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Under the Hood of Quantum Computing

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the fun-facts dept.

156

nanotrends writes "Gordie Rose, the CTO of Dwave Systems, the venture funded company that plans to offer paid use of a superconducting quantum computer starting in 2007, reveals secrets of his quantum computer construction. It is based on nobium superconducting 'circuits of atoms' and is not RSFQ. (Rapid Single Flux quantum)."

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Advantages? (4, Interesting)

Zouden (232738) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943535)

I read the article, but it didn't make it very clear - what will be the advantages of paid use of their quantum computer? Unless it's going to be faster than other supercomputers, I can't see the point. Is there some other advantage I'm not aware of?

I'd be very suprised if their quantum computer will be faster than conventional computers by next year. 20 years away, maybe.

Re:Advantages? (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943558)

I don't think anyone can assess the capabilities of his systems from that article. I also don't think that was unintentional.

Re:Advantages? (5, Insightful)

Mathinker (909784) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943583)

Uhm, from the article, nobody can even assess whether it really is a quantum computer.

Re:Advantages? (-1, Redundant)

Fear the Clam (230933) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943801)

In space nobody can even assess whether it really is a quantum computer.

Re:Advantages? (4, Funny)

mickwd (196449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943830)

Or, following the principles of Heisenburger's Uncertain Cat, we can determine if it really is a live quantum computer, but we can't know where it is.

Re:Advantages? (3, Interesting)

EJB (9167) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944051)

Not to mention Darwin's apple or Rembrandt's Mona Lisa. ;-)

(Try "Schrodinger's cat" or the "Heisenberg uncertainty principle")

Re:Advantages? (1)

Kagura (843695) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944301)

Very clever, I wish I had mod points :)

Re:Advantages? (1, Funny)

mickwd (196449) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944365)

I guess that's what I get for trying to tell a joke on a US Web Show without a laughter track in the background.

It's a *quantum* computer (3, Funny)

WilliamSChips (793741) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943803)

If you assess the capabilities of the system, it disappears!

Re:Advantages? (5, Informative)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943598)

I read the article, but it didn't make it very clear - what will be the advantages of paid use of their quantum computer? Unless it's going to be faster than other supercomputers, I can't see the point.

Well, it's a quantum computer. Given the problem it might be like trying to make your CPU compete against a GeForce or ATI. If you try to do it all with CPU emulation, there's not much doubt who'll win. That said, I got the impression that current quantum computers have a so limited number of qbits (the computing power pretty much grows to 2^n with n bits), that it's faster and cheaper to just cycle through all 2^n possibilties one at a time. Currently the largest I've seen is a 12 qbit computer [blogspot.com] . Now 2^12 = 4096 states at once is a nice curiosity but nothing that makes my encryption keys worry. Basicly it's man vs Deep Blue at computer again - the quantum computer is great at testing many solutions at once but the sheer computing power of traditional computers takes home the victory. Now, if they can get hundreds of qbits together things will change massively. But the difficulty in keeping all those in a cohesive quantum state also raise drastically, so I think we're far off from a usable quantum computer.

Re:Advantages? (4, Informative)

RKBA (622932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943662)

"Now, if they can get hundreds of qbits together things will change massively."

I think the point of the article is that D-Wave Corp claims to be able to create qbits from "large" objects (ie; large enough to be fabricated using standard IC fabrication techniques), but with niobium rather than silicon. This enables them to create a quantum computer without all the hassle of having to manipulate individual atoms as the present research lab quantum computers do. From the article:

Superconductors are the only type of material that we know of where big lithographically defined devices (like really big. Like centimeter on a side big.) can be built that behave just like they were atomic-sized.

Since supercooling is required, it's highly unlikely that you or I will be able to afford one of these things any time soon (assuming it's not all marketing hype in the first place), but you can be assured the NSA and other government "intelligence" agencies will be able to afford as many as they want because of all the tribute they demand from us on pain of imprisonment, in the form of exorbitant taxation.

Re:Advantages? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943791)

i think you need to relook at your understanding of computers.

Its true, conventional boolean logic computers grow 2^n. But thats because its "bit" is a boolean value, it can only have 2 states, thats where the "2" comes from. A quantom computer would be x^n where x is the number of states a bit can be in, while n is the number of bytes. The articel dosent give any information besides a link to the paper (im to busy), the "12" they spoke of could mean as you took it, to be the number of bits, but that is unimpressive, even current computing technology could have bytes of 12 bits, its easy (altho powers of 2 are better to work with, because of the boolean thing again, 8 bits a byte just happened to work out well). But, since its a quantom computer, i would think it refers to the number of states, which is a lot more then 2, just imagine, 12^8 (8 bit bytes, why not?), take that 128bit computing!

Re:Advantages? (4, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943947)

I do believe you're mistaken. Quantum bits are exactly like regular bits in their possible observable states - that is, they are either "on" or "off" when observed. The interesting part of quantum computing comes from the fact that, when they're not being observed, they exist in a superposition of both "on" and "off" states. Now, if you put 8 of these bits together, you have a 'qbyte' which, while when it's observed it can only represent the same range as a regular byte, can be used in calculations representing every single possible permutation of the data at once - i.e. every number from 0 through 255. Each bit you add doubles the number of states you can simultaneously test using this superposition property - this is what the GP meant when he said that quantum computing scales as 2^n.

Re:Advantages? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944057)

That sounds rather stupid. Why only test for "on" or "off" when you can test for any of the states? Also, your post makes little since, everything is observed, which is why it exists, just because it isent observed by humans dosent mean its not observed, so there is no limitation on only testing for "on" or "off", only in current thinking about logic testing.

Re:Advantages? (3, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944165)

That sounds rather stupid. Why only test for "on" or "off" when you can test for any of the states?

Two points: what other states, and how do you propose we measure them? Quantum bits will typically have only the 1/on and 0/off states, by design - partly because it meshes well with our classical computing methods, and partly because most make use of concepts like spin which are naturally in up/down or the like. When isolated, they evolve into a state expressed by a|0> + b|1>, where a and b are the probability that you will observe the 0 state or the 1 state, respectively. This superposition state is impossible to observe, since the wavefunction collapses into one or the other on observation, so we can only observe either the 1 or the 0. More generally, you have a state for the entire register which is the superposition of every possible 'classical' state, with individual probabilities of being observed when you check the register of a, b, c and so forth.

Also, your post makes little since, everything is observed, which is why it exists, just because it isent observed by humans dosent mean its not observed,

This is very true, in general, and is the very reason why quantum computing is hard. The qubits have to be completely isolated from everything except the read/write mechanism, so that these particles will only be observed by humans, and nothing else, otherwise many of the requirements to make a quantum computer effective cannot be reasonably achieved.

A minor correction, cos I'm pedantic like that (1)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945380)

Those probabilities should be a^2, b^2, and so forth. Seems slashdot doesn't like alt-0178.

Re:Advantages? (3, Interesting)

RKBA (622932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943624)

"what will be the advantages of paid use of their quantum computer?"

I'm sure the NSA and other government agencies have a passing interest in code breaking, which among other things means being able to factor huge numbers quickly [rsasecurity.com] . A quantum computer would (if it contained sufficient logic cells) be able to try all possible factors of a number at the same time, and would thus be able to factor any number almost instantaneously. It would mean the death of most common types of encryption that depend upon the difficulty of factoring as a means of insuring the privacy of data. After all, the government probably has petabytes of encrypted data from their nationwide wiretapping of telephone and Internet [sc.edu] communications they would love to be able to decrypt quickly.

Re:Advantages? (5, Informative)

lgw (121541) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943806)

As far as I know, only RSA-style cryptograophy is affected by quantum computing. There are other ways to do public key encryption, such as elliptical curve cryptography [wikipedia.org] that should be unaffected, as they depend on a different class of problem being hard, and of course quantum computing won't help with symmetric key crypto at all.

The NSA has been advising the security community against using RSA-style encryption for some time now - it's not like they're trying to keep the weakness a secret for some nefarious reason.

Re:Advantages? (2, Interesting)

RKBA (622932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943929)

I don't claim to be a mathematician, but it's pretty easy to show that factoring is a boolean satisfiability (SAT) problem [wikipedia.org] and is generally believed to be at least NP-Hard, if not NP-complete as SAT is. Consequently, if factoring could be "solved" (ie; performed "easily" by use of quantum computing or other means) then any other NP problem could be cast in terms of a SAT problem for easy solution. That would mean P=NP, would it not?

QP =? NP (2, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943945)

Actually, it would mean that QP = NP. This is considered more likely than P = NP, but as with P=?NP no one has yet shown it to be true or false.

Re:QP =? NP (1)

RKBA (622932) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943975)

LOL! It took me a few seconds to get the joke, but after I couldn't find a definition of "QP" anywhere, I realized you probably meant it to be "Quantum Polynomial" time, and so your QP = NP means that P = NP iff you have a quantum computer. Right? Har, har. ;-)

Re:QP =? NP (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945214)

It's BQP, not QP. The B means that the answer it gives has a chance of over 50% to be correct and running the algorithm often enough allows you to guess the correct answer by seeing the rate at which each occurs.

Re:Advantages? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944219)

Factoring may a SAT problem, but that doesn't mean SAT is always a factoring problem. All that says is that a SAT solver could solve factorization.
Prime factorization is in NP, so if it is proven NP-Hard, it must be NP-Complete.

I think it will. (1)

jthill (303417) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944795)

won't help with symmetric key crypto at all
If you have any known plaintext, anywhere, your symmetric key is toast: Q will just try every key at once and select what produces that text. AES is a good deal simpler than multiplication (presuming that there's no magical direct method — the hits I get on "quantum multiplication" might as well be encrypted).

Re:Advantages? (3, Informative)

smallpaul (65919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943677)

I read the article, but it didn't make it very clear - what will be the advantages of paid use of their quantum computer? Unless it's going to be faster than other supercomputers, I can't see the point. Is there some other advantage I'm not aware of?

Yes, of course the goal is to be substantially faster than other supercomputers: for certain classes of problems. These are outlined on the company's website ( http://www.dwavesys.com/optimization.php [dwavesys.com] ) and ( http://www.dwavesys.com/quantumcomputing.php [dwavesys.com] ). But if you want a "Neutral Point of View" , I'll quote wikipedia:

It is widely believed that if large-scale quantum computers can be built, they will be able to solve certain problems faster than any classical computer...
Integer factorization is believed to be computationally infeasible with an ordinary computer for large numbers that are the product of two prime numbers of roughly equal size (e.g., products of two 300-digit primes). By comparison, a quantum computer could solve this problem relatively easily. If a number has n bits (is n digits long when written in the binary numeral system), then a quantum computer with just over 2n qubits can use Shor's algorithm to find its factors. It can also solve a related problem called the discrete logarithm problem. This ability would allow a quantum computer to "break" many of the cryptographic systems in use today, in the sense that there would be a relatively fast (polynomial time in n) algorithm for solving the problem....
This dramatic advantage of quantum computers is currently known to exist for only those three problems: factoring, discrete logarithm, and quantum physics simulations. However, there is no proof that the advantage is real: an equally fast classical algorithm may still be discovered (though some consider this unlikely). There is one other problem where quantum computers have a smaller, though significant (quadratic) advantage. It is quantum database search, and can be solved by Grover's algorithm. In this case the advantage is provable. This establishes beyond doubt that (ideal) quantum computers are superior to classical computers.

From D-Wave's website:

For several decades, computer scientists have been trying to classify all of the problems we know of. Whenever a new problem comes up, it is placed in one of the existing categories of problems. These categories describe how difficult the problems within it are, and why.

One of the most interesting categories contains problems that are called NP-complete. These all have the feature that in order to solve the problem all possible solutions must be tried, and the number of possible solutions grows exponentially with the problem size.

An example is the Travelling Salesman Problem, although there are literally thousands of them. This category is a particularly interesting target from a commercial perspective because most real-life business problems are in it.

...

Quantum computers can be used to get approximate solutions to large NP-complete optimization problems much more quickly than the best known methods running on any supercomputer.

Re:Advantages? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943952)

> Quantum computers can be used to get approximate solutions to large NP-complete optimization problems much more quickly than the best known methods running on any supercomputer.

Ahh. Let's break it down, shall we?
NP-complete are decision problems (yes or no), not optimization
*approximate* solutions for NPC - we know how to do those in polynomial time, you don't exactly need a quantum computer there; it's the exact solutions that are hard
approximate solutions for *NPC* - they do however not transform very well between problems so each problem would need a different method (the exact solutions can be transformed)

Re:Advantages? (4, Insightful)

PatriceVignon (957563) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944178)

One of the most interesting categories contains problems that are called NP-complete. These all have the feature that in order to solve the problem all possible solutions must be tried, and the number of possible solutions grows exponentially with the problem size. An example is the Travelling Salesman Problem, although there are literally thousands of them. This category is a particularly interesting target from a commercial perspective because most real-life business problems are in it. ... Quantum computers can be used to get approximate solutions to large NP-complete optimization problems much more quickly than the best known methods running on any supercomputer.
Sorry, but that is simply not true. If you have a classical NP complete problem (e.g. Travelling Salesman), you can solve it by trying out exponentially many steps, 2^n, and most people believe that you cannot find faster (classical) algorithms. With a quantum you can improve this to 2^(n/2) by the so-called Grover search algorithm. This is not nearly enough to make these problems tractable in practice. And to make things worse, this "speed-up" will most likely be eaten up by the necessary error correction.
Lance Fortnow posted a very nice summary of this on his blog: [fortnow.com]
But I'm not a physicist or an engineer and suppose we can overcome these obstacles and actually build a working machine. Then I can imagine the following conversation in 2025:
Quantum People: We now have a working quantum computer.
Public: Yes after 30 years and 50 billion dollars in total funding. What can it do?
Q: It can simulate quantum systems.
P: I'm happy for you. What can it do for the rest of us?
Q: It can factor numbers quickly.
P: Yes, I know. We've had to change all of our security protocols because of your machine. Does factoring have any purpose other than to break codes?
Q: Not really. But we can use Grover's algorithm for general search problems.
P: That sounds great! So we can really solve traveling salesperson and scheduling problems much faster than before?
Q: Not exactly. The quadratic speed-up we get from Grover's algorithm isn't enough the offset the slow-down by using a quantum computer combined with error correction. But we can solve Pell's equation, approximate the Jones polynomial and a few other things very quickly.
P: Are those algorithms particularly useful?
Q: No.
P: They why did you build a quantum computer?
Q: Because we could.

Re:Advantages? (3, Insightful)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945103)

Of course being able to efficiently simulate quantum systems would do a lot for many people. Let's start with quantum chemistry. When you deal with large molecules (as f.ex. in pharmacy), you are basically solving a large quantum system. The basic equations are well known, but the size of the problem is what makes it difficult. A quantum computer could resolve this problem. Or in other words, quantum computers might cause more health for the people.

Or think about material sciences. Again, the basic (quantum) equations are well known, but are too large to calculate directly. Again, a quantum computer might be very helpful. It's hard to say what advantages the new materials might bring us (maybe room-temperature superconductors?), but it's allmost certain that there will be some advantage.

Re:Advantages? (1)

QuantumFTL (197300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944527)

An example is the Travelling Salesman Problem, although there are literally thousands of them. This category is a particularly interesting target from a commercial perspective because most real-life business problems are in it. ... Quantum computers can be used to get approximate solutions to large NP-complete optimization problems much more quickly than the best known methods running on any supercomputer.
If anyone is interested in how quantum computers can (at least may be able to) appoximately solve TSP efficiently, check out thisinteresting article submitted to Physical Review Letters [arxiv.org] . I would caution that this does not seem to be mentioned on the wikipedia article, and may be rather contraversial.

Re:Advantages? (2, Funny)

Hobadee (787558) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943817)

Advantages? ADVANTAGES!? Dude, think, your framerate for Counter-Strike will RULE!

-Eric Kincl

Au contraire (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944118)

***I'd be very suprised if their quantum computer will be faster than conventional computers by next year. 20 years away, maybe.***

Just a guess. Given the article, one can't do anything other than guess. I think this may be a conventional computer using superconducting technology, not a 'quantum computer' as the term is usually understood. It seems to be expected that a superconducting computer -- if one can be built -- might clock an order of magnitude faster than conventional semiconductor based computers As I understand it, today's supercomputers are little if any faster than Best Buy's $300 special of the week. They just have a huge number of CPUs hooked up in parallel (I'm sure that if I have that wrong, someone will point out that I'm a total moron).

Where does quantum computing come in? Looks to me like it doesn't exactly. My impression is that when you dink around with superconductivity, you need to understand and allow for quantum mechanical effects. That's all the article claims to do as far as I can see.

So, can they build this wonder? Possibly, but my guess is that they can't. AFAIK, no one else has demonstrated or shipped a real, functioning, superconducting computer. I'm dubious that an outfit that needs to send out what are probably misleading press releases will be the first. But I've been wrong before.

As for quantum computing. It's surely going to look like black magic to me, and, I strongly suspect, most other folks. I can sort of vaguely understand how (all?) the possible solutions to an operation can be computed simultaneously and held in a quantum device. I don't have clue how one knows which answer is the desired answer.

Complete nonsense (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944194)

This article is total crap. IAAP (figure it out) in the field of spin based electronics, closely aligned with efforts to develop qc. As described in the article, these circuits are not quantum bits. Nb metal that is held at low temp will enter the so called "ground state" of the material where all electrons are in a single state. Great. you have a macroscopic quantum state. Problem is that superconducting states do not exist outside of the superconducting metal. in fact they have a region of "normal state" i.e. non-superconducting electrons that forms a small skin on the outside of the material. This is mostly the result of disorder in the material, thermal fluctuations etc. This means that if you hare trying to create 2 q-bits in this way, you will have trouble "coupling" them together. if there is no coupling, no information transfer, no interaction, and no "computation". Building q-bits is easy, anyone can do it. Coupling q-bits and controling that coupling interaction is the hard part. superconducting states cannot couple to each other if they are discrete disconnected structures. This article is total bs. inverstors beware.

Re:Advantages? (1)

citanon (579906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944286)

Their computer is a generalized effort to simulate the running of a subset of computer algorithms with the behavior of a bunch of electrons tunneling around in a series of superconducting wires.

The idea, I guess, is that you take a NP-hard problem such as the traveling salesmen, and encode it in the initial conditions of their circuit, which is initially in a non-equilibrium state. Then you allow the circuit to evolve and reach equilibrium while respecting certain boundary conditions devised according to the problem. The equilibrium conditions of the circuit correspond to the solution to the problem. They claim to have software that allow you to setup the system in a general and high level way.

The basic concept is similar to the way Lynn Adelman solved the traveling salesman problem with DNA. It's not a quantum computer in the strict sense that it could do universal computing. However, for a number of problems, it could do very well.

It's a pretty interest system. I'm intrigued about its potential applications to quantum chemistry.

Re:Advantages? (1)

sparklehackery (802490) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945201)

I can't see the point. Is there some other advantage I'm not aware of?
Well, actually, it's all just spin... :P

Re:Advantages? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945204)

They're trying to create a quantum tunnel into your pocket.

Bah, I can beat that (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943537)

Any investors interested in my zero-point energy project? Come and bring all your capital, buwahahaha.

sorry (0, Offtopic)

kickedfortrolling (952486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943547)

Yes.. but will it run linux?

Looking for VC funding myself (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943553)

I plan to build a quantum computer in my mind.

Re:Looking for VC funding myself (1)

biz0r (656300) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943993)

Funny you say that, some [monash.edu.au] people [wikipedia.org] think [valdostamuseum.org] that is already the case. Who'da thunk it...

SCO Intellectual Property Protection (1)

lennyhell (869433) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943554)

Why did SCO create the Intellectual Property (IP) License?

Many customers are concerned about using Linux since they have become aware of the allegations that Linux is an unauthorized derivative work of the UNIX® operating system. These customers are cocksmoking teabaggers and they should not forget to pay their $699 licensing fee.

Bitches.

Looks great but (1, Redundant)

BeoCluster (995566) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943555)

Can I make a Beowulf Cluster of those Quantum computers ?

Umm yeah right. (0, Redundant)

Millyways (262662) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943557)

What a load of rubbish. Quantum computinf is nowhere near the level where it is useful for anything, let alone for building a supercomputer out of it.

Re:Umm yeah right. (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943576)

since when has usefullness ever been a factor when making something really fast, really big, really tiny, or really cool in general? I know at least I dont need a dual core chip and 2gigs of ram to idle on IRC all day.

Re:Umm yeah right. (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943606)

What a load of rubbish. Quantum computinf is nowhere near the level where it is useful for anything, let alone for building a supercomputer out of it.

While I completely agree, it seems enough to get funding. A sad state of affairs, indeed.

Re:Umm yeah right. (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943718)

What would be the point of funding something already useful? Things are funded on the basis of their potential, not on what they can do now.

Re:Umm yeah right. (1)

gweihir (88907) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943930)

What would be the point of funding something already useful? Things are funded on the basis of their potential, not on what they can do now.

True. But this has zero potential. So it should not be funded.

RTFA, WTF? (1)

ricky-road-flats (770129) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943578)

I just read the FA, and it makes only a token mention of quantum computing at the end. It seems to be a (very simple) discussion of using a superconductor to make faster transistors.... What have I missed here?

Re:RTFA, WTF? (4, Informative)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943603)

... What have I missed here?

For starters; a link to the company's website instead of somebody's "See Spot run" blog post:

http://www.dwavesys.com/quantumcomputing.php [dwavesys.com]

KFG

Re: Why?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944138)

Why would you use a superconducter to make a transisitor? The point of a transistor is to have resistance. Voltage over a certain amount will be able to pass the transistor. That equals a 1. Voltage that's under the threshold does not pass.... that equals a 0.

Superconductors have 0 resistance so you might as well not even have a transistor... It's always gonna be a 1.

Re: Why?? (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945149)

Well, if you can switch between superconductivity and normal conductivity (maybe even with a large resistance in the non-superconducting state state), then it would make sense, I didn't RTFA, but I could imagine that this is possible by creating a magnetic field at the superconducting wire (large enough magnetic fields make superconductance break down). Then you could have e.g. superconducting state = no resistance = no voltage on the wire = 0, and normal conducting state = resistance = voltage on the wire = 1. Or alternatively, superconductance = no resistance = high current through the wire = 1, normal conductance = resistance = low current through the wire = 0.

Re:RTFA, WTF? (1)

infidel13 (978594) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945072)

Superconductors are the only type of material that we know of where big lithographically defined devices (like really big. Like centimeter on a side big.) can be built that behave just like they were atomic-sized. The reason for this behavior is highly technical - is has to do with the types of particles in the material. In a superconductor all of the "particles" that carry charge around can exist in the exact same state, so when you look at a whole lot of these particles (many trillions) it can be just like looking at only one (which is "very quantum mechanical").
From this paragraph, it almost looks like the processor uses Bose-Einstein condensates - hence the reference at the end to "like looking at only one," since BECs (which, I might add, have to be cooled to cryogenic temperatures) essentially behave like giant atoms. Here's a link: Bose Einstein Condensates [wikipedia.org] .

"Quantum" computer is misleading (4, Insightful)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943588)

What D-Wave has done is begun with the standard approaches to building metal-based processors and modified them in such a way that these processors use quantum mechanics in order to accelerate computation.

Wow, they use quantum mechanics? Every chemical reaction in our universe uses quantum mechanics; they couldn't be more vague if they tried. They're clearly trying to capitalize on the 'quantum computer' buzz.

Re:"Quantum" computer is misleading (5, Informative)

slashdotmsiriv (922939) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943619)

From dwave's site: "There are many potential ways to build quantum computers (QCs). Of these, four types have emerged as being most likely to succeed. These are based on (A) assemblies of individual atoms trapped by lasers; (B) optical circuits, for example using photonic crystals; (C) semiconductor-based designs, usually including atomic-scale control of dopant atom distribution or quantum dots; and (D) superconducting electronics. D-Wave focuses exclusively on superconducting electronics. This is because superconductors have the unique property that very large structures can be built out of them that behave according to the rules of quantum mechanics. Because of this, design of superconducting QCs does not require new technology development. This is in contrast to the other three types of QCs, in which information is stored using atoms or individual photons (particles of light), and controlling and manipulating this information requires technologies that do not yet exist. The two superconductors used to build QCs are aluminum and niobium. At room temperature these materials are metals. When they are cooled down close to absolute zero, the electrons in the metals pair to form particles called Cooper pairs. These particles carry charge in the superconductor. Cooper pairs are very different from electrons. One key difference is that Cooper pairs are what physicists call bosons, while electrons are fermions. Bosons are allowed to occupy the same quantum state, while fermions are not. In a superconductor, all the Cooper pairs can (and do) exist in exactly the same state. This means that all of the charge carriers in the superconductor are fundamentally linked. They directly inherit their behavior from the scale of a single Cooper pair. One way to think of this is that a chunk of superconductor amplifies the quantum effects that exist at the level of extremely tiny individual particles up to the scale of the whole chunk, even if the chunk is very large. This amplification of quantum effects is responsible for the well-known properties of superconductors, such as zero resistance to current flow and exclusion of magnetic field. It is also extremely useful for building components of QCs. Superconductors naturally shield themselves from external noise, creating a safe haven for quantum effects. This ability to build large things that behave like small things overcomes many practical problems in building real QCs."

Re:"Quantum" computer is misleading (1)

caffeinated_bunsen (179721) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944602)

Let's run Bunsen's Bullshit-O-Meter(tm) over this real quick:
There are many potential ways to build quantum computers (QCs). Of these, four types have emerged as being most likely to succeed. (A) ... (B) ... (C) ... (D) ...
[..........]

This is because superconductors have the unique property that very large structures can be built out of them that behave according to the rules of quantum mechanics.
[*.........]

Because of this, design of superconducting QCs does not require new technology development.
[**********] zzzZZZTPOP!
Damn, another fuse gone. I've gotta add better overload protection to this thing. Anyway, try telling the couple dozen research groups working on superconducting quantum computing and the millions of dollars of funding being thrown at them that the problem don't require any new technology. Once they stop laughing (which may take a while, be patient), they'll go on for a few hours about all the problems that have yet to be overcome, like getting two qubits to interact strongly enough with each other to allow logic operations, but weakly enough with the environment to make the data last long enough to be useful. Kind of a fundamental problem, that. This looks to be yet another bunch of con artists who found yet another way to make good on that old adage about fools and their money.

In other words, expect this thing's principal use to be running the Phantom Game Service.

Re:"Quantum" computer is misleading (1)

Sinbios (852437) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943631)

Actually, I think the point is they ARE trying to be as vague as they can :P

Re:"Quantum" computer is misleading (1)

imaginieus (897756) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944373)

Wow, they use quantum mechanics? Every chemical reaction in our universe uses quantum mechanics; they couldn't be more vague if they tried. They're clearly trying to capitalize on the 'quantum computer' buzz.
While every chemical reaction in the universe uses quantum mechanics, every computer does not. The use of quantum mechanics in computing is actually as revolutionary as they make it seem. If d-wave succeeds in building a quantum computer, it will destroy the laws of computability. Because of superposition, it will be able to factorize large numbers with linear scaling, meaning that even a slow quantum computer could factorize the product of two 300 digit prime numbers in less time than a supercomputer.

D-Wave doesn't use quantum entanglement (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944608)

There appear to be various kinds of "quantum computers", and this seems to cause a certain amount of confusion.

Your post implicitly refers to QCs that employ quantum entanglement and have a large number of qbits. D-Wave's system doesn't.

Instead, it seems to use Cooper pair amplification in a bulk superconductor to allow atomic-scale quantum effects like tunnelling to be manipulated at the macroscopic level. In effect this provides a large handle by which to poke tiny stuff. (:P)

The real question is, what kind of "tiny stuff" can be "poked" and what kinds of computer solutions does this enable. Well, D-Wave has identified some potential applications, and indeed they are pretty important ones which might earn them gazillions. But your factorization example is not one of them.

Re:"Quantum" computer is misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944995)

If d-wave succeeds in building a quantum computer, it will destroy the laws of computability.
I find that quite doubtful. In the 15-some years quantum computing has been researched, we have come up with a mind-boggling TWO algorithms that make it even the slightest bit interesting. The effects of quantum computing have absolutely ZERO impact on the fundamentals of computational theory; it's only in the mushy bits of probabilistic complexity classes in the polynomial time hierarchy that anything's happened so far.
Because of superposition, it will be able to factorize large numbers with linear scaling
That's quite a bold assertion. Some very very smart people have looked at this problem, and the best they've come up with so far is cubic scaling. You should probably publish the research you've done into developing a linear-time algorithm and claim your millions of dollars now.
meaning that even a slow quantum computer could factorize the product of two 300 digit prime numbers in less time than a supercomputer.
What are you basing this arbritrary performance on? No one has any idea what a hypothetical "slow" quantum computer might do performance-wise.

Woo Woo science (5, Insightful)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943630)

A functional quantum computer? Really?

I used to be a undergrad lab assistant. I never worked in quantum computing, but our neighbours were some of these guys [www.iqc.ca] . I picked up a few things, one of those things being that quantum computing is hard.

Classical computers use the laws of classical physics to operate. Classical physics is deterministic, and that's how we want our classical computers to behave. As the chip and die sizes get smaller and smaller (what are we at now, 65nm?) CPUs are more likely to suffer from quantum effects, but AFAIK there's circutry in there to compensate for that. Error checking.

A quantum computer is just a machine that uses the laws of quantum mechanics rather than the laws of classical mechanics to operate. The advantage is that some algorithms, when implemented on a quantum computer, are 2n instead of n^2. I never really understood this, maybe a better physicist will come along and explain it. Anyway, to build a quantum computer one needs two things:
- (a) You need some Quantum bits (qbits) to store data
- (b) You need to get those bits to interact with each other in some fashion

There are many approaches to building a quantum computer. One guy (Raymond Laflamme) has a bunch of different atoms that are different elements all in the same molecule, those interact with each other but he has only developed the ability to read / write to about 5 different qbits. I read about another guy on Slashdot here who made a giant array of qbits using atoms in a laser trap. That gets you a lot of qbits, but they don't interact at all. There are many approaches.

Anyway, the reason I think Dwave Systems is full of bullshit is that any approach thus far is good at (a) or (b), but not both. Someone who got a powerful quantum computer up and running would most assuredly win a Nobel Prize. Also, why the hell would he need to woo venture capital? I know I'm up in Canada, but I'm sure most governments are throwing scads and scads of research money at Quantum computing. Answer? Venture capitalists are more naive.

If there's anything I learned from here [randi.org] , it's that a lot of Con artists use buzzwords to try and justify their woo-woo science. "Quantum" is one of them.

Smart money on this guy being a fraud.

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

kfg (145172) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943656)

. . . the reason I think Dwave Systems is full of bullshit is that any approach thus far is good at (a) or (b), but not both.

You'd almost think that there was some sort of undetermanism at work or something.

KFG

Re:Woo Woo science (5, Funny)

Iwanowitch (993961) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943664)

any approach thus far is good at (a) or (b), but not both.
Ooh, Heisenberg-approaches!

Re:Woo Woo science (0)

adamofgreyskull (640712) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943906)

any approach thus far is good at (a) or (b), but not both.
Ooh, Heisenberg-approaches!
Or does he?...

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

gsn (989808) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943992)

No, no - if Heisenberg approcahes the real question is where is he? BTW mods I think that parent is "Funny" as opposed to "Informative" unless we must have sigma Funny sigma Informative >= hbar/2 in which case since hes marked informative no body can ever know how funny he is....

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

grrrgrrr (945173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943707)

Hey I think we are already using quantum computers. Computers that use the laws of classical physics to operate have to use vacuum tubes. Semiconductors are very much a product of the quantum mechanics. The effects of semiconductors where known before and used in crystal radios but where not really understood the same is true for for-example the photovoltaic effect .

Re:Woo Woo science (5, Insightful)

Valacosa (863657) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943796)

You're half right. I had forgotten about the quantum properties of transistors.

Though a transister does use Quantum Mechanics to function, it is a discrete unit (a "black box" if you will) with a preidctable outcome. A quantum computer, on the other hand, uses a property of QM known as "superposition of states". A qbit in a quantum computer isn't 0 or 1, but some combination of 0 and 1 at the same time. It's only when the qbit is "observed" (read) that it becomes a 0 or 1.

If we can get these qbits to interact with each other without reading them (or "collapsing the wavefunction", in quantum mechanics lingo) then we can have various superpositions of 0s and 1s interacting with each other within an algoritm. Essentially the algorithm run by the quantum computer is acting in parallel with itself. When we observe the qbits when the algoritm is finished, we see the desired result. I know that sounds like magic, but I've probably explained it poorly. I've explained it better in the past. [uwaterloo.ca]

Incidentially, someone who is uneducated (not stupid, mind you, just uneducated) may have difficulty distinguishing between the BS in the original article and the more scientifically accepted BS I've spouted. See? That's how these con artists are allowed to succeed!

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

grrrgrrr (945173) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943944)

So that is meant by a quantum computer . But i have to ask you a question to see if i really understand. For example when I think of finite state machines as a model for computers a quantum computer like is a direct implementation of a non-deterministic state machine?

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

jtheisen (893138) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944093)

Or a deterministic turing machine and a non-deterministic turing machine.

If someone in the know could answer this question this would be greatly appreciated.

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

cannonfodda (557893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943731)

I'm with you on this one. I think this is total pants.

For a start: "In a superconductor all of the "particles" that carry charge around can exist in the exact same state, so when you look at a whole lot of these particles (many trillions) it can be just like looking at only one (which is "very quantum mechanical")."

My quantum mechanics is pretty rusty but I think the exclusion principle still holds at low temperatures. I which case, this is complete rot.

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943781)

For fermions, yes. One point in models of (some) superconductors is a special pairing of electrons to form a boson-like structure. The common exclusion principle is just an idealized special case, not a general law for all wave functions. Ever heard of L.A.S.E.R.?

ACK (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943736)

As a physicist who had courses in Quantum Computation I had to vomit when I just read the Title Superconducting Quantum Computer.

There are only two Quantum Algorithms with applications in real live AFAIK Shor's factoring Algorithm to find the Prime Factors of a number in polynomial time, and a boosted search algorithm, which gives a \sqrt(O) speed boost. The largest number Shor's Algorithm could be used on is 15. And it won't be usefull before we reach 16 bit's or so (which we won't in my lifetime with any of the approaches discussed today). The larges stable aray of qubits is 8 AFAIK, and you cannot do anything with those so far everybody is just working on stbility and prooves of concept.

1) Hence there is no usefull quantum computer in existence. Anyone who want's to sell you one is a liar.

Superconductivity, is well known and not very hard to achieve. I can make pretty much any material superconducting if you just give me a liquid Helium 3/4 demixer. So once I have a working quantum computer, I can add some lead, empty a bottle of Liquid Helium over it, and claim, that I have a super conducting Quantum computer. To be fair it's often inherent in the design of a Quantum computer that it needs to be very cold. But it doesn't always need to be so. But what remains is

2) Saying a quantum computer is superconducting doesn't add any infomation about the usefullness of such a device.

So what could this headline mean:
Someone allows you to use his NMR (Nuclear Magnetic Resonance) device if you give him money.

(NMR is standard in todays chemistry labs, and very simple useless quantum algorithms (see "Deutsch algorithm") have been implemented with it.)

Where is the beef? Can an article still be kicked out at this stage?

Re:Woo Woo science (1)

Ruberik (935611) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944466)

Smart money on this guy being a fraud.

It's not so much that he's a fraud. My understanding is that D-Wave is really working on this stuff, but they're known for somewhat optimistic press releases. Realistically it doesn't seem very likely that this approach is going to have us factoring like mad any time soon (much less getting quadratic speedups on more mundane problems).

Quantum computing's Best candidate?? (1)

Magi77 (753373) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943641)

I was wondering which one is the best candidate for Quantum computing. -Metal (superconductor) based -Optical quantum computer

Slashdot need digg-like moderation system (-1, Offtopic)

S3D (745318) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943653)

User should be able to bury article like this.

The guy is a *tad* optimistic (2, Funny)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943697)

Seeing as nobody has been able to make even a 2-bit quantum adder, the guy is a bit optimistic that he will have a supercomputer in a year.

BTW all circuits on the lowest level are "quantum" circuits, so maybe he's just trying to pass off his Packard-Bell 66MHz PC as a quantum computer?

It just sounds a lot like a RSFQ chip. (4, Informative)

AWeishaupt (917501) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943721)

From what has been described on the blog and website, i'm not convinced that what they're working on is much more than simply a superconducting RSFQ - Rapid Single Flux Quantum - chip, which although can concievably run at a breakneck speed compared to todays Silicon CPU's, is not a Quantum Computer in the normal sense. This thing isn't going to run Shor's Algorithm. Also, i'm surprised to notice that there are people here who still consider QCs as science fiction - they're not. Quantum Computing has been practical in the lab since the 90's - and, for example, composite numbers have been factorised in polynomial time. The challenge faced by QCT research groups around the world at present is mainly building the things with a large number of qubits, and still maintaining successful operation. With regards to solid state devices such as the Kane QC model, one of the approaches being investigated involves building multiple small QCs and interconnecting them via conventional microelectronics - perhaps SETs, RSFQs, spintronics or maybe even plain old silicon microelectronics - to create a useful, many-qubit, computer.

Re:It just sounds a lot like a RSFQ chip. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944775)

Quantum Computing has been practical in the lab since the 90's - and, for example, composite numbers have been factorised in polynomial time.

How many qubits are we talking here? Last I heard which was within the last couple of years, the Shor algorithm had been used on the number 15, ie, manipulated four qubits of information. I also seem to recall that the log time search algorithm had been tried on seven qubits or so. These are fairly recent. Since the size of the problem is so small, I wouldn't consider QC to be "practical" even in the lab. But OTOH actually quantum computing has been demonstrated. It's not a fantasy.

Re:It just sounds a lot like a RSFQ chip. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944830)

I was pretty sure that was the case from the article, but it was a bit vague - it seems it's not a quantum computer, but a quantum mechanical classical computer. The difference is that data cannot be in a superposition of states, and thus quantum algorithms such as Shor's algorithm can't operate. It will not lead to factoring numbers in linear time, or anything else. If this was actually a quantum computer, this would be *much* bigger news.

However, experience with superconducting computing may help lead to a working quantum computer - so this isn't worthless. It's just advertising speak.

Carl Sagan Said it Best (2, Interesting)

deadline (14171) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943738)

I paraphrase:

"extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence"

Yet another under construction web page and half baked idea. I pity the investors. And remember what Feynman said (which is still true today):

"No one understands quantum mechanics"

Which does not keep us from using the results of a a highly successful theory, but just keep in mind, wave function computing is not going to be easy, but I believe it is possible. And I should know, I'm made of atoms.

Re:Carl Sagan Said it Best (1)

philipmather (864521) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944181)

> "No one understands quantum mechanics" Speaking as an Engineer I spend most of my days making things "I don't understand" work. It's not always necessary you know, I mean I've got a very good idea of how a SI engine works but I'd still be calling out the breakdown service if my Volvo packed up on the way to work. The other thing to consider is that some of the problems that a quantum computer would work on have an easily checkable answer. The travelling salesman problem might be tricky to verify, but if for instance the NSA had one a QC and some encrypted comms they wanted to break checking whether the private key your quantum computer has just generated from the public key is going to be trivial, it'll either decrypt to a bunch of gibberish or to a communication from the Chinese embassy saying their about to stop buying up you dollar debt mountain (that was joke, breath deeply yeah ;^) ). What have they got up to these days, maybe a dozen qubits did someone say? Say you built one at 24 qubits that only got all the way through it's calculation without collapsing it's wave one in ten times, I'm sure the lads at Langley would still want to "have a chat". I don't whether a 12 qubit QC is particularly feasible or reliable but I'm sure someone somewhere is willing to spend the money to find out and wouldn't be too upset to have something half reliable.

Do they know what they are talking about? (2, Interesting)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943745)

The linked article, and the company web site is very sparse on information. Is there any indication that this guy knows what he's talking about? I did find one 'fact' on their web site [dwavesys.com] that indicates that the answer may be no. Take a look at the last paragraph on the page:

Quantum computers can be used to get approximate solutions to large NP-complete optimization problems much more quickly than the best known methods running on any supercomputer.



I think this statement is incorrect [wikipedia.org] . My understanding concurs with what is written in the wiki article:


This dramatic advantage of quantum computers is currently known to exist for only those three problems: factoring, discrete logarithm, and quantum physics simulations. However, there is no proof that the advantage is real: an equally fast classical algorithm may still be discovered (though some consider this unlikely). There is one other problem where quantum computers have a smaller, though significant (quadratic) advantage. It is quantum database search, and can be solved by Grover's algorithm. In this case the advantage is provable. This establishes beyond doubt that (ideal) quantum computers are superior to classical computers.


and


BQP is suspected to be disjoint from NP-complete and a strict superset of P, but that is not known. Both integer factorization and discrete log are in BQP. Both of these problems are NP problems suspected to be outside BPP, and hence outside P. Both are suspected to not be NP-complete. There is a common misconception that quantum computers can solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time. That is not known to be true, and is generally suspected to be false.

what a load of crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943774)

This is utter nonsense. Either the company is a front for something else, or their public relations department needs to be executed at dawn. For example - a quote from the article:

"Whenever anyone says 'superconductor' just think 'really cold metal' "

This is just garbage. A superconductor does not have to be metallic (some of the best are actually ceramics) and cold metal does not necessarily have zero resistance.

it's hard :( (1)

snafu109 (852770) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943779)

I find the very notion of quantam computing so complex that just reading the article's title made my head explode. Luckily there was a quantam wormhole within my skull that reassembled my head and brain, with no side effects whatsoever!

I like stories.

Low power CPU vs enormous cooling costs?? (1)

slackaddict (950042) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943793)

FTA:

"Historically arguments for metal-based processors have been that (1) since they're made out of superconductors, they generate much less heat than conventional processors (true); (2) for some technical reasons you can operate at clock speeds up to about 100 GHz without alot of problems (true); so if you want a really fast, really low power processor, here's a way to do it."

Ok, sure you've got a low power CPU but what about the massive amounts of energy expended to keep it at absolute zero? This doesn't sound very practical to me. Maybe a physicist can shed some light on recent cooling advances that I'm not aware of...

nobium? Surely you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15943842)

Niobium.

A missing i, do you see?

Nobium on the other hand is a gift to those who like knob jokes.

The Anonymous Chemistry Spelling Nazi

QC Simulator Demo + little patch (1)

drkfdr (785982) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943892)

I came across some simulator... http://www.senko-corp.co.jp/qcs/ [senko-corp.co.jp] patched SetModifiedFlag (MFC) so you can simulate own circuits 00018030: 8B 31 (old and new value) 00018031: 44 C0 00018032: 24 90 00018033: 04 90 "Nag"screens removal 000011A0: 6A C3 00001470: 6A C3 Note that these patches still don't allow to save to a file but it's at least something.

Under the hood? (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 8 years ago | (#15943976)

The summary is waaaaay off base, as there are no "under the hood" details (except to identify a single construction material). Also no real claim of quantum computing is made.

Financial expert wanted (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944029)

This device won't work. I won't bother giving my reasons. Can someone tell me how I can convert this knowledge into some kind of bet on a market that will make me money? It seems I ought to be able to use this knowledge somehow.

You can't because..... (1)

citanon (579906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945353)

It's a private company.

Imagine... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944171)

an old linux overlord cluster of these in soviet russia! (YOU compute they!)

MIT Technology Review Article on DWave (3, Informative)

citanon (579906) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944200)

[technologyreview.com] http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx? id=14591&ch=infotech [technologyreview.com]

Computers have infiltrated nearly every field of business and science, and they keep getting faster. Nonetheless, researchers routinely encounter problems impossible for even the most powerful supercomputers to solve. The remedy could be quantum computers, which would use the fantastic properties of quantum mechanics to crack such problems in seconds rather than centuries. Since the 1980s, physicists in academic labs and at firms such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and NEC have pursued a variety of quantum computing approaches, but none seems likely to deliver a working machine in less than 10 years.

Company: D-Wave Systems

Headquarters: Vancouver, British Columbia

Amount invested: $22 million Canadian (about $17.5 million U.S.)

Lead investor: Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Key founders: Geordie Rose, Alexandre Zagoskin, Bob Wiens, Haig Farris

Technology: Quantum computers

Vancouver startup D-Wave Systems, however, aims to build a quantum computer within three years. It won't be a fully functional quantum computer of the sort long envisioned; but D-Wave is on track to produce a special-purpose, "noisy" piece of quantum hardware that could solve many of the physical-simulation problems that stump today's computers, says David Meyer, a mathematician working on quantum algorithms at the University of California, San Diego.

The difference between D-Wave's system and other quantum computer designs is the particular properties of quantum mechanics that they exploit. Other systems rely on a property called entanglement, which says that any two particles that have interacted in the past, even if now spatially separated, may still influence each other's states. But that interdependence is easily disrupted by the particles' interactions with their environment. In contrast, D-Wave's design takes advantage of the far more robust property of quantum physics known as quantum tunneling, which allows particles to "magically" hop from one location to another.

Incorporated in April 1999, D-Wave originated as a series of conversations among students and lecturers at the University of British Columbia. Over the years, it has amassed intellectual property and narrowed its focus, while attracting almost $18 million in funding, initially from angel investors and more recently from the Canadian and German governments, and from venture capital firms. The company plans to complete a prototype device by the end of 2006; a version capable of solving commercial problems could be ready by 2008, says president and CEO Geordie Rose.

The aggressiveness of D-Wave's timetable is made possible by the simplicity of its device's design: an analog chip made of low-temperature superconductors. The chip must be cooled to -269 C with liquid helium, but it doesn't require the delicate state-of-the-art lasers, vacuum pumps, and other exotic machinery that other quantum computers need.

The design is also amenable to the lithography techniques used to make standard computer chips, further simplifying fabrication. D-Wave patterns an array of loops of low-temperature superconductors such as aluminum and niobium onto a chip. When electricity flows through them, the loops act like tiny magnets. Two refrigerator magnets will naturally flip so that they stick together, minimizing the energy between them. The loops in D-Wave's chip behave similarly, "flipping" the direction of current flow from clockwise to counterclockwise to minimize the magnetic flux between them. Depending on the problem it's meant to tackle, the chip is programmed so that current flows through each loop in a particular direction. The loops then spontaneously flip until they reach a stable energy state, which represents the solution to the problem.

D-Wave's first computer won't be able to accomplish the most widely touted payoff of quantum computing: factoring the extremely large numbers at the heart of modern cryptographic systems exponentially faster than any known computer. It will, however, be ideally suited to solving problems like the infamous traveling-salesman problem, in which a salesman searches for the optimal route among cities. As their complexity grows, such problems quickly become intractable for traditional computers because they require investigating every possible answer. In searching for its own optimal energy state, D-Wave's chip performs exactly this type of calculation automatically, in seconds. Applications -- some worth billions of dollars -- include optimizing such varied items as truck routes, financial portfolios, and even the layouts of traditional computer chips. D-Wave collaborator Oliver Downs says D-Wave's chip should also excel at modeling other quantum systems, such as the molecular interactions that characterize nanomaterials or drugs.

Although more robust than typical quantum computers, D-Wave's systems will still be delicate. So the firm intends to sell solutions rather than computers, says Rose. A customer will run a program to solve a given problem on its own computers. When the program encounters the "unsolvable" part of the problem, it will remotely call D-Wave's computer to run a subroutine. "For many specialized applications, such dedicated hardware has the potential to be superior to even the most clever software running on a general-purpose computer," says UCSD's Meyer.

And while many approaches to quantum computing have hit a wall, butting up against the limits of lasers and other equipment, Downs believes that D-Wave's early experimental results indicate that its chip is right on schedule. Although Meyer says he can't assess whether the company will meet its self-imposed deadlines, he believes it will succeed in building a machine that can solve exactly the sorts of problems it envisions. "They've employed both very good experimentalists and some pretty serious theory people," he says. "That's certainly the way to approach this kind of problem to make it happen in nonacademic amounts of time."

Company:
D-Wave Systems

Headquarters:
Vancouver, British Columbia

Amount invested:
$22 million Canadian (about $17.5 million U.S.)

Lead investor:
Draper Fisher Jurvetson

Key founders:
Geordie Rose, Alexandre Zagoskin, Bob Wiens, Haig Farris

Technology:
Quantum computers

typo (1)

torvince (992892) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944278)

''It is based on nobium superconducting 'circuits of atoms'''

I dont know what nobium is, i hoped it was based on niobium ...

That kind of hood must be very small (1)

eille-la (600064) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944327)

It is all in the title

I guess Josephson junctions and/or vaporware (2, Informative)

infolib (618234) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944391)

This smells vaguely like vaporware. At least none of the speakers at this years or last years Spin and Qubit conference [isis.ku.dk] seemed nearly as optimistic as these guys, even though there were several top notch people (and last year the focus was VERY much quantum computing).

In any case, the technology that comes to mind when I hear "very cold superconducting niobium quantum computer" is Josephson junctions [wikipedia.org] . There's an article on it here [arxiv.org] .

What people does DWave have? What have they published previously?

frist stOp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944617)

fun to be again. what provides the locating #GNAA, Lay down paper for the project. PROGREES. IN 1992, 3 5imple steps! cycle; take a

Quantum computers...eh (2, Funny)

InterestingX (930362) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944849)

When they come up with a quantum torpedo, I'll listen...

how cool is this (1)

whitman's ghost (992226) | more than 8 years ago | (#15944900)

It sounds like this process would be a lot easier to create the quantum computing effect and substain it. Given the amazing promises that quantum computers offer, I can't help but get exicted. I hope that they continue to deliver on their promises. The future is so exicting.

That is not a quantum computer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15944905)

If you're not a moron, you can see that it isn't really a quantum computer at all. Just fake advertisements. Talk to any professor- Quantum computing MAY be possible in around 200 years or so.

I would be surprised it they manage.... (2, Informative)

drolli (522659) | more than 8 years ago | (#15945100)

to build a working Quantum Computer until 2007. It would be a nice surprise, actually....

As a small disclaimer: I work in QC field. There are a few approaches to building a superconducting quantum computer, but there are not many experiments coupling even two Qubits. One paper discussing one of the few experiments which worked is:

http://scholar.google.com/scholar?q=author:%22Pash kin%22%20intitle:%22Quantum%20oscillations%20in%20 two%20coupled%20charge%20qubits%22%20&hl=de&hs=oKY &lr=&safe=off&client=firefox&rls=org.mozilla:en-US :unofficial&oi=scholarr [google.com]

But there are severe problems with superconducting qubits, namely that the quality of the insulators used in standard processes are not good enough for building a working QC right now.
(http://eiffel.ps.uci.edu/cyu/publications/qubit.p df#search=%22mooji%20qubit%22,
http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.95.210 503 [aps.org] )

It's not that these fundamental problems could not be adressed by developing better insulators or using other approaches
(http://www.solid.phys.ethz.ch/wallraff/content/sc ience/QuantumComp.html, http://link.aps.org/doi/10.1103/PhysRevLett.95.210 503 [aps.org] ), but it is unlikely that any quantum computer will provide cheaper computing power for NP-hard problems than the cell processor until quite a while from now. In my personal opinion and also the opinion of some other people which i talked to is that the timescale for that is something like 10-15years of intense research.

But indeed, superconductors are one of the best candidates (others: atom traps etc.).

The role of D-Wave is that they are trying to push the development of superconducting QC to something which can be sold or where at least the patents can be sold. So it is natural (and probably good) that the external represantation on what they got is optimistic. But maybe it is important to point out to the slashdot readers that the blog of the CEO of a company is for sure an optimistic assumption what the future may hold and not the full criticism imposed by a peer-review in a scientific journal........

Another thing which makes it difficult to assess what they got is that D-Wave is usually pretty uninformative about what their specific plans are. Thats understandable because they spend a lot of money (for a company) into something where they will get out patents which would be weakened by prior art if they talk to loud.
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