On 3/22/2013 1:22 PM, John Clark wrote:
> The following article about Quantum Computers was on page one of the
> business section of today's New York Times:
> VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Our digital age is all about bits, those
> precise ones and zeros that are the stuff of modern computer code. But
> a powerful new type of computer that is about to be commercially
> deployed by a major American military contractor is taking computing
> into the strange, subatomic realm of quantum mechanics. In that
> infinitesimal neighborhood, common sense logic no longer seems to
> apply. A one can be a one, or it can be a one and a zero and
> everything in between — all at the same time.
> It sounds preposterous, particularly to those familiar with the yes/no
> world of conventional computing. But academic researchers and
> scientists at companies like Microsoft, I.B.M. and Hewlett-Packard
> have been working to develop quantum computers.
> Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a
> computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is
> confident enough in the technology to upgrade it to commercial scale,
> becoming the first company to use quantum computing as part of its
> Skeptics say that D-Wave has yet to prove to outside scientists that
> it has solved the myriad challenges involved in quantum computation.
> But if it performs as Lockheed and D-Wave expect, the design could be
> used to supercharge even the most powerful systems, solving some
> science and business problems millions of times faster than can be
> done today.
> Ray Johnson, Lockheed’s chief technical officer, said his company
> would use the quantum computer to create and test complex radar, space
> and aircraft systems. It could be possible, for example, to tell
> instantly how the millions of lines of software running a network of
> satellites would react to a solar burst or a pulse from a nuclear
> explosion — something that can now take weeks, if ever, to
> “This is a revolution not unlike the early days of computing,” he
> said. “It is a transformation in the way computers are thought about.”
> Many others could find applications for D-Wave’s computers. Cancer
> researchers see a potential to move rapidly through vast amounts of
> genetic data. The technology could also be used to determine the
> behavior of proteins in the human genome, a bigger and tougher problem
> than sequencing the genome. Researchers at Google have worked with
> D-Wave on using quantum computers to recognize cars and landmarks, a
> critical step in managing self-driving vehicles.
> Quantum computing is so much faster than traditional computing because
> of the unusual properties of particles at the smallest level. Instead
> of the precision of ones and zeros that have been used to represent
> data since the earliest days of computers, quantum computing relies on
> the fact that subatomic particles inhabit a range of states. Different
> relationships among the particles may coexist, as well. Those probable
> states can be narrowed to determine an optimal outcome among a
> near-infinitude of possibilities, which allows certain types of
> problems to be solved rapidly.
> D-Wave, a 12-year-old company based in Vancouver, has received
> investments from Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, which operates
> one of the world’s largest computer systems, as well as from the
> investment bank Goldman Sachs and from In-Q-Tel, an investment firm
> with close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency and other
> government agencies.
> “What we’re doing is a parallel development to the kind of computing
> we’ve had for the past 70 years,” said Vern Brownell, D-Wave’s chief
> Mr. Brownell, who joined D-Wave in 2009, was until 2000 the chief
> technical officer at Goldman Sachs. “In those days, we had 50,000
> servers just doing simulations” to figure out trading strategies, he
> said. “I’m sure there is a lot more than that now, but we’ll be able
> to do that with one machine, for far less money.”
> D-Wave, and the broader vision of quantum-supercharged computing, is
> not without its critics. Much of the criticism stems from D-Wave’s own
> claims in 2007, later withdrawn, that it would produce a commercial
> quantum computer within a year.
> There’s no reason quantum computing shouldn’t be possible, but people
> talked about heavier-than-air flight for a long time before the Wright
> brothers solved the problem,” said Scott Aaronson, a professor of
> computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. D-Wave,
> he said, “has said things in the past that were just ridiculous,
> things that give you very little confidence.”
> But others say people working in quantum computing are generally
> optimistic about breakthroughs to come. Quantum researchers “are
> taking a step out of the theoretical domain and into the applied,”
> said Peter Lee, the head of Microsoft’s research arm, which has a team
> in Santa Barbara, Calif., pursuing its own quantum work. “There is a
> sense among top researchers that we’re all in a race.”
> If Microsoft’s work pans out, he said, the millions of possible
> combinations of the proteins in a human gene could be worked out
> “fairly easily.”
> Quantum computing has been a goal of researchers for more than three
> decades, but it has proved remarkably difficult to achieve. The idea
> has been to exploit a property of matter in a quantum state known as
> superposition, which makes it possible for the basic elements of a
> quantum computer, known as qubits, to hold a vast array of values
> There are a variety of ways scientists create the conditions needed to
> achieve superposition as well as a second quantum state known as
> entanglement, which are both necessary for quantum computing.
> Researchers have suspended ions in magnetic fields, trapped photons or
> manipulated phosphorus atoms in silicon.The D-Wave computer that
> Lockheed has bought uses a different mathematical approach than
> competing efforts. In the D-Wave system, a quantum computing
> processor, made from a lattice of tiny superconducting wires, is
> chilled close to absolute zero. It is then programmed by loading a set
> of mathematical equations into the lattice.
> The processor then moves through a near-infinity of possibilities to
> determine the lowest energy required to form those relationships. That
> state, seen as the optimal outcome, is the answer.
> The approach, which is known as adiabatic quantum computing, has been
> shown to have promise in applications like calculating protein
> folding, and D-Wave’s designers said it could potentially be used to
> evaluate complicated financial strategies or vast logistics problems.
> However, the company’s scientists have not yet published scientific
> data showing that the system computes faster than today’s conventional
> binary computers. While similar subatomic properties are used by
> plants to turn sunlight into photosynthetic energy in a few
> million-billionths of a second, critics of D-Wave’s method say it is
> not quantum computing at all, but a form of standard thermal behavior.
> John Markoff contributed reporting from San Francisco.
This is old news. D-Wave computers have been operational for ECHELON
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ECHELON> datacenters for quite some time now.
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