back to article Australian boffins say Quantum Pentiums are on the horizon

Australian boffins have overcome one of quantum computing's big problems by building a gate comprised of two qubits in silicon, using techniques very similar to those used to manufacture whatever device you're using to read this story. Building a quantum logic gate in silicon is a big deal because hitherto it's only been …

  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Noooo... how long must this go on?

    Really, El Reg.

    In a conventional computer, the presence or absence of an electron indicates a one or a zero. Quantum computers store information in the spin of an electron which, thanks to the weirdness of the world at quantum scale, can be in several states at once. A single electron in a quantum computer can therefore be a zero and a one at the same time, which creates the potential for parallel processing inside a chip and therefore for faster computation.

    Reformulate:

    In a classical computer, bit states can be encoded by the presence or absence of electric charge. In quantum computers, qubit states can be encoded by the spin state of single electrons which, quantum mechanics tells us, can be in a superposition of states 0 and 1 akin to the superposition of an à priori unknown classical bit in classical probability, albeit here one must use complex numbers to express the "quantum probability". Interesting for computation are arrays of N entangled qubits, which express a complex probability distribution in a 2^N large space, but then one still has to manipulate this qubit vector using quantum gates to yield the computation of interest, a feat that is still a bit in the future.

    1. frank ly

      Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

      "In a conventional computer, the presence or absence of an electron indicates a one or a zero."

      Thats the presence or absence of a large number of electrons gathered at a single storage location, (where they are sensed due to their effects on the electrical characteristics of that location).

    2. Esme

      Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

      @ Destroy All Monsters - thank you. However, I'm in need of the Ladybird Big Book on Quantum Computing for kiddywinks, because even though I understand the notion of quantum superposition in general, I completely fail to understand how on earth we can make use of it to compute anything. If you can point me to something that describes how starting at ignoramus level,'twould be much appreciated. But if there isn;t anything of the sort, I'll be the one just standing in the corner oohing and ahhing at the red, no green, no red with a greeny tinge? blinkenlights... :-}

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

        However, I'm in need of the Ladybird Big Book on Quantum Computing for kiddywinks

        Let's just call it a quantum leap forward in computing :).

        I can't get my head around this either, because it gets weirder the closer you look at this. As it is possible to have two whatsits act in sync, would that mean that every computer leaving the factory can be spied upon forever? And how does that sync work, because observation changes state so looking at Schrödingers cat would make your local cloned cat acquire the same state.

        I suspect that many in that branch of science must be raving alcoholics...

        (joking aside, I will indeed have to look for a beginners book on this..)

        1. Def Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

          Let's just call it a quantum leap forward in computing :).

          Oh boy...

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

        If you can point me to something that describes how starting at ignoramus level,'twould be much appreciated.

        With pleasure. I have found that the easiest way to start (though it does need some perserverance) is Scott Aaronson's "Quantum Computing Since Democritus" (and in a lesser way the lecture notes). This may not be what you are looking for because he's only indirectly talking about the algorithms.

        "The computation" is actually applied linear algebra, continuous or discrete, in a complex vector space (although this may not be best representation or even an adequate one, work is still needed), where at the end you have to probabilistically select a single element of the vector you are massaging. I confusingly feel that this means nature works as a constraint solver, not as a clockwork universe with probability bolted on, but that's just my view, sure ain't good enough to make this precise.

        1. Esme

          Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

          @Destroy All Monsters - thank you, much appreciated! (goes off to look at said material...)

          1. Esme

            Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

            @Destroy All Monsters - many, many thanks for those links, that's some of the most wonderful reading I've ever come across. I don't pretend to understand all of it, but I'm grateful for those bits I can. (like lecture 9).

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

          This may not be what you are looking for because he's only indirectly talking about the algorithms.

          For those who want a follow-up that describes the actual algorithms, there are a number of good introductions online, such as this one for Grover's Algorithm. Note, though, that even simplified explanations are going to require some level of comfort with complex numbers, linear algebra, etc.

          (Many years ago I ran across an explanation of Grover's Algorithm that gave a decent sense of how it worked without really describing the mathematics at all, but a quick search didn't find it. And without the math it may mislead readers anyway.)

    3. harry1867

      Re: Noooo... how long must this go on?

      Thank you DAM: That one electron was a howler by a reporter pretending to know what he was talking about. Happens all too often. The Qubit elaboration was worth reading comments for!

  2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Joke

    So a quantum breakthrough

    is a superposition of success and failure

    Until observed consciously, of course!

    More seriously: well done to the Ozzy boffins!

    1. tony2heads

      Re: So a quantum breakthrough

      Yes, and I am in two minds about this.

      1. HonestAbe

        Re: So a quantum breakthrough

        @tony2heads: "Yes, and I am of two minds about this."

        ... and according to Everett and Deutsch, you really are.

    2. g e

      Re: So a quantum breakthrough

      Hope NSW has a company they own to patent this quick-smart

      1. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Re: So a quantum breakthrough

        already patented.

    3. breakfast

      Re: So a quantum breakthrough

      Quantum computing is approaching fast, but we don't know where it is.

      Or we do know where it is, but we don't know whether or not it is approaching fast.

      1. The Dude

        Re: So a quantum breakthrough

        obviously it is approaching... and receding, at the same time.

  3. richard?

    "been able to build cubits “using standard lithographic techniques.”"

    The last time I checked lithography is down to about 14nm - reversing the trend, a 40cm cubit would have been the process size about a hundred years ago ;-)

    1. Lorin Thwaits
      Happy

      As with some other things in life, with this it's not the size that matters. (OK with those other things perhaps size actually does matter a bit!)

      Anyway, there's huge difference between doping for N and P channel gates vs creating a qubit! And size of lithography doesn't play into that.

  4. adnim
    Joke

    I would guess

    an array of boxed cats is to just big.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: I would guess

      They'd get rid of the boxed mice http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/10/04/mysterious_brown_spots/

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: I would guess

      This does explain the cubit qubit, as noted by other commentators. The cat needs room to stretch unless and until it collapses to the dead state.

  5. TeeCee Gold badge
    Coat

    "Quantum Pentium"

    Presumably the idea here is to improve on the original by providing multiple answers to any floating point calculation, one of which is correct.

    1. Graham Marsden
      Coat

      Re: "Quantum Pentium"

      You're both right and wrong about that...

  6. Lee D Silver badge

    Nobody else noticed that "cubit" is not "qubit"? Did you dictate the article or did you use a spell-checker that only knows about ancient units of measurement?

    1. PNGuinn
      Boffin

      qubit, schmubit

      We need some ancient quantum elReg units NOW!

  7. PNGuinn
    Joke

    Quantum Pentium

    I'm sure there's some prior art for this. Didn't Intel do something similar with the early Pentium's maths bits?

    How many Intel engineers does it take to change a lightbulb. Etc etc.

  8. hatti

    Introducing

    The Heisenberg Pentium 20

    It's a bloody fast machine but you're never sure where it is

  9. Block

    Pentium?

    I don't really understand why a trademark of intel is in this story.

    1. Absentia
      Holmes

      Re: Pentium?

      Probably because it is the most recognizable name for a consumer-use processor. Sort of like using 'Kleenex' for tissues. The article is saying that this new technique uses similar processes to Pentium fab.

  10. lukewarmdog
    Windows

    techniques

    built "using techniques very similar to those used to manufacture whatever device you're using to read this story"

    good grief, I certainly hope not, I'm reading this on an Apple device and if the NSW guys have been treating their construction bods the same way Foxconn do, 1/10th of them have certainly killed themselves by now..

    Also I'd like to add that if you record all the electrons as being zero at the same time, your quantum computer might be switched off.

  11. hmv

    Quantum FDIV Bug

    Is a Quantum Pentium a processor that when calculating 4,195,835 / 3,145,727 returns every possible answer other than 1.3338204?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "the prospect of one day acquiring a Quantum Pentium"

    I propose . . . . the QUANTIUM!

  13. Bou Te

    And they called it...

    Quantium?

  14. HonestAbe

    The final breakthrough until the next final breakthrough, next month

    Two or three times a year someone announces that they've identified another physical system capable of computing with qubits. Unfortunately, that alone is a lot like identifying a new fluid that one can blow soap bubbles from. That is not the really really difficult part.

    Now imagine blowing a soap bubble as large as the continent of Europe, and keeping it from popping for a month despite all the gusts of wind and rain and lightning here and there. THAT is the hard part, and what is required for quantum computation to become useful.

    Don't hold your breath (or rather, everyone do hold your breath to keep that bubble from popping).

  15. John Savard Silver badge

    We Don't Need a Pentium

    I'd be ecstatically beside myself if we could have so much as a quantum PDP-8.

  16. Pete 48

    The old IT addage

    Turn it off an turn it back on ag... wait, its both on and off... shit

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The cat is alive

    The cat is dead

  18. Philip Lewis

    (TM)

    "Quantum Pentium"

    Surely that would be a "Qantium" (no "u" because we don't want the word to ever hit the dictionary"

    1. illiad

      Re: (TM)

      U don't avoid it that easily... :P

      Qat - leaves of the shrub Catha.

      Qaid - modern Gaelic football.

      Qadi - Islamic judge

  19. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. JJKing
    Facepalm

    CPU Name

    Why not just call it a Schrodinger Processor?

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