Quantum Computing Advance Begins New Era, IBM Says

When Google researchers made their supremacy claim in 2019, they said their quantum computer performed a calculation in 3 minutes 20 seconds that would take about 10,000 years on a state-of-the-art conventional supercomputer.

But some other researchers, including those at IBM, discounted the claim, saying the problem was contrived. “Google’s experiment, as impressive it was, and it was really impressive, is doing something which is not interesting for any applications,” said Dr. Aharonov, who also works as the chief strategy officer of Qedma, a quantum computing company.

The Google computation also turned out to be less impressive than it first appeared. A team of Chinese researchers was able to perform the same calculation on a non-quantum supercomputer in just over five minutes, far quicker than the 10,000 years the Google team had estimated.

The IBM researchers in the new study performed a different task, one that interests physicists. They used a quantum processor with 127 qubits to simulate the behavior of 127 atom-scale bar magnets — tiny enough to be governed by the spooky rules of quantum mechanics — in a magnetic field. That is a simple system known as the Ising model, which is often used to study magnetism.

This problem is too complex for a precise answer to be calculated even on the largest, fastest supercomputers.

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