Quantum Computers: How they’ll change your life

©National Institute of Standards and Technology

A new generation of number-crunchers are harnessing the power of particles: How are super-fast quantum computers changing our world?

Google says it has accomplished ‘quantum supremacy’. This is a fancy way of saying its Sycamore processor can do something unique. It worked out a complex maths problem in three minutes and 20 seconds. The search-engine giant says a state-of-the-art supercomputer would struggle to do it in under 10,000 years. This is because Sycamore isn’t just an upgrade on existing technology… it’s a completely different way of working.

Sycamore is a quantum computer, meaning it’s supercharged by the strange behaviour of particles. This advanced processing power could help cure dementia or invent artificial
intelligence, so it’s no surprise other tech firms are hard at work developing their own versions. Even governments are investing billions into their own research. In fact, the rivalry between the United States and China has been called the ‘21st-century Space Race’.

While Sycamore is a giant leap for Google, it’s only the first step for this tech revolution. The underlying physics that make quantum computing so extraordinary also cause some of its biggest challenges. And we haven’t solved many of them yet.


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