evidence for an edge supercurrent in the Weyl superconductor MoTe2," by Wudi Wang, Stephan Kim, Minhao Liu, F. A. Cevallos, Robert. J. Cava and Nai Phuan Ong, was published in the journal Science on May 1, 2020. 10.1126/science.aaw9270

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Quantum computer chips demonstrated at the highest temperatures ever – New Scientist News

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By Leah Crane

Credit: Luca Petit for QuTech

Quantum computing is heating up. For the first time, quantum computer chips have been operated at a temperature above -272C, or 1 kelvin. That may still seem frigid, but it is just warm enough to potentially enable a huge leap in the capabilities.

Quantum computers are made of quantum bits, or qubits, which can be made in several different ways. One that is receiving attention from some of the fields big players consists of electrons on a silicon chip.

These systems only function at extremely low temperatures below 100 millikelvin, or -273.05C so the qubits have to be stored in powerful refrigerators. The electronics that power them wont run at such low temperatures, and also emit heat that could disrupt the qubits, so they are generally stored outside the refrigerators with each qubit is connected by a wire to its electronic controller.

Eventually, for useful quantum computing, we will need to go to something like a million qubits, and this sort of brute force method, with one wire per qubit, wont work any more, says Menno Veldhorst at QuTech in the Netherlands. It works for two qubits, but not for a million.

Veldhorst and his colleagues, along with another team led by researchers at the University of New South Wales in Australia, have now demonstrated that these qubits can be operated at higher temperatures. The latter team showed they were able to control the state of two qubits on a chip at temperatures up to 1.5 kelvin, and Veldhorsts group used two qubits at 1.1 kelvin in what is called a logic gate, which performs the basic operations that make up more complex calculations.

Now that we know the qubits themselves can function at higher temperatures, the next step is incorporating the electronics onto the same chip. I hope that after we have that circuit, it wont be too hard to scale to something with practical applications, says Veldhorst.

Those quantum circuits will be similar in many ways to the circuits we use for traditional computers, so they can be scaled up relatively easily compared with other kinds of quantum computers, he says.

Journal references: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2170-7 and DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2171-6

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Calling On AI And Quantum Computing To Fight The Coronavirus – Forbes

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Can human ingenuity assisted by new and emerging technologies overpower Covid-19? Will faster processing of moreand more relevantdata, analyzed with the right models, yield better insights into mitigating the spread of future pandemics, designing effective treatments, and developing successful vaccines? A number of promising initiatives were announced in recent weeks aiming to enlist data, AI algorithms, supercomputers, and human expertise in the fight with our global predicament.

Supercomputers and quantum computers crunching lots of data are at the core of recent initiatives to ... [+] fight the Coronavirus

The Digital Transformation Institute, a new research consortium established by C3.ai, Microsoft, a number of leading universities, and the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), announced its first call for proposals for AI techniques to mitigate pandemics. In addition to a total of $5.8 million in cash awards, recipients will be provided by Microsoft and C3.ai with significant cloud computing, supercomputing, data access, and AI software resources and technical support. Thomas M. Siebel, founder and chief executive of C3.ai, told The New York Times I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.

IBM is sharing supercomputing resources, cloud-based data repositories, and AI-driven search tools. The Allen Institute for AI has partnered with leading research groups to prepare and distribute the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset (CORD-19), a free resource of over 51,000 scholarly articles. Googles Kaggle has launched a series of data science competitions to answer Covid-19 questions posed by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The Covid-19 High Performance Computing (HPC) Consortium is providing broad access to over 30 supercomputing systems, representing over 402 petaflops, 105,334 nodes, 3,539,044 CPU cores, 41,286 GPUs, and counting.

These are just few examples of recent efforts combining the power of data with computer power to understand and respond to the Coronavirussuper-fast computers or supercomputers crunching lots and lots of data are at the core of these initiatives. In the future, quantum computers, much faster computers than todays supercomputers, may contribute to the speed by which our responses to pandemics are determined and deployed.

D-Wave Systems, a quantum computing startup, recently announced the immediate availability of free access to its cloud computing service, designed to bring both classical and quantum resources to quickly and precisely solve highly complex problems with up to 10,000 fully connected variables. Joining this initiative are a number of D-Waves partners and customers, including Forschungszentrum Jlich, a German interdisciplinary research center. According to Prof. Dr.KristelMichielsen from the Jlich Supercomputing Centre, the initiative "is promising to accelerate the solution of complex problems in pharmacology and epidemiology, such as those that have arisen in the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, by means of hybrid workflows from quantum-classical computer simulations. To make efficient use of D-Wave's optimization and AI capabilities, we are integrating the system into our modular HPC environment.

While quantum computing is just emerging as a viable technology, it stands in practice on the shoulders of the many scientists who have solved complex problems for years with high-performance computing (HPC). Peter Rutten, Research Director at IDCs Infrastructure Systems, Platforms and Technologies Group, observes that you can probably draw a fairly direct line between using HPC in the cloud to attack the Covid-19 problem to using the initial quantum computing capabilities that exist in the cloud to attack the Covid-19 problem.

Last month, IDC published the results of a survey of 520 IT and business users worldwide and in-depth interviews with current quantum computing end-users.A little less than 75% of respondents reported their organizations as being very interested in quantum computing. 52% of the organizations surveyed have plans to begin experimenting with quantum computing technology in the next 18-24 months and about 10% indicated that their quantum computing technologies are already in the process of being operationalized.

When we asked why are you investing in technology that may not show ROI in the short term, says Rutten, quite a few answeredweve run out of capabilities with our HPC environment, we cannot solve these problems with the HPC infrastructure that we have today. Thats really the jump that a lot of business are making, the jump from HPC to quantum.

The healthcare and life sciences industry was found by the IDC survey to be one of the sectors most interested in quantum computing. Developing and distributing drugs faster, drug discovery, and clinical trial enhancements were some of the key motivations for experimenting with quantum computing, according to Heather West, Senior Research Analyst at IDCs Infrastructure Systems, Platforms and Technologies Group. A pandemic like Covid-19 adds urgency to this interest in a very new technology.

Quantum computing could identify patterns that will allow us to identify something like Covid-19 earlier. We would be ale to work faster to identify compounds, put together a vaccine faster, or determine faster the different ways by which we can slow the transmission, says West. In addition, she thinks the global supply chain is a prime candidate for the use of quantum computers, allowing for the quick identification of patterns of supply and demand and for swift action in response to sudden shortages or surpluses.

Drugs today are discovered on a trial and error basis. It takes five or more years to develop a new drug, at a cost of $1 billion, says Doug Finke, Managing Editor of the Quantum Computing Report. Quantum computers can simulate chemical reactions at the molecular level and quickly narrow down possible candidates for drugs and vaccines from 10,000 compounds to a few dozens. The work can be done in the computer before the petri dish, says Finke. But he cautions that it will take 2-3 years to learn how to use these machines productively.

The IDC survey found that the three biggest challenges for organizations considering the adoption of quantum computing are cost (26%), training resources (22%), and long-term budgets (22%). About a third of respondents expect quantum computing to improve their AI capabilities (32%), accelerate decision making (31%), and increase productivity/efficiency (30%).

Now is the time to start building the vision, the expertise, dedicating teams and resources for quantum computing, says Brian Solis, Global Innovation Evangelist at Salesforce. The stepping stones to get there are building a center of excellence around AI, he adds, making AI the focal point of the organizations efforts to become more agile and innovative. It forces you to get better data, clean the data, and build expertise and key capabilities around the data. Complement that with a smaller set of resources, a Center of Excellence for quantum computing, says Solis.

The economic consequences of the current global pandemic may reduce in the short-term technology investments by corporations and venture capital firms but we may also see accelerated investments in emerging technologies, particularly those promising to assist in preventing and mitigating future pandemics.

Governments worldwide may show a specific interest, even in the short term, in technology investments. Along the relatively new AI tools (which are all about identifying patterns in large data repositories), quantum computing will probably continue to benefit from public funds. Many governments have established on-going research programs in both areas due mostly to concerns about future national competitiveness and, specifically, cybersecurity capabilities (see here for a comprehensive list of government-funded or supported quantum computing initiatives).

Governments, however, should take into consideration the less-convenient truth that investing only in computer power and speed will not raise the bar high enough to defend us from future pandemics. In the US, for example, the healthcare system is still plagued by antiquated technology infrastructure in which one hospital still cant communicate electronically with another hospital a few miles down the road (and sometimes, as I experienced myself last year, between medical offices located in the same building and belonging to the same healthcare system...).

More important, antiquated and failed privacy protection policies and regulations, currently take control of healthcare data from the hands of the people they are supposed to protect and greatly encumber efforts to use the data for research purposes. Government programs aimed at stopping or overcoming quickly the next pandemic must addressand fixthe regulatory and legal issues of managing data in the 21st century, starting with healthcare.

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COVID-19: Quantum computing could someday find cures for coronaviruses and other diseases – TechRepublic

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While supercomputers are critical to researchers today, even they can't provide the massive computing power needed to map out the molecular structures of viruses to find cures.

When it comes to finding a vaccine that can halt and eradicate the deadly COVID-19 virus, today's supercomputers can only do so much. While supercomputers can do amazing things, they are not complex enough to find answers to nature's deepest and most complicated secrets, such as quickly and carefully mapping out the molecular structures of viruses so they can be defeated with modern medicines and treatments.

But an answer awaits perhaps five to 10 years away in the form of quantum computers, which are exponentially more powerful than traditional classic computers, according to computer scientists and other researchers.

SEE:Coronavirus: Critical IT policies and tools every business needs(TechRepublic Premium)

Recently a public-private partnership was formed to create a COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, which is working to harness the power of high-performance computing resources to massively increase the speed and capacity of coronavirus research. And though that work is today welcome in the fight against COVID-19, it won't unlock all the incredibly difficult secrets that are held closely by such viruses.

For most pharmaceutical companies, supercomputers are used regularly to help research, find, and identify new drug treatments, including the identification of virus structures so cures can be found.

Yet supercomputers used today in virus and other pharmaceutical research are still based on classical computing architectures that view all data as a series of binary bits with a value of zero or one. Those machines face the limitations of modern bit-based computer architectures and power that is available today but can't theoretically or physically handle all the tremendously detailed research that is still needed.

That's where the future promise of quantum computing is expected to one day provide the vast computational power that could allow researchers to truly map out molecular structures in real time to solve medical mysteries and help quickly identify new drugs and treatments, said Chirag Dekate, a supercomputing and high-performance computing analyst with Gartner.

"If you're trying to do a quantum realistic simulation of the molecules and interactions of a virus, that is where classical computing starts falling short," Dekate said. "In classical computing, what you are able to simulate is only a fraction of what you can do with quantum computing."

The problem, though, is that true quantum computing capabilities are probably at least five to 10 years away from actual use, Dekate said.

"When two molecules or compounds interact, in order to do a quantum computing simulation, you have to be able to simulate the electrostatic forces of the interaction at the atomic level between those things," Dekate said. "This is where the computational complexity increases exponentially," requiring the power of quantum computing over traditional classical computing architecture.

SEE:Coronavirus: What business pros need to know(TechRepublic)

Quantum computers are based on qubits rather than bits, which are far more complex and allow information to be stored in new ways, giving them added dimensions of computing power. But that intense power requires many more technical requirements to make it possible, and much work is still to be done to enable the technology.

Dr. Itamar Sivan, a physicist and the founder and CEO of Quantum Machines, a quantum computing technology company, said the promise of quantum computing will someday help during times of crisis, such as today's coronavirus pandemic. Such machines are expected to be able to solve incredibly complex scientific problems in minutes in the future, compared with many years by even the most powerful supercomputers of 2020.

"Quantum computing is not a new field--it is already decades old," Sivan said. "In academia it is being investigated, and in the last five years in industry as well. The interest in quantum computing stems from a promise of immense computational power that we will never be able to achieve with classical computation."

SEE:Quantum computing: When to expect the next major leap(TechRepublic)

For researchers, quantum machines will provide power that will transform medical research and a wide range of other fields, he said. "If you would want to have an exact simulation of a molecule such as penicillin, you would never be able to do it with any classical computer because it is too complex. But quantum computers with hundreds of logical qubits will be able to do this task."

Just how much more powerful is a quantum computer compared with a classical computer?

"In order to explain the information in a quantum computer with 300 qubits you would need a classical processor which is built from more bits than there are atoms are in the universe," Sivan said. "It's one of the toughest moonshots that we face as a society, but if we can do it it's going to change the whole world."

Sivan agreed that such machines are easily a decade away before they would be able to perform the quantum simulations that are needed for virus research breakthroughs.

SEE:Quantum computing: Myths v. Realities(TechRepublic)

"For some problems, it's not about just running an algorithm faster, it's about making the impossible possible," he said. "This is why in drug discovery today, the majority of the process is done with the molecules themselves in test tubes and culture dishes, because you can't simulate them and look at their reactions and behavior using classic computers."

The challenges of achieving usable quantum computing are huge, including the extremely delicate state of quantum data when it is used. In operation, quantum data is rapidly lost in experiments being done over the last few years, preventing stable use of the machines.

"There are immense challenges all over the stack to get to the Holy Grail of quantum computing," Sivan said. "Once we solve the problem of loss of information, we will be fine."

The coronavirus has infected almost 2 million people and killed 121,000 around the world so far. While many patients with COVID-19 have mild symptoms and don't require hospitalization, with the incredibly wide scale of the pandemic, even at a 5% hospitalization rate large numbers of patients have been requiring emergency care in hospitals and other medical facilities that are struggling to keep up.

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April 16th, 2020 at 6:48 am

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Alex Garland on ‘Devs,’ free will and quantum computing – Engadget

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Garland views Amaya as a typical Silicon Valley success story. In the world of Devs, it's the first company that manages to mass produce quantum computers, allowing them to corner that market. (Think of what happened to search engines after Google debuted.) Quantum computing has been positioned as a potentially revolutionary technology for things like healthcare and encryption, since it can tackle complex scenarios and data sets more effectively than traditional binary computers. Instead of just processing inputs one at a time, a quantum machine would theoretically be able to tackle an input in multiple states, or superpositions, at once.

By mastering this technology, Amaya unlocks a completely new view of reality: The world is a system that can be decoded and predicted. It proves to them that the world is deterministic. Our choices don't matter; we're all just moving along predetermined paths until the end of time. Garland is quick to point out that you don't need anything high-tech to start asking questions about determinism. Indeed, it's something that's been explored since Plato's allegory of the cave.

"What I did think, though, was that if a quantum computer was as good at modeling quantum reality as it might be, then it would be able to prove in a definitive way whether we lived in a deterministic state," Garland said. "[Proving that] would completely change the way we look at ourselves, the way we look at society, the way society functions, the way relationships unfold and develop. And it would change the world in some ways, but then it would restructure itself quickly."

The sheer difficulty of coming up with something -- anything -- that's truly spontaneous and isn't causally related to something else in the universe is the strongest argument in favor of determinism. And it's something Garland aligns with personally -- though that doesn't change how he perceives the world.

"Whether or not you or I have free will, both of us could identify lots of things that we care about," he said. "There are lots of things that we enjoy or don't enjoy. Or things that we're scared of, or we anticipate. And all of that remains. It's not remotely affected by whether we've got free will or not. What might be affected is, I think, our capacity to be forgiving in some respects. And so, certain kinds of anti-social or criminal behavior, you would start to think about in terms of rehabilitation, rather than punishment. Because then, in a way, there's no point punishing someone for something they didn't decide to do."

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Alex Garland on 'Devs,' free will and quantum computing - Engadget

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Making Sense of the Science and Philosophy of Devs – The Ringer

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Let me welcome you the same way Stewart welcomes Forest in Episode 7 of the Hulu miniseries Devs: with a lengthy, unattributed quote.

We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at any given moment knew all of the forces that animate nature and the mutual positions of the beings that compose it, if this intellect were vast enough to submit the data to analysis, could condense into a single formula the movement of the greatest bodies of the universe and that of the lightest atom; for such an intellect nothing could be uncertain and the future, just like the past, would be present before its eyes.

Its a passage that sounds as if it could have come from Forest himself. But its not from Forest, or Katie, or evenas Katie might guess, based on her response to Stewarts Philip Larkin quoteShakespeare. Its from the French scholar and scientist Pierre-Simon Laplace, who wrote the idea down at the end of the Age of Enlightenment, in 1814. When Laplace imagined an omniscient intellectwhich has come to be called Laplaces demonhe wasnt even saying something original: Other thinkers beat him to the idea of a deterministic, perfectly predictable universe by decades and centuries (or maybe millennia).

All of which is to say that despite the futuristic setting and high-tech trappings of Devsthe eight-part Alex Garland opus that will reach its finale next weekthe series central tension is about as old as the abacus. But theres a reason the debate about determinism and free will keeps recurring: Its an existential question at the heart of human behavior. Devs doesnt answer it in a dramatically different way than the great minds of history have, but it does wrap up ancient, brain-breaking quandaries in a compelling (and occasionally kind of confusing) package. Garland has admitted as much, acknowledging, None of the ideas contained here are really my ideas, and its not that I am presenting my own insightful take. Its more Im saying some very interesting people have come up with some very interesting ideas. Here they are in the form of a story.

Devs is a watchable blend of a few engaging ingredients. Its a spy thriller that pits Russian agents against ex-CIA operatives. Its a cautionary, sci-fi polemic about a potentially limitless technology and the hubris of big tech. Like Garlands previous directorial efforts, Annihilation and Ex Machina, its also a striking aesthetic experience, a blend of brutalist compounds, sleek lines, lush nature, and an exciting, unsettling soundtrack. Most of all, though, its a meditation on age-old philosophical conundrums, served with a garnish of science. Garland has cited scientists and philosophers as inspirations for the series, so to unravel the riddles of Devs, I sought out some experts whose day jobs deal with the dilemmas Lily and Co. confront in fiction: a computer science professor who specializes in quantum computing, and several professors of philosophy.

There are many questions about Devs that we wont be able to answer. How high is Kentons health care premium? Is it distracting to work in a lab lit by a perpetually pulsing, unearthly golden glow? How do Devs programmers get any work done when they could be watching the worlds most riveting reality TV? Devs doesnt disclose all of its inner workings, but by the end of Episode 7, its pulled back the curtain almost as far as it can. The main mystery of the early episodeswhat does Devs do?is essentially solved for the viewer long before Lily learns everything via Katies parable of the pen in Episode 6. As the series proceeds, the spy stuff starts to seem incidental, and the characters motivations become clear. All that remains to be settled is the small matter of the intractable puzzles that have flummoxed philosophers for ages.

Heres what we know. Forest (Nick Offerman) is a tech genius obsessed with one goal: being reunited with his dead daughter, Amaya, who was killed in a car crash while her mother was driving and talking to Forest on the phone. (Hed probably blame himself for the accident if he believed in free will.) He doesnt disguise the fact that he hasnt moved on from Amaya emotionally: He names his company after her, uses her face for its logo, and, in case those tributes were too subtle, installs a giant statue of her at corporate HQ. (As a metaphor for the way Amaya continues to loom over his life, the statue is overly obvious, but at least it looks cool.) Together with a team of handpicked developers, Forest secretly constructs a quantum computer so powerful that, by the end of the penultimate episode, it can perfectly predict the future and reverse-project the past, allowing the denizens of Devs to tune in to any bygone event in lifelike clarity. Its Laplaces demon made real, except for the fact that its powers of perception fail past the point at which Lily is seemingly scheduled to do something that the computer cant predict.

I asked Dr. Scott Aaronson, a professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin (and the founding director of the schools Quantum Information Center) to assess Devs depiction of quantum computing. Aaronsons website notes that his research concentrates on the capabilities and limits of quantum computers, so hed probably be one of Forests first recruits if Amaya were an actual company. Aaronson, whom I previously consulted about the plausibility of the time travel in Avengers: Endgame, humored me again and watched Devs despite having been burned before by Hollywoods crimes against quantum mechanics. His verdict, unsurprisingly, is that the quantum computing in Devslike that of Endgame, which cites one of the same physicists (David Deutsch) that Garland said inspired himis mostly hand-wavy window dressing.

A quantum computer is a device that uses a central phenomenon of quantum mechanicsnamely, interference of amplitudesto solve certain problems with dramatically better scaling behavior than any known algorithm running on any existing computer could solve them, Aaronson says. If youre wondering what amplitudes are, you can read Aaronsons explanation in a New York Times op-ed he authored last October, shortly after Google claimed to have achieved a milestone called quantum supremacythe first use of a quantum computer to make a calculation far faster than any non-quantum computer could. According to Googles calculations, the task that its Sycamore microchip performed in a little more than three minutes would have taken 100,000 of the swiftest existing conventional computers 10,000 years to complete. Thats a pretty impressive shortcut, and were still only at the dawn of the quantum computing age.

However, that stat comes with a caveat: Quantum computers arent better across the board than conventional computers. The applications where a quantum computer dramatically outperforms classical computers are relatively few and specialized, Aaronson says. As far as we know today, theyd help a lot with prediction problems only in cases where the predictions heavily involve quantum-mechanical behavior. Potential applications of quantum computers include predicting the rate of a chemical reaction, factoring huge numbers and possibly cracking the encryption that currently protects the internet (using Shors algorithm, which is briefly mentioned on Devs), and solving optimization and machine learning problems. Notice that reconstructing what Christ looked like on the cross is not on this list, Aaronson says.

In other words, the objective that Forest is trying to achieve doesnt necessarily lie within the quantum computing wheelhouse. To whatever extent computers can help forecast plausible scenarios for the past or future at all (as we already have them do for, e.g., weather forecasting), its not at all clear to what extent a quantum computer even helpsone might simply want more powerful classical computers, Aaronson says.

Then theres the problem that goes beyond the question of quantum vs. conventional: Either kind of computer would require data on which to base its calculations, and the data set that the predictions and retrodictions in Devs would demand is inconceivably detailed. I doubt that reconstructing the remote past is really a computational problem at all, in the sense that even the most powerful science-fiction supercomputer still couldnt give you reliable answers if it lacked the appropriate input data, Aaronson says, adding, As far as we know today, the best that any computer (classical or quantum) could possibly do, even in principle, with any data we could possibly collect, is to forecast a range of possible futures, and a range of possible pasts. The data that it would need to declare one of them the real future or the real past simply wouldnt be accessible to humankind, but rather would be lost in microscopic puffs of air, radiation flying away from the earth into space, etc.

In light of the unimaginably high hurdle of gathering enough data in the present to reconstruct what someone looked or sounded like during a distant, data-free age, Forest comes out looking like a ridiculously demanding boss. We get it, dude: You miss Amaya. But how about patting your employees on the back for pulling off the impossible? The idea that chaos, the butterfly effect, sensitive dependence on initial conditions, exponential error growth, etc. mean that you run your simulation 2000 years into the past and you end up with only a blurry, staticky image of Jesus on the cross rather than a clear image, has to be, like, the wildest understatement in the history of understatements, Aaronson says. As for the future, he adds, Predicting the weather three weeks from now might be forever impossible.

The plot of this series is one that wouldve been totally, 100 percent familiar to the ancient Greeksjust swap out the quantum computer for the Delphic Oracle. Dr. Scott Aaronson, professor of computer science at the University of Texas at Austin

On top of all that, Aaronson says, The Devs headquarters is sure a hell of a lot fancier (and cleaner) than any quantum computing lab that Ive ever visited. (Does Kenton vacuum between torture sessions?) At least the computer more or less looks like a quantum computer.

OK, so maybe I didnt need to cajole a quantum computing savant into watching several hours of television to confirm that theres no way we can watch cavepeople paint. Garland isnt guilty of any science sins that previous storytellers havent committed many times. Whenever Aaronson has advised scriptwriters, theyve only asked him to tell them which sciencey words would make their preexisting implausible stories sound somewhat feasible. Its probably incredibly rare that writers would let the actual possibilities and limits of a technology drive their story, he says.

Although the show name-checks real interpretations of quantum mechanicsPenrose, pilot wave, many-worldsit doesnt deeply engage with them. The pilot wave interpretation holds that only one future is real, whereas many-worlds asserts that a vast number of futures are all equally real. But neither one would allow for the possibility of perfectly predicting the future, considering the difficulty of accounting for every variable. Garland is seemingly aware of how far-fetched his story is, because on multiple occasions, characters like Lily, Lyndon, and Stewart voice the audiences unspoken disbelief, stating that something or other isnt possible. Whenever they do, Katie or Forest is there to tell them that it is. Which, well, fine: Like Laplaces demon, Devs is intended as more of a thought experiment than a realistic scenario. As Katie says during her blue pill-red pill dialogue with Lily, Go with it.

We might as well go along with Garland, because any scientific liberties he takes are in service of the seriess deeper ideas. As Aaronson says, My opinion is that the show isnt really talking about quantum computing at allits just using it as a fancy-sounding buzzword. Really its talking about the far more ancient questions of determinism vs. indeterminism and predictability vs. unpredictability. He concludes, The plot of this series is one that wouldve been totally, 100 percent familiar to the ancient Greeksjust swap out the quantum computer for the Delphic Oracle. Aaronsonwho says he sort of likes Devs in spite of its quantum technobabblewould know: He wrote a book called Quantum Computing Since Democritus.

Speaking of Democritus, lets consult a few philosophers on the topic of free will. One of the most mind-bending aspects of Devs adherence to hard determinismthe theory that human behavior is wholly dictated by outside factorsis its insistence that characters cant change their behavior even if theyve seen the computers prediction of what theyre about to do. As Forest asks Katie, What if one minute into the future we see you fold your arms, and you say, Fuck the future. Im a magician. My magic breaks tram lines. Im not going to fold my arms. You put your hands in your pockets, and you keep them there until the clock runs out.

It seems as if she should be able to do what she wants with her hands, but Katie quickly shuts him down. Cause precedes effect, she says. Effect leads to cause. The future is fixed in exactly the same way as the past. The tram lines are real. Of course, Katie could be wrong: A character could defy the computers prediction in the finale. (Perhaps thats the mysterious unforeseeable event.) But weve already seen some characters fail to exit the tram. In an Episode 7 scenewhich, as Aaronson notes, is highly reminiscent of the VHS scene in Spaceballswe see multiple members of the Devs team repeat the same statements that theyve just heard the computer predict they would make a split second earlier. They cant help but make the prediction come true. Similarly, Lily ends up at Devs at the end of Episode 7, despite resolving not to.

Putting aside the implausibility of a perfect prediction existing at all, does it make sense that these characters couldnt deviate from their predicted course? Yes, according to five professors of philosophy I surveyed. Keep in mind what Garland has cited as a common criticism of his work: that the ideas I talk about are sophomoric because theyre the kinds of things that people talk about when theyre getting stoned in their dorm rooms. Were about to enter the stoned zone.

In this story, [the characters] are in a totally deterministic universe, says Ben Lennertz, an assistant professor of philosophy at Colgate University. In particular, the watching of the video of the future itself has been determined by the original state of the universe and the laws. Its not as if things were going along and the person was going to cross their arms, but then a non-deterministic miracle occurred and they were shown a video of what they were going to do. The watching of the video and the persons reaction is part of the same progression as the scene the video is of. In essence, the computer would have already predicted its own predictions, as well as every characters reaction to them. Everything that happens was always part of the plan.

Ohio Wesleyan Universitys Erin Flynn echoes that interpretation. The people in those scenes do what they do not despite being informed that they will do it, but (in part) because they have been informed that they will do it, Flynn says. (Think of Katie telling Lyndon that hes about to balance on the bridge railing.) This is not to say they will be compelled to conform, only that their knowledge presumably forms an important part of the causal conditions leading to their actions. When the computer sees the future, the computer sees that what they will do is necessitated in part by this knowledge. The computer would presumably have made different predictions had people never heard them.

Furthermore, adds David Landy of San Francisco State University, the fact that we see something happen one way doesnt mean that it couldnt have happened otherwise. Suppose we know that some guy is going to fold his arms, Landy says. Does it follow that he lacks the ability to not fold his arms? Well, no, because what we usually mean by has the ability to not fold his arms is that if things had gone differently, he wouldnt have folded his arms. But by stipulating at the start that he is going to fold his arms, we also stipulate that things arent going to go differently. But it can remain true that if they did go differently, he would not have folded his arms. So, he might have that ability, even if we know he is not going to exercise it.

We should expect weird things to happen when we are talking about a very weird situation. David Landy, San Francisco State University professor

If your head has started spinning, you can see why the Greeks didnt settle this stuff long before Garland got to it. And if it still seems strange that Forest seemingly cant put his hands in his pockets, well, what doesnt seem strange in the world of Devs? We should expect weird things to happen when we are talking about a very weird situation, Landy says. That is, we are used to people reliably doing what they want to do. But we have become used to that by making observations in a certain environment: one without time travel or omniscient computers. Introducing those things changes the environment, so we shouldnt be surprised if our usual inferences no longer hold.

Heres where we really might want to mime a marijuana hit. Neal Tognazzini of Western Washington University points out that one could conceivably appear to predict the future by tapping into a future that already exists. Many philosophers reject determinism but nevertheless accept that there are truths about what will happen in the future, because they accept a view in the philosophy of time called eternalism, which is (roughly) the block universe ideapast, present, and future are all parts of reality, Tognazzini says. This theory says that the past and the future exist some temporal distance from the presentwe just havent yet learned to travel between them. Thus, Tognazzini continues, You can accept eternalism about time without accepting determinism, because the first is just a view about whether the future is real whereas the second is a view about how the future is connected to the past (i.e., whether there are tram lines).

According to that school of thought, the future isnt what has to happen, its simply what will happen. If we somehow got a glimpse of our futures from the present, it might appear as if our paths were fixed. But those futures actually would have been shaped by our freely chosen actions in the interim. As Tognazzini says, Its a fate of our own makingwhich is just to say, no fate at all.

If we accept that the members of Devs know what theyre doing, though, then the computers predictions are deterministic, and the past does dictate the future. Thats disturbing, because it seemingly strips us of our agency. But, Tognazzini says, Even then, its still the case that what we do now helps to shape that future. We still make a difference to what the future looks like, even if its the only difference we could have made, given the tram lines we happen to be on. Determinism isnt like some force that operates independently of what we want, making us marionettes. If its true, then it would apply equally to our mental lives as well, so that the future that comes about might well be exactly the future we wanted.

This is akin to the compatibilist position espoused by David Hume, which seeks to reconcile the seemingly conflicting concepts of determinism and free will. As our final philosopher, Georgetown Universitys William Blattner, says, If determinism is to be plausible, it must find a way to save the appearances, in this case, explain why we feel like were choosing, even if at some level the choice is an illusion. The compatibilist perspective concedes that there may be only one possible future, but, Flynn says, insists that there is a difference between being causally determined (necessitated) to act and being forced or compelled to act. As long as one who has seen their future does not do what has been predicted because they were forced to do it (against their will, so to speak), then they will still have done it freely.

In the finale, well find out whether the computers predictions are as flawless and inviolable as Katie claims. Well also likely learn one of Devs most closely kept secrets: What Forest intends to do with his perfect model of Amaya. The show hasnt hinted that the computer can resurrect the dead in any physical fashion, so unless Forest is content to see his simulated daughter on a screen, he may try to enter the simulation himself. In Episode 7, Devs seemed to set the stage for such a step; as Stewart said, Thats the reality right there. Its not even a clone of reality. The box contains everything.

Would a simulated Forest, united with his simulated daughter, be happier inside the simulation than he was in real life, assuming hes aware hes inside the simulation? The philosopher Robert Nozick explored a similar question with his hypothetical experience machine. The experience machine would stimulate our brains in such a way that we could supply as much pleasure as we wanted, in any form. It sounds like a nice place to visit, and yet most of us wouldnt want to live there. That reluctance to enter the experience machine permanently seems to suggest that we see some value in an authentic connection to reality, however unpleasurable. Thinking Im hanging out with my family and friends is just different from actually hanging out with my family and friends, Tognazzini says. And since I think relationships are key to happiness, Im skeptical that we could be happy in a simulation.

If reality were painful enough, though, the relief from that pain might be worth the sacrifice. Suppose, for instance, that the real world had become nearly uninhabitable or otherwise full of misery, Flynn says. It seems to me that life in a simulation might be experienced as a sanctuary. Perhaps ones experience there would be tinged with sadness for the lost world, but Im not sure knowing its a simulation would necessarily keep one from being happy in it. Forest still seems miserable about Amaya IRL, so for him, that trade-off might make sense.

Whats more, if real life is totally deterministic, then Forest may not draw a distinction between life inside and outside of his quantum computer. If freedom is a critical component of fulfillment, then its hard to see how we could be fulfilled in a simulation, Blattner says. But for Forest, freedom isnt an option anywhere. Something about the situation seems sad, maybe pathetic, maybe even tragic, Flynn says. But if the world is a true simulation in the matter described, why not just understand it as the ability to visit another real world in which his daughter exists?

Those who subscribe to the simulation hypothesis believe that what we think of as real lifeincluding my experience of writing this sentence and your experience of reading itis itself a simulation created by some higher order of being. In our world, it may seem dubious that such a sophisticated creation could exist (or that anything or anyone would care to create it). But in Forests world, a simulation just as sophisticated as real life already exists inside Devswhich means that what Forest perceives as real life could be someone elses simulation. If hes possibly stuck inside a simulation either way, he might as well choose the one with Amaya (if he has a choice at all).

Garland chose to tell this story on TV because on the big screen, he said, it would have been slightly too truncated. On the small screen, its probably slightly too long: Because weve known more than Lily all along, what shes learned in later episodes has rehashed old info for us. Then again, Devs has felt familiar from the start. If Laplace got a pass for recycling Cicero and Leibniz, well give Garland a pass for channeling Laplace. Whats one more presentation of a puzzle thats had humans flummoxed forever?

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D-Wave makes its quantum computers free to anyone working on the coronavirus crisis – VentureBeat

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D-Wave today made its quantum computers available for free to researchers and developers working on responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. D-Wave partners and customers Cineca, Denso, Forschungszentrum Jlich, Kyocera, MDR, Menten AI, NEC, OTI Lumionics, QAR Lab at LMU Munich, Sigma-i, Tohoku University, and Volkswagen are also offering to help. They will provide access to their engineering teams with expertise on how to use quantum computers, formulate problems, and develop solutions.

Quantum computing leverages qubits to perform computations that would be much more difficult, or simply not feasible, for a classical computer. Based in Burnaby, Canada, D-Wave was the first company to sell commercial quantum computers, which are built to use quantum annealing. D-Wave says the move to make access free is a response to a cross-industry request from the Canadian government for solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic. Free and unlimited commercial contract-level access to D-Waves quantum computers is available in 35 countries across North America, Europe, and Asia via Leap, the companys quantum cloud service. Just last month, D-Wave debuted Leap 2, which includes a hybrid solver service and solves problems of up to 10,000 variables.

D-Wave and its partners are hoping the free access to quantum processing resources and quantum expertise will help uncover solutions to the COVID-19 crisis. We asked the company if there were any specific use cases it is expecting to bear fruit. D-Wave listed analyzing new methods of diagnosis, modeling the spread of the virus, supply distribution, and pharmaceutical combinations. D-Wave CEO Alan Baratz added a few more to the list.

The D-Wave system, by design, is particularly well-suited to solve a broad range of optimization problems, some of which could be relevant in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, Baratz told VentureBeat. Potential applications that could benefit from hybrid quantum/classical computing include drug discovery and interactions, epidemiological modeling, hospital logistics optimization, medical device and supply manufacturing optimization, and beyond.

Earlier this month, Murray Thom, D-Waves VP of software and cloud services, told us quantum computing and machine learning are extremely well matched. In todays press release, Prof. Dr. Kristel Michielsen from the Jlich Supercomputing Centre seemed to suggest a similar notion: To make efficient use of D-Waves optimization and AI capabilities, we are integrating the system into our modular HPC environment.

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D-Wave makes its quantum computers free to anyone working on the coronavirus crisis - VentureBeat

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Back in February 2020, scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory and the University of Chicago revealed that they had achieved a quantum entanglement in which the behavior of a pair two tiny particles becomes linked, so that their states are identical over a 52-mile (83.7 kilometer) quantum-loop network in the Chicago suburbs.

You may be wondering what all the fuss is about, if you're not a scientist familiar with quantum mechanics that is, the behavior of matter and energy at the smallest scale of reality, which is peculiarly different from the world we can see around us.

But the researchers' feat could be an important step in the development of a new, vastly more powerful version of the internet in the next few decades. Instead of the bits that today's network uses, which can only express a value of either 0 or 1, the future quantum internet would utilize qubits of quantum information, which can take on an infinite number of values. (A quibit is the unit of information for a quantum computer; it's like a bit in an ordinary computer).

That would give the quantum internet way more bandwidth, which would make it possible to connect super-powerful quantum computers and other devices and run massive applications that simply aren't possible with the internet we have now.

"A quantum internet will be the platform of a quantum ecosystem, where computers, networks, and sensors exchange information in a fundamentally new manner where sensing, communication, and computing literally work together as one entity, " explains David Awschalom via email. He's a spintronics and quantum information professor in the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and a senior scientist at Argonne, who led the quantum-loop project.

So why do we need this and what does it do? For starters, the quantum internet is not a replacement of the regular internet we now have. Rather it would be a complement to it or a branch of it. It would be able to take care of some of the problems that plague the current internet. For instance, a quantum internet would offer much greater protection from hackers and cybercriminals. Right now, if Alice in New York sends a message to Bob in California over the internet, that message travels in more or less a straight line from one coast to the other. Along the way, the signals that transmit the message degrade; repeaters read the signals, amplify and correct the errors. But this process allows hackers to "break in" and intercept the message.

However, a quantum message wouldn't have that problem. Quantum networks use particles of light photons to send messages which are not vulnerable to cyberattacks. Instead of encrypting a message using mathematical complexity, says Ray Newell, a researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, we would rely upon the peculiar rules of quantum physics. With quantum information, "you can't copy it or cut it in half, and you can't even look at it without changing it." In fact, just trying to intercept a message destroys the message, as Wired magazine noted. That would enable encryption that would be vastly more secure than anything available today.

"The easiest way to understand the concept of the quantum internet is through the concept of quantum teleportation," Sumeet Khatri, a researcher at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, says in an email. He and colleagues have written a paper about the feasibility of a space-based quantum internet, in which satellites would continually broadcast entangled photons down to Earth's surface, as this Technology Review article describes.

"Quantum teleportation is unlike what a non-scientist's mind might conjure up in terms of what they see in sci-fi movies, " Khatri says. "In quantum teleportation, two people who want to communicate share a pair of quantum particles that are entangled. Then, through a sequence of operations, the sender can send any quantum information to the receiver (although it can't be done faster than light speed, a common misconception). This collection of shared entanglement between pairs of people all over the world essentially constitutes the quantum internet. The central research question is how best to distribute these entangled pairs to people distributed all over the world. "

Once it's possible to do that on a large scale, the quantum internet would be so astonishingly fast that far-flung clocks could be synchronized about a thousand times more precisely than the best atomic clocks available today, as Cosmos magazine details. That would make GPS navigation vastly more precise than it is today, and map Earth's gravitational field in such detail that scientists could spot the ripple of gravitational waves. It also could make it possible to teleport photons from distant visible-light telescopes all over Earth and link them into a giant virtual observatory.

"You could potentially see planets around other stars, " says Nicholas Peters, group leader of the Quantum Information Science Group at Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

It also would be possible for networks of super-powerful quantum computers across the globe to work together and create incredibly complex simulations. That might enable researchers to better understand the behavior of molecules and proteins, for example, and to develop and test new medications.

It also might help physicists to solve some of the longstanding mysteries of reality. "We don't have a complete picture of how the universe works," says Newell. "We have a very good understanding of how quantum mechanics works, but not a very clear picture of the implications. The picture is blurry where quantum mechanics intersects with our lived experience."

But before any of that can happen, researchers have to figure out how to build a quantum internet, and given the weirdness of quantum mechanics, that's not going to be easy. "In the classical world you can encode information and save it and it doesn't decay, " Peters says. "In the quantum world, you encode information and it starts to decay almost immediately. "

Another problem is that because the amount of energy that corresponds to quantum information is really low, it's difficult to keep it from interacting with the outside world. Today, "in many cases, quantum systems only work at very low temperatures," Newell says. "Another alternative is to work in a vacuum and pump all the air out. "

In order to make a quantum internet function, Newell says, we'll need all sorts of hardware that hasn't been developed yet. So it's hard to say at this point exactly when a quantum internet would be up and running, though one Chinese scientist has envisioned that it could happen as soon as 2030.

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