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Hype around Quantum Computing Recedes over Lack of Practical Uses

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Working on a quantum computer.

Many companies are racing to prove that today’s quantum computers can perform tasks better than ‘classical’ machines.

Credit: Adrien Nowak/Hans Lucas/Reuters

Are today's rudimentary quantum computers already on the verge of significant feats beyond the reach of traditional computers? Or have their capabilities been exaggerated, as practical uses for the technology recede into the future?

These questions have been thrown into sharp relief in recent days by a claim from a group of Chinese researchers to have come up with a way to break the RSA encryption that underpins much of today's online communications.

The likelihood that quantum computers would be able to crack online encryption was widely believed a danger that could lie a decade or more in the future. But the 24 researchers, from a number of China's top universities and government-backed laboratories, said their research showed it could be possible using quantum technology that is already available.

The quantum bits, or qubits, used in today's machines are highly unstable and only hold their quantum states for extremely short periods, creating "noise". As a result, "errors accumulate in the computer and after around 100 operations there are so many errors the computation fails," said Steve Brierley, CEO of quantum software company Riverlane.

From Financial Times
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