Researchers at IBM question Google “quantum supremacy”

Google is wrong to claim it has reached a turning point in the history of computing by being the first to achieve “quantum supremacy”, according to researchers at IBM. In a paper published on yesterday, five researchers at the US computer maker said Google had overstated a claim that its system, built using the principles of quantum mechanics, could far surpass even the world’s most-powerful supercomputer. Google’s claim was contained in an unpublished research paper first disclosed by the Financial Times last month. It has been hailed as a big step in the development of quantum computers, which have the potential to solve problems in materials science and other fields that are far beyond traditional computers. Google reported that its quantum system had taken three minutes and 20 seconds to carry out a calculation that would take the US Department of Energy’s Summit supercomputer 10,000 years to complete. That made it the “first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor”, according to the paper, adding that this “heralds the advent of a much-anticipated computing paradigm” However, the IBM researchers said that, using their own methods, they would be able to program a supercomputer to handle the same task in only two and a half days. 

Richard Waters