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posted by LaminatorX on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the CQluaasnstiucmal-Superposition dept.

AnonTechie points us towards updates on the evaluation of D-Wave's annealing devices.

From Phys.org's reporting on the latest tests:

With cutting-edge technology, sometimes the first step scientists face is just making sure it actually works as intended. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering is home to the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center (QCC), a super-cooled, magnetically shielded facility specially built to house the first commercially available quantum computing processors; devices so advanced that there are only two in use outside the Canadian lab where they were built. The first one went to USC and Lockheed Martin, and the second to NASA and Google. Since USC's facility opened in October 2011, a key task for researchers has been to determine whether D-Wave processors operate as hoped using the special laws of quantum mechanics to offer potentially higher-speed processing, instead of operating in a classical, traditional way.

(Background at Time, for those unfamiliar.)

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  • (Score: 5, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:42AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:42AM (#11774)

    I think there's a world market for maybe five of these computers...

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    .
     
    .

    But more for the future versions ;).

    • (Score: 4, Informative) by Barrabas on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:54AM

      by Barrabas (22) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:54AM (#11804) Journal

      I think there's a world market for maybe five of these computers...

      In case anyone didn't get the reference, Thomas J. Watson [wikipedia.org], head of IBM, was famously quoted as making that exact statement about computers in 1943.

      (Famously quoted, but perhaps apocryphal.)

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by omoc on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:57AM

      by omoc (39) on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:57AM (#11869)

      actually that is not too far fetched. Quantum computing machines can only be used for very specialized and _very specific_ tasks. For these specific tasks you can get a result incredibly quickly but you need to understand that it's not a general purpose CPU. You certainly cannot boot your favorite operating system on them and for most of your every day tasks like web browsing these machines would suck and do much worse than what we have now.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:27AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:27AM (#11873)

        But will it mine bitcoins?

  • (Score: 3, Funny) by biff on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:50AM

    by biff (170) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:50AM (#11779)

    Maybe whether or not the mechanics are definitely quantum is neither here nor there for the folks buying it, but I'm surprised that they haven't been able to figure it out conclusively yet. Maybe open the box and see what's going on in there.

    • (Score: 4, Funny) by davester666 on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:04AM

      by davester666 (155) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:04AM (#11785)

      They are still buying into the marketing spiel that "if you open it, that wrecks all that quantum stuff in there, and then it totally stops working."

      Laughing all the way to the bank....

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by wjwlsn on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:32AM

      by wjwlsn (171) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:32AM (#11793) Homepage Journal

      It's probably just a dead cat.

      --
      I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
      • (Score: 1) by gargoyle on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:41AM

        by gargoyle (1791) on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:41AM (#11847)

        I'll offer odds of 100 cents to a dollar that the cat is alive.

        • (Score: 2) by wjwlsn on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:26PM

          by wjwlsn (171) on Thursday March 06 2014, @01:26PM (#11905) Homepage Journal

          I'll take that bet, and I'll offer similar odds that the glass is half empty!

          --
          I am a traveler of both time and space. Duh.
  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by acapulco on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:56AM

    by acapulco (1873) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:56AM (#11782)

    So how does a company like this make such advanced machines without proving it's inner workings through published papers? I know there's most likely a lot of industrial secrets and patents involved, but they are far into the edge of technology that they don't even seem to have any competition. How do they validate they work besides saying "we were able to sell 3 of them!"?

    Do you "just" put a lot of resources into R&D and hope your lab boys can come up with technological advancement without confirming with peers? What I find out of the ordinary (but I'm by no means a researcher, so it could be something common happening here) is that as far as I know stuff that has to do with scientific research so advanced and fundamental as quantum mechanics, definitely need confirmation to avoid biases, willing or unwilling mistakes, etc.

    Could anyone more informed than me, please explain this in simpler terms: how could they produce an actual product for something so complex without external assistance/confirmation, i.e. scientific research as usual?

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by SlimmPickens on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:07AM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:07AM (#11810)

      So how does a company like this make such advanced machines without proving it's inner workings through published papers?

      I have no idea what the truth is however Geordie Rose (the founder of D-Wave) claims in this interview [youtube.com] that there is so much peer reviewed research out there that anyone could build a D-Wave computer. The interview goes for two hours but it's good to play in the background while you play poker or something.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by glyph on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:28AM

      by glyph (245) on Thursday March 06 2014, @07:28AM (#11816)

      Think of something like deep space probes or even the Large Hadron Collider. These are not "products" in the typical consumer sense. You won't know if they are "fit for purpose" until after you test them.

      • (Score: 1) by acapulco on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:24PM

        by acapulco (1873) on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:24PM (#12027)

        I think the LHC example is good analogy for this. Precisely my point is that, as far as I know a lot of published research was done before the LHC was approved to be built. Of course no one could be sure if it could work or even if they could actually build it, however there was a lot of research on the matter and thus the people involved could say that it was very likely that it could be both built and it would work.

        With D-Wave's product there wasn't (to my knowledge) that much of published research, and that's why I had the doubt.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:15AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:15AM (#11859)

      "I know there's most likely a lot of industrial secrets and patents involved"

      Patents are supposed to be the antithesis of 'industrial secrets' but I suspect they will do absolutely nothing to reveal any of those secrets.

      It's also interesting to note that Canada, and not the U.S., is the ones building this technology. It seems like everyone else is building the new innovation of the future while the U.S. is simply buying it all and falling behind in our knowledge of how it works and our ability to build and document it.

    • (Score: 1) by egcagrac0 on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:35AM

      by egcagrac0 (2705) on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:35AM (#11863)

      So how does a company like this make such advanced machines without proving it's inner workings through published papers?

      It doesn't matter what's inside the black box, or how it does what it does.

      If the machine does what's expected - producing useful output from input at a desirable rate - it has value.

      Unlike my sliderule, I may not understand all the goings-on inside my pocket calculator, but the thing gives me the right answers to the problems, and it seems to be faster to use.

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by dl6125 on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:05AM

      by dl6125 (1802) on Thursday March 06 2014, @11:05AM (#11870)

      The D-Wave device uses qubits based on superconducting Josephson junctions. The physics behind them has been well understood for some time. D-Wave's advances have been more in engineering than fundamental physics. For example, a significant problem they had to solve was how to reliably manufacture large number of these qubits to within the required tolerance.

      There has so far been no rigorous validation that the devices really do give a quantum speedup. This recent preprint [arxiv.org] claims to reproduce the device's behaviour using a classical model. Also, D-Wave's device is only designed to solve a specific optimization problem. It is not capable of universal computation or factoring numbers using Shor's algorithm.

      • (Score: 1) by acapulco on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:27PM

        by acapulco (1873) on Thursday March 06 2014, @04:27PM (#12031)

        Ah, I see. Being more of an engineering advance sound reasonable. Interesting. Thanks for the insight. I really wasn't aware (no surprise.. I'm no physicist) that the underlying theory was well known.

  • (Score: 2, Interesting) by TheSage on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:22AM

    by TheSage (133) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:22AM (#11788) Journal
    The Titanium Physicist Podcast [brachiolopemedia.com] did an episode on quantum computing. In there they give a good explanation of the difference between the D-Wave computer and the more 'traditional' approaches to quantum computing.

    Unfortunately they had the most stupid guest of all time in that episode. So if you are new to the Titanium Physicist, the guests' questions are usually of much higher quality.

  • (Score: 1) by SlimmPickens on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:54AM

    by SlimmPickens (1056) on Thursday March 06 2014, @06:54AM (#11803)

    That headline has nothing to do with the summary. We all know what a D-Wave computer is, what were these tests?

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by SlimmPickens on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:24AM

      by SlimmPickens (1056) on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:24AM (#11833)

      what were these tests?

      Well now that I've read TFA I can tell you there's nothing in there about these "rigorous tests" either. In fact the one paragraph relevent to the headine is:

      "The challenge is that the tests we can perform on the USC-based D-Wave processor can't directly 'prove' that the D-Wave processor is quantum - we can only disprove candidate classical models one at a time," said QCC Director Prof. Daniel Lidar. "But so far we find that the D-Wave processor is always consistent with our quantum models. Our tests continually get more rigorous and complex."

  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Wodan on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:48AM

    by Wodan (517) on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:48AM (#11852)

    From earlier news on these computers they're no faster than a classical computer doing the same job at a fraction of the price.

    Proper quantum computers (as in the ones that can factor large numbers) are supposed to do some things a lot faster (D-Wave never claimed to make one of those, fair enough, but I don't see the point of their product).

    • (Score: 1) by bill_mcgonigle on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:40PM

      by bill_mcgonigle (1105) on Thursday March 06 2014, @02:40PM (#11951)

      they're no faster than a classical computer

      From what I've read earlier, Google and Lockheed don't really care about the speed of the 512-bit unit. They're looking to get experience using the technology so that when a 4K unit is available, they can re-run their existing code and solve problems faster than a room full of supercomputers.

      • (Score: 1) by tibman on Friday March 07 2014, @01:52AM

        by tibman (134) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 07 2014, @01:52AM (#12390)

        Don't get too excited. A single core of a mid-grade desktop processor can outperform D-Wave (one and two). Imagine what $10mil could buy you instead of a D-Wave and i think you can understand people's hesitation. I'm not saying it doesn't have promise or isn't quantum. I'm just saying that it is a HUGE waste of money for practical use. I can completely see academic use though where you can poke and prod the thing to get something non-classical out of it.

        http://www.archduke.org/stuff/d-wave-comment-on-co mparison-with-classical-computers/ [archduke.org]

        --
        SN won't survive on lurkers alone. Write comments.
    • (Score: 1) by ngarrang on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:20PM

      by ngarrang (896) on Thursday March 06 2014, @05:20PM (#12060) Journal

      Do not underestimate the value of mind-share. If D-Wave can be touted as the first company to successfully harness q-computing for real-world tasks, that is a huge boon for future investment and PR. The first to market is not always the most successful, as history has shown us, but it can still lead to a lot of early success and potentially a rich buy-out for the owners.

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:49AM

    by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Thursday March 06 2014, @09:49AM (#11853) Homepage
    ``... an elaborate test of all 108 of the chip's functional quantum bits''
    vs.
    ``The first quantum chip housed at the QCC was a 128-qubit D-Wave One, which was replaced about a year ago with the 512-qubit D-Wave Two''

    Also:
    ``"The challenge is that the tests we can perform on the USC-based D-Wave processor can't directly 'prove' that the D-Wave processor is quantum &#226;&#8364;&#8220; we can only disprove candidate classical models one at a time," said QCC Director Prof. Daniel Lidar.''

    So they're unable to measure its Big-Oh for integer factoring, and see whether it matches Shor's? (If they don't know how to construct hard candidates that test the factoring algorithm to the fullest possible extent, then perhaps those professors could ask an amateur like me who can do it with his eyes shut.)
    --
    Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:14AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 06 2014, @10:14AM (#11858)

      Well, maybe 20 of the 128 quantum bits were defective.

    • (Score: 2, Informative) by m on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:04PM

      by m (1741) on Thursday March 06 2014, @03:04PM (#11971)
      We already know that the D-Wave can't do Shor's algorithm and all the things a "real, full-blown quantum computer" can. The D-Wave is not a general quantum processor; it's a "quantum annealer" (yet to be conclusively proved that it's even that), which might improve over classical computers for a very specific subset of problems, not including super-fast integer factoring. Specifically, annealing means finding almost correct solutions to hard problems --- an "almost the best" Traveling Salesman solution, for example; something which classical algorithms are already reasonably good at, though a quantum system might be able to produce more accurate solutions faster.
      • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:18PM

        by FatPhil (863) <{pc-soylent} {at} {asdf.fi}> on Thursday March 06 2014, @08:18PM (#12177) Homepage
        You're right. I had forgotten that they'd already admitted to being quantum quacks.
        --
        Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people; the smallest discuss themselves