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Quantum Computing Advance Begins New Era, IBM Says

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A model of the interior of a quantum computer at the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

By speeding up computation, quantum computers could potentially solve big, complex problems in fields like chemistry and materials science that are out of reach today.

Credit: James Estrin/The New York Times

Quantum computers today are small in computational scope — the chip inside your smartphone contains billions of transistors while the most powerful quantum computer contains a few hundred of the quantum equivalent of a transistor. They are also unreliable. If you run the same calculation over and over, they will most likely churn out different answers each time.

But with their intrinsic ability to consider many possibilities at once, quantum computers do not have to be very large to tackle certain prickly problems of computation, and on Wednesday, IBM researchers announced that they had devised a method to manage the unreliability in a way that would lead to reliable, useful answers.

"What IBM showed here is really an amazingly important step in that direction of making progress towards serious quantum algorithmic design," said Dorit Aharonov, a professor of computer science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was not involved with the research.

While researchers at Google in 2019 claimed that they had achieved "quantum supremacy" — a task performed much more quickly on a quantum computer than a conventional one — IBM's researchers say they have achieved something new and more useful, albeit more modestly named.

From The New York Times
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