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D-Wave closer to conventional computer

by on17 July 2018

Quantum effect getting better

D-Wave's general purpose computer that relies on quantum mechanical effects to perform calculations is finally reaching the stage where it can do something useful.

For those who came in late, D-Wave has managed to scale to more than 2,000 addressable bits using calculations which resemble quantum computers. However, it has not clearly demonstrated performance that can outpace even traditional computing hardware.

According to Science, D-Wave has come out with a research paper that suggests that the system can do interesting things even in its current state.

The company's researchers have set it loose modelling a quantum system that closely resembles the bits used in the hardware itself, allowing them to examine quantum phase transitions. While this still isn't cutting-edge performance, it does allow researchers full control over the physical parameters of a relevant quantum system as it undergoes phase changes.

Richard Harris, a D-Wave scientist who was the lead author on the research paper said that the method involves a "transverse-field Ising model" - it's a cubic arrangement of magnets that can flip. If these magnets are ordered such that they alternate orientations as you move in any of the three dimensions, an anti-ferromagnet is formed. But it's also possible to have configurations in which the orientations are disordered, forming what's called a "spin glass" (magnetic properties emerge from the spin of particles). While spin glasses are disordered, they do have well-defined energies, including a low-energy state.

While the individual magnetic bits in a D-wave system are largely in a single plane, it's possible to control the connections among them so that the system accurately simulates the behaviour of a three-dimensional lattice. On the current generation of systems, the largest lattice that will fit in the processor is one that's a cube with eight magnets on a side.

However this is basically what you could do during the 1990s and they are a decade away from being able to play Quake.

Last modified on 17 July 2018
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