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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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RE: not a true Quantum comp
By vdig on 2/16/2007 3:31:58 PM , Rating: 1
The question that most people will have, regardless of whether this is a true quantum computer or not, is actually whether this computer is anywhere near as powerful as they claim it is, and if so, does it translate into real world boosts. A computer, by any other name, is still a computer, and if it can utterly wipe the floor with current computers, many of us would want this quantum computer/QMCPU/BFG system.

Do we really have to have a need for speed before we can have a faster computer? I don't think so. Less time spent waiting for computers to compute is more time to be productive.

Then again, computers are only as fast as the bottlenecks of the system allows. Primitive quantum computers have to have a bottleneck somewhere... or is that just applicable to the contemporary computer model?

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By FrankM on 2/16/2007 3:53:28 PM , Rating: 3
You have no clue what you are talking about, right?

1.) This is a very long way from making it to households. This is an experimental device.
2.) They have a much different use. They can solve some things much more easily and faster than ordinary supercomputers.

This is something entirely new and potentially revolutionary. Or do you still drive a steam-engine car?

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By Oregonian2 on 2/16/2007 4:27:08 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly, I betcha some people are reading the article and wonder if it'll lead to them getting faster frame rates on games for their future PCs. Your points are spot-on.

But as to this article's main points, a commercial concern's target wouldn't be a purist's quantum computer, doesn't seem a lot of point in that whereas the only possible customers would be quantum computer research facilities -- and they wouldn't buy it because they're working on their own stuff that does things their own way.

If it actually can solve the super-hard problems and do it with squirrels (humanly treated) in a barrel, then that's great!

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By fic2 on 2/16/07, Rating: -1
RE: not a true Quantum comp
By angryhippy on 2/16/2007 4:16:41 PM , Rating: 2
Then again, computers are only as fast as the bottlenecks of the system allows. Primitive quantum computers have to have a bottleneck somewhere... or is that just applicable to the contemporary computer model?

I imagine it would be limited by how fast you could feed it data. Storage data transfer rates is a huge bottleneck in regular computers. Even state of the art RAM must be a major bottleneck for a quantum I would think. Still it's exciting to see progress in quantum computers, I hope it's not all hype.

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By jmunjr on 2/16/2007 6:00:52 PM , Rating: 2
I imagine these machines won't need a lot of data to do great things. Perhaps they would be used to do some serious mathematical calculations, say like astronomical measurements, RNA/Folding stuff, etc. Quantum computing would be a huge boost over traditional computing, and I think if and when they become mainstream in science research we will see some revolutionary changes in our understanding of the universe.

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By melgross on 2/17/2007 1:08:07 AM , Rating: 2
They haven't claimed that this is a powertful machine. Quite the opposite. It only uses 16 Q-Bits. They did say that by the end of 2008 they will have a machine using 1,000 Q-Bits. That would be *fairly* powerful, but not very.

RE: not a true Quantum comp
By tleeds on 2/17/2007 9:57:47 AM , Rating: 2
1000 qubits would be awsomely powerful. Due to the nature of quantum computing and entanglement, the number of solutions that can be computed at once scales exponentially not linearly. This current 16 bit computer can compute 2^16 possibilities at once, thus 65,536 possible outcomes at the same time. A future 1024 bit computer would compute 2^1024 possibilities. That's an amazingly huge number of possible combinations all being computed at once. It's this nature of quantum computers to solve np-complete problems with ease that makes them attractive. They can solve exponential problems in linear time.

"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007
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