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NASA says it had a hand in creating D-Wave's quantum computer

During mid-February, Canadian firm D-Wave Systems unveiled and demonstrated what it calls “the world's first commercially viable quantum computer.” The demonstration of the technology was held at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, but the actual hardware remained in Burnaby, BC.

The via-satellite demonstration, coupled with the lack of ivory tower support from academia, scientists quickly expressed their skepticism about D-Wave's claims. Much skepticism of the Canadian company’s claims may soon be washed away, as the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration confirmed last week that it had a hand in building a special chip used in D-Wave’s demonstration, according to IDG News Service.

Specifically, the relationship between D-Wave and NASA is one of designer and manufacturer. D-Wave designed the quantum-capable chips and contracted NASA to build them. Requests for aid in building supercomputers are nothing out of the ordinary for NASA’s Microdevices Laboratory, a unit of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which has experience dealing with sub-micrometer dimensions and ultra-low temperatures in quantum computing.

“There has been activity in MDL in quantum technology, including quantum computing, for around 10 years,” said Alan Kleinsasser, principal investigator in the quantum chip program at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “Superconducting quantum computing technology requires devices and ultra-low [millikelvin] temperatures that are also required in much of our sensor work. A couple of years ago, D-Wave recognized that JPL is capable of producing the chips it wished to design. There is no [private] industry that can deliver such superconducting devices. So, we worked out a collaboration that produced the chips that D-Wave is currently using.”

To make the technology commercially applicable, D-Wave used the processes and infrastructure associated with the semiconductor industry. The D-Wave computer, dubbed Orion, is based on a silicon chip containing 16 quantum bits, or “qubits,” which are capable of retaining both binary values of zero and one. The qubits mimic each others’ values allowing for an amplification of their computational power. D-Wave says that its system is scalable by adding multiples of qubits. The company expects to have 32-qubit systems by the end of this year, and as many as 1024-qubit systems by the end of 2008.

“You could characterize our announcement as being met with enthusiasm from industry and skepticism from academia,” D-Wave CEO Herb Martin said, adding that the demonstration was a proof-of-concept aimed at potential business partners and clients. “Businesses aren't too fascinated about the details of quantum mechanics, but academics have their own axes to grind. I can assure you that our VCs look at us a lot closer than the government looks at the academics who win research grants.”



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RE: that's really cool.
By Laitainion on 3/13/2007 8:08:20 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
I personally have nothing to hide in my email so if they wanna read it, I don't really care. The government has better things to do than read your email talking to your friends.


I think that's a little naive, everyone has a private life and the government (in this example) respecting that fact is one of the big differences between a democracy and a dictatorship. As George Orwell demonstrated in 1984 all too well (an excellent book, if you haven't read it).


RE: that's really cool.
By Frazzle on 3/13/2007 8:43:04 AM , Rating: 3
If you think that the government can't look into your e-mails and other electronic, encrypted forms of communications anytime they desire already without a quantum computer then the naivety is a little more widespread than you might imagine.

btw, why is it that the paranoid, anti-government rant comments always seem to get higher ratings on this site? Is the internet really THAT infested with the nihilist, anti-social types?


RE: that's really cool.
By dever on 3/13/2007 1:18:59 PM , Rating: 4
I would venture to say there is less nievity among those who watch carefully to preserve freedoms that others have so diligently strived for. Also, in my experience, these are typically not nihilistic individuals. But, rather, individuals who have a strong sense of justice and purpose.


RE: that's really cool.
By Yawgm0th on 3/13/2007 8:09:09 PM , Rating: 4
If you think the government can look at email or any electronic communication at any time without a quantum computer, you're obviously completely ignorant to technical aspects of the topic at hand, and probably shouldn't be posting.


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