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The science community takes a leery stance at D-Wave's quantum computer

Canadian company D-Wave Systems demonstrated earlier this week what it claims is the first commercial quantum computer, but scientists from the computing community are skeptical of D-Wave’s claims.

Specifically, the main criticism of D-Wave’s claims is that the company has yet to submit its findings for peer review—a common practice amongst the science community to gain acceptance of one’s work. "Until we see more actual measurements, it's hard to know whether they succeeded or not," said Phil Kuekes, a computer architect in the Quantum Science Research Group at Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP Labs.

Although D-Wave’s origins are closely tied to the University of British Columbia, it is now a privately held company that may find it in its best interests to keep the details of the Orion quantum computer within the walls of its headquarters. In fact, the first public demonstration of the Orion was to an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., but the actual computer hardware remained at its home base in Canada. The demonstration took place via a live video feed.

Lieven Vandersypen, an associate professor at Delft University, offered his thoughts on D-Wave’s announcement: “First, it's quite remarkable that they have persuaded investors to put serious money in their enterprise at such an early stage,” he said, referring to the US$14 million D-Wave raised May 2006. “It sounds like they have a clear vision of where quantum computing is going, and how to approach it. Whether it is realistic, time will tell.”

The lack of scientific publication was also something Vandersypen pointed to, saying, “Until now, D-Wave hasn't published any major advances or breakthroughs in the scientific literature. With respect to their announcement, there is little detailed information available to support, and thus judge, the validity of the claims (as would be the case in a scientific publication).”

To further complicate matters, an examination into the technical details of Orion reveals that it is not a true quantum computer in the traditional sense of the term. D-Wave Chief Executive Herb Martin said that the Orion is not a true quantum computer, but rather a special-purpose machine that uses quantum mechanics to solve problems.

"Users don't care about quantum computing—users care about application acceleration. That's our thrust," Martin said to the Associated Press. "A general purpose quantum computer is a waste of time. You could spend hundreds of billions of dollars on it" and not create a working computer.

D-Wave detailed in its original announcement that it is combining design ideas from silicon computing and applying them to quantum computing. While it may not be a true quantum computer, Martin said that the evidence the company has indicates that the device is performing quantum computations.

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Lack of Detailed Specs
By mkruer on 2/16/2007 2:59:34 PM , Rating: 3
The lack of detailed specifics is not a big surprise. The most likely culprit is obtaining patents on everything relating to the device. Once that happens we should start seeing more and more details reviled. In the meantime the only thing we should expect is some peer reviewed testing, demonstrating the speed at which the device is able to process complex problems.

RE: Lack of Detailed Specs
By TheDoc9 on 2/16/2007 3:14:19 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, who knows if it works or not. But what we do know that if it does and they sent it off to be 'peer reviewed' - it would get stolen in a heartbeat.

Plus, these rocket scientists are often very jealous and slow to change by nature, it's unlikely that short of watching the quantum calculations take place through a microscope they would be convinced of anything.

RE: Lack of Detailed Specs
By johnsonx on 2/16/2007 4:03:11 PM , Rating: 4
But if they watch, won't that foul up the computations?

That poor kitty is tired of being undefined all the time!

well, ok, I supposed whether or not the cat is tired of it all is undefined as well....

RE: Lack of Detailed Specs
By dluther on 2/16/2007 6:45:29 PM , Rating: 2
But if they watch, won't that foul up the computations?

Absolutely priceless!

The reference to Schroedinger's cat was funny, but the subtlety here was just spot on.

RE: Lack of Detailed Specs
By johnsonx on 2/17/2007 10:43:38 AM , Rating: 3
Thank you sir.

Apparently you're the only one who got it though, as I haven't been modded up at all (or down for that matter). Quantum humor is a bit strange for most people to be charmed by I guess, so while it's on the top of my list it doesn't even make the bottom of other's lists.

RE: Lack of Detailed Specs
By Jason H on 2/20/2007 3:25:49 PM , Rating: 2
What a quarky sense of humor!

"There is a single light of science, and to brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -- Isaac Asimov
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