Quantum computing doesn’t really mean much to PC gamers, let alone most people who dabble with computers. This is largely because it’s still pretty far out of the reach of most regular folk given the price to buy, let alone power, or actually having a worthy task to complete. That said, researchers are making new headway all the time, so you could be counting the qubits in your new rigs faster than you think.
Well IBM seems to think so, at least. The company released a statement announcing what it’s referring to as a breakthrough in its newest quantum processor. Dubbed Eagle, this processor has a huge array of 127 qubits ready to solve your quantum problems. This makes the Eagle processor the world’s largest, more than doubling the capabilities of other top of the line machines.
Before this, the most qubits we’d seen working together was by computers like the Zuchongzhi superconducting processor from the University of Science and Technology of China, with 60 qubits.
IBM also made a 65-qubit processor as recently as 2020, and a smaller one again back in 2019. It explains techniques from these previous builds, such as the optimisation of arrangement of qubits and ability to reduce the total amount of required components helped with making the Eagle. The design also uses multiple levels within the processor to hold wiring, leaving the qubits on a single layer allowing for more overall qubits.
The reason this demonstration is particularly exciting is it’s finally bringing quantum computing within the range of usefulness. Quantum supremacy or quantum advantage are terms used to describe the goal of quantum computing to be able to go beyond where our current regular computers can. This means being able to solve problems that we’ve previously never been able to touch thanks to the huge increase over regular bits.
Another notable quantum machine is Google's Sycamore, which is still only around the 60 qubits mark and has in the past boasted Quantum Supremacy. IBM came along to burst their bubble with regular computing examples of the same process, so we can be pretty confident someone will pull them up if they're of a similar error. For now, IBM claims the scale of Eagle makes it impossible for classical computers to reliably simulate.
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With this jump, IBM is also predicting its current infrastructure for quantum computing will need to be improved. The company is working towards releasing its updated IBM Quantum System Two, which is designed with 433 qubit and 1,121 qubit processors in mind. IBM expects to have this new system up in 2023, which could be an indicator they think they’re going to need them.
Quantum computing is also thought to pose a threat to the viability of blockchain and cryptocurrency, given its ability to solve vastly more complex math programs. This means having the power to potentially decrypt all sorts of things originally thought to be basically untouchable.