The world’s first quantum computer to exceed 1000 qubits has more than double that of the previous record holder, IBM’s Osprey machine, which has 433 qubits. Though having more qubits doesn’t necessarily mean better performance, large numbers of them will be needed for future error-free quantum computers that are useful, unlike today’s noise-filled research machines.
The largest quantum computers, such as those from IBM and Google, use superconducting wires cooled to extremely low temperatures for their quantum bits, or qubits. But the record-breaking machine from California-based start-up Atom Computing, which has 1180 qubits, uses neutral atoms trapped by lasers in a 2-dimensional grid.
One advantage of this design is that it is easy to scale up the system and add many more qubits into the grid, says Rob Hays, CEO of Atom Computing. Any useful quantum computer in the future that is free of errors, a feature called fault tolerance, will need at least tens of thousands of dedicated error-correcting qubits working alongside the programmable qubits, he says.
“If we’re only going to scale by dozens of qubits, like most of the trapped ion and superconducting systems have been scaling up until now, it’s going to take a very long time to get to the fault tolerant era,” says Hays. “With the neutral atom approach and the speed of scaling that we have, we will be able to get there much more quickly.” Hays says the team aims to multiply the amount of qubits in the machine by around 10 every couple of years or so.
IBM ‘dealt directly with Holocaust organisers’
Newly discovered documents from Hitler’s Germany prove that the computer company IBM directly supplied the Nazis with technology which was used to help transport millions of people to their deaths in the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Treblinka, a controversial Holocaust expert claims in a new edition of book published later this week.
Edwin Black, whose book IBM and the Holocaust was published in hardback last year, says new evidence set out in the paperback version shows that executives at the firm’s New York headquarters directly controlled a Polish subsidiary which leased punch-card machines used to “calculate exactly how many Jews should be emptied out of the ghettos each day” and to transport them efficiently on railways leading to the camps.
When the Nazis invaded Poland, Black wrote in the Jerusalem Post, “IBM New York established a special new subsidiary called Watson Business Machines,” after its then- president, Thomas Watson. “IBM’s new Polish company’s sole purpose was to service the Nazi occupation during the rape of Poland.” Watson Busi ness Machines even operated a punch-card printing shop over the street from the Warsaw Ghetto, the paperback claims.
Unlike conventional computing bits, which can have a value of 1 or 0 and are largely interchangeable, qubits are more varied, having a range of different properties depending on how they are made.Neutral atom qubits lend themselves better to quantum entanglement, a strange quantum effect where qubits are linked so that measuring a property of one qubit reveals that of the other. They are also more stable, with qubits in Atom Computing’s machine keeping their quantum state from collapsing – a feature called fault tolerance, which is essential for error correction – for almost a minute. IBM’s Osprey, for example, has coherence times of around 70 to 80 microseconds.