After Google said it had achieved what quantum computing researchers had been looking for for years, a team of Chinese researchers now claim to have replicated the performance of Google’s Sycamore quantum computer using traditional hardware.
In 2019, Google researchers claimed they had achieved a milestone known as quantum supremacy when their Sycamore quantum computer performed an arcane calculation in 200 seconds that they said would immobilize a supercomputer for 10,000 years.
Now scientists in China have done the math in hours with ordinary processors. A supercomputer, they say, could beat Sycamore outright.
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“I think they’re right that if they had access to a big enough supercomputer, they could have simulated the task in seconds,” said researcher Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas, Austin. .
The team used a system made up of 512 GPUs to perform the same calculation developed by Google to demonstrate that it had passed the milestone of quantum supremacy in 2019.
The advance takes some of the shine out of Google’s claim, said Greg Kuperberg, a mathematician at the University of California, Davis.
Still, the promise of quantum computing remains intact, the team said.
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Sergio Boixo, lead scientist at Google Quantum AI, said in an email that the Google team knew their advantage might not last very long.
“In our 2019 paper, we said classic algorithms would improve,” he said. But, “we don’t believe this classical approach can keep pace with quantum circuitry in 2022 and beyond.”
The “problem” solved by Sycamore was designed to be difficult for a conventional computer but as easy as possible for a quantum computer, which manipulates qubits that can be tuned to 0, 1, or any combination of 0 and 1 at the same time.