First time quantum computer faster.
For the first time, the quantum computer proves to be faster in solving algorithms than the classical computer, new research suggests.
Researchers, led by physicist Mark Tame of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, have published an article in the journal Physics Review Letters. Their findings indicate that they have tested an algorithm on a classical computer against a quantum computer, and it was seen that the quantum computer solved the algorithm quicker. This is the first time that a quantum computer has outraced a classical computer.
For many quantum computer hopefuls, this is relieving news. Just a few months ago, physicist Matthias Troyer from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, reported in the journal Science, quite the opposite. He found that there was no evidence which suggests that a quantum speedup in a variety of different algorithms tested. Troyer’s article was to the disappointment of D-Wave Systems, a Canadian company which sells commercial quantum computers, and which had their systems in the experiment.
The algorithm tested is known as Simon’s algorithm, a quantum algorithm which solves a black box problem faster than any classical algorithm. A black box in computer science is a system that can be viewed in terms of its inputs and outputs without knowing the internal mechanisms. You can think of an algorithm as a series of steps. An analogy would be like having a list of steps to follow in order to get to a destination. Computers follow algorithms and the ideal purpose of quantum computers would solve these steps faster. An increase in efficiency would lead to all sorts of practical applications. One such example would be to map out complex patterns of biological molecules or genes that would help us more quickly and efficiently develop treatments for illnesses. The hope is that calculations that would take an immense amount of time could be done in a relatively short period of time.
What exactly is so special about quantum computers? Classical computers work on ones and zeros called bits. Quantum computers work on quibits, which means that they use the conventional zeros and ones, but can also be both one and zero at the same time. This is the idea of superpositioning of states, and is a bizarre characteristic of quantum mechanics that developers are trying to exploit in order to achieve the quantum speedup. What researchers are hoping to derive from quantum computing is that a quantum computer should be able to go through more possibilities faster, known as a quantum speedup. Theoretically, this can happen because the third state can eliminate possibilities much quicker.
The research done here does not provide a substantial speedup, but the researchers attribute this to the number of quibits used and says that increasing the number of quibits would drastically separate the speed times. More research is needed to prove that quantum computers have an edge over their classical counterparts. A classical computer remains the dominant machine.