New Form of Quantum Computation Will Challenge Ordinary Computers

New Form of Quantum Computation Will Challenge Ordinary Computers

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You’ve heard the hype a hundred times: Physicists hope to someday build a whiz-bang quantum computer that can solve problems that would overwhelm an ordinary computer. Now, four separate teams have taken a step toward achieving such “quantum speed-up” by demonstrating a simpler, more limited form of quantum computing that, if it can be improved, might soon give classical computers a run for their money. But don’t get your hopes up for a full-fledged quantum computer. The gizmos may not be good for much beyond one particular calculation.

Even with the caveats, the challenge of quantum computing has proven so difficult that the new papers are gaining notice. “The question is, does this give you a first step to doing a hard calculation quantum mechanically, and it looks like it might,” says Scott Aaronson, a theoretical computer scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge and an author on one of the papers.

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