Will 2019 be the year when quantum computers show they have the right stuff? Google says so – one of the company’s labs, in Santa Barbara, California, has promised that its state-of-the-art quantum chip will be the first to perform calculations beyond even the best existing supercomputers.
In a stark reminder of the power of quantum computing, in May, two theoretical computer scientists solved a 25-year-old conjecture.
A recent report by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine stressed the technical hurdles that lie in the way of building practically useful quantum computers.
Some in the field argue that these uses of classical computing are actually successes for quantum computing, because they show how the quantum way of thinking can have an impact, even before quantum computers exist.
Specialists also point to problems for which quantum computers have long been known to have a proven advantage, such as web searches.
In other cases – such as factoring large integers into primes or simulating the electronic properties of materials – scientists think that quantum computers are still likely to have an advantage, although this has not yet been demonstrated mathematically.
Quantum computers are a not-yet-existent technology in search of problems to solve.
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