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Old 06-01-2011, 11:20 PM   #21
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I've been pondering this computer and how it could work all night, and I'm still no closer to understanding. So confuzing!!!
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Old 06-01-2011, 11:24 PM   #22
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I've been pondering this computer and how it could work all night, and I'm still no closer to understanding. So confuzing!!!
Well, one possibility (which appears to be at least potentially supportable by third-party review) is that D-wave's claims are, to some degree or another, bullshit.

Another possibility is that physics has simply stopped working.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:00 AM   #23
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How Stuff Works to the rescue!

http://www.howstuffworks.com/quantum-computer.htm
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Old 06-02-2011, 10:40 AM   #24
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From your link:

Quote:
The Turing machine, developed by Alan Turing in the 1930s, is a theoretical device that consists of tape of unlimited length that is divided into little squares. Each square can either hold a symbol (1 or 0) or be left blank. A read-write device reads these symbols and blanks, which gives the machine its instructions to perform a certain program. Does this sound familiar? Well, in a quantum Turing machine, the difference is that the tape exists in a quantum state, as does the read-write head. This means that the symbols on the tape can be either 0 or 1 or a superposition of 0 and 1; in other words the symbols are both 0 and 1 (and all points in between) at the same time. While a normal Turing machine can only perform one calculation at a time, a quantum Turing machine can perform many calculations at once.

Today's computers, like a Turing machine, work by manipulating bits that exist in one of two states: a 0 or a 1. Quantum computers aren't limited to two states; they encode information as quantum bits, or qubits, which can exist in superposition. Qubits represent atoms, ions, photons or electrons and their respective control devices that are working together to act as computer memory and a processor. Because a quantum computer can contain these multiple states simultaneously, it has the potential to be millions of times more powerful than today's most powerful supercomputers.
Boggles me mind.
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Old 06-02-2011, 11:11 AM   #25
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I still don't ******* understand how you can make a quantum computer. How do you make something reliable, when you can't control particles? They are doing their own thing regardless of what you want them to do. I'd like to see the innards of this computer up close, because I can't even begin to imagine what they look like. Maybe it's a sealed box of soda can tabs and it really is all a bunch of BS.
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:08 PM   #26
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Like dis:

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Old 06-02-2011, 12:45 PM   #27
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Maybe it's a sealed box of soda can tabs and it really is all a bunch of BS.
Well, the field of quantum computing is still sufficiently vague in terms of its definition and comprehension that I suppose D-Wave could merely be "enhancing" the truth. If you'll pardon the pun, they might be both lying and not lying.
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:51 PM   #28
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My girlfriend asked me why I dont get into theoretical quantum physics instead of engineering. I said I had thought about it but I found it interesting and not interesting at the same time. Whereas engineering is just always interesting =P
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Old 06-02-2011, 12:55 PM   #29
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Screw quantum computers. Give me a modem based on entanglement theory.
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:20 PM   #30
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I just wish I could understand how not knowing what the state of a bit is is faster than knowing what the state of it is.

Actually, that's not even what vexes me.

What I'm struggling to understand (and haven't found any kind of explanation of whatsoever) is what does the underlying physical implementation of this technology consist of? In a conventional computer, you have physical devices (eg: CPUs, memory) which consist of silicon wafers onto which multiple stages of deposition / etching of various materials is performed, with the effect of creating an array of logic elements from discrete components such as biploar junction transistors, capacitors, etc.

What's different about this machine? What is the physical stuff of which it's made? They talk on and on about how it consists of mysterious superconducting thingamajigs which are immersed in a cryogenic bath and placed inside of a heavily shielded enclosure, but what precisely are the magical superconducting thingamajigs made of?
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Old 06-02-2011, 01:34 PM   #31
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I just wish I could understand how not knowing what the state of a bit is is faster than knowing what the state of it is.

Actually, that's not even what vexes me.

What I'm struggling to understand (and haven't found any kind of explanation of whatsoever) is what does the underlying physical implementation of this technology consist of? In a conventional computer, you have physical devices (eg: CPUs, memory) which consist of silicon wafers onto which multiple stages of deposition / etching of various materials is performed, with the effect of creating an array of logic elements from discrete components such as biploar junction transistors, capacitors, etc.

What's different about this machine? What is the physical stuff of which it's made? They talk on and on about how it consists of mysterious superconducting thingamajigs which are immersed in a cryogenic bath and placed inside of a heavily shielded enclosure, but what precisely are the magical superconducting thingamajigs made of?
I'm with you there. Its impossible to wrap your head around something when they dont give you anything substantial to work with. All any article discusses is the theory behind it. The only thing that keeps me from rolling with you on calling bullshit is that lockheed martin is giving them 10 million for one of these things.
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Old 06-02-2011, 06:32 PM   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Perez View Post
What I'm struggling to understand (and haven't found any kind of explanation of whatsoever) is what does the underlying physical implementation of this technology consist of? In a conventional computer, you have physical devices (eg: CPUs, memory) which consist of silicon wafers onto which multiple stages of deposition / etching of various materials is performed, with the effect of creating an array of logic elements from discrete components such as biploar junction transistors, capacitors, etc.

What's different about this machine? What is the physical stuff of which it's made? They talk on and on about how it consists of mysterious superconducting thingamajigs which are immersed in a cryogenic bath and placed inside of a heavily shielded enclosure, but what precisely are the magical superconducting thingamajigs made of?
That's my problem.
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Old 06-03-2011, 01:02 AM   #33
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Lol: "the tape exists in a quantum state, as does the read-write head"

So the read-write head is either 'reading, writing, or both' too? WTF?

Seriously, reverse computing makes WAY more sense since reversing a calculation creates less heat than wiping the slate clean, and heat is why we can't make our processors 'small'

But even that is some bazaaro-world crap. "no, it's more efficient to put the graphite back into your pencil, than it is to use a rubber eraser"
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:16 PM   #34
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The IEEE apparently isn't very excited about D-wave. Granted, the following is about a year and a half old, but that's not a terribly long space of time within which to revolutionize mankind's understanding of physics.
Loser: D-Wave Does Not Quantum Compute
D-Wave Systems' quantum computers look to be bigger, costlier, and slower than conventional ones
By ERICO GUIZZO / JANUARY 2010


This is part of IEEE Spectrum's special report: Winners & Losers VII

D-Wave Systems, a Canadian start-up, recently booted up a custom-built, multimillion-dollar, liquid-helium-cooled beast of a computer that it says runs on quantum mechanics.

That's right. D-Wave, a 55-person company operating out of an office park in Burnaby, B.C., claims to have built that almost mythical machine, that holy grail of computing, the stuff of sci-fi novels and technothrillers—the quantum computer. Such a system would exploit the bizarre physics that apply on ridiculously small scales to compute ridiculously fast, solving problems that could stymie today's supercomputers for the lifetime of the universe.

Now, building a practical quantum computer has proved hard. Really hard. Despite efforts by some of the world's top physicists and engineers and the likes of IBM, HP, and NEC, progress has been slow. Ask the experts and they'll tell you these systems are a decade—or five—away.

Yet D-Wave believes it can build them now. It has raised some US $65 million from investors that include Goldman Sachs and Draper Fisher Jurvetson, enlisted collaborators from Google and NASA, amassed 50 patents, and transformed its offices into a world-class quantum lab.

Is Schrödinger's cat really out of the bag?

To put things in perspective, consider that one of the most celebrated feats in quantum computing is the factoring of the number 15 (yep, that'd be 3 times 5). The problem is that today's state-of-the-art quantum systems can juggle only a handful of quantum bits, or qubits—the fundamental units of information in quantum computers. Whereas a conventional bit can be in one of two states, 0 or 1, a qubit can be 0, 1, or a superposition of 0 and 1. By linking and manipulating qubits, you can carry out quantum algorithms that solve problems in fewer steps and thus faster than with regular computers. With enough qubits—hundreds to thousands—quantum computers would be able to crack some of the hardest codes, search databases superquickly, and simulate complex quantum systems such as biomolecules.

Rather than build a multipurpose quantum computer, D-Wave says it is building a specialized one, designed to solve specific math problems that have applications in science and business. Its current system has 128 qubits, which the company claims are enough for a research device, one that probably won't beat a powerful PC. To solve larger problems and outperform conventional computers, D-Wave plans to scale up to tens of thousands of qubits in the next two years, eventually reaching millions of qubits.

But experts are skeptical that D-Wave's quantum computer is really, well, quantum.

"If this were the real thing, we would know about it," says Christopher Monroe, a quantum-computing researcher at the University of Maryland, in College Park. He says D-Wave hasn't demonstrated "signatures" believed to be essential to quantum computers, such as entanglement, a coupling between qubits.

Paul Benioff, a physicist who pioneered quantum computing at Argonne National Laboratory, in Illinois, notes that even the best prototypes can't keep more than 10 qubits in entangled states for long. "Because of this I am very skeptical of D-Wave's claims that it has produced a 128-qubit quantum computer," he says, adding that talk of reaching 10 000 qubits at this point is "advertising hype."

Anthony Leggett, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Nobel laureate in physics, says that D-Wave has made claims that "have not been generally regarded as substantiated in the community."

But it's all for real, says Geordie Rose, the cofounder and chief technology officer of D-Wave. "We are making good progress," he says, explaining that they are currently testing three 128-qubit systems, to be installed at institutions that will use them for research.

D-Wave's system uses a chip with little loops of niobium metal containing Josephson junctions—two superconductors separated by an insulator. When the chip is cooled to very low temperatures, tiny electrical currents flowing around the loops exhibit quantum properties, and you can use the direction to represent the states of a qubit: Counterclockwise represents 0, clockwise represents 1, and current flowing both ways represents a superposition of 0 and 1.

D-Wave's superconducting qubits are not new, and other groups use similar devices. But whereas most groups are trying to build the quantum logic gates from which all computing operations can be derived—an approach known as the gate model—D-Wave has adopted a different approach, called adiabatic quantum computation. Here's the gist: You initialize a collection of qubits to their lowest energy state. You then ever so gently (or adiabatically) turn on interactions between the qubits, thus encoding a quantum algorithm. In the end, the qubits drift to a new lowest-energy state. You then read out the qubits to get the results.

With enough qubits, D-Wave believes it could beat today's best methods for approximating the solution to difficult optimization problems in financial engineering, logistics, machine learning, and bioinformatics, either by getting the same answer faster or getting a more exact solution.

And herein lies the $65 million question for the company. By its own admission, D-Wave will have to go bigger than 128 qubits. But can its system scale up?

Qubits are fragile entities, and stray magnetic fields and other environmental disturbances easily destroy their quantumness, or coherence. David DiVincenzo, a leading quantum computing expert at IBM's T.J. Watson Research Center, in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., says that "there has yet to be an established methodology for how [adiabatic quantum computation] could function fault tolerantly," that is, with effective error correction.

Umesh Vazirani, a computer scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, says D-Wave hasn't taken into account the need to control the rate of the adiabatic process. "Running the adiabatic algorithm without this 'tuning' gives no speedup," he says.

For its part, D-Wave hasn't backtracked. Rose, the CTO, says the company is working on new experiments and simulations that should confirm whether its system operates as a quantum computer.

D-Wave's investors are happy with the company's progress. "Quite happy," says Steve Jurvetson, a director at Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

Hartmut Neven, a Google scientist who is using D-Wave's computer to design and test image-recognition algorithms, says the company is taking a "very sensible approach" and has "a very good chance at getting it to work."

Rose says the collaboration with Google shows that the company is tackling real-world problems, even if it's at the proof-of-concept level. "Our ultimate objective is to build systems with spectacular performance on these sorts of problems," he says.

But when asked whether things are still on track to reach tens of thousands of qubits in the next couple of years, Rose dodges the question. "Right now we are concentrating all our resources on getting the 128-qubit systems up and operational and delivering them to customers," he says.

Which means D-Wave still has a long way until it can build a quantum computer that can solve large real-world problems—and that companies would pay good money for.

Looks like Schrödinger's cat is still in the bag after all.
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:31 PM   #35
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Good find!
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Old 06-03-2011, 12:50 PM   #36
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Yeah, I saw some similarly skeptical articles. I'm not sure what to believe -- on the one hand, the challenges certainly seem valid, and it would be odd that we would go from basically no functional applications to a ready-to-use system without any intermediate steps. On the other hand, I'm guessing that the guys at Lockheed Martin aren't dummies, and they are willing to drop $10 million on this thing.

I'm torn between two likely conclusions:

(1) Lockheed Martin is fully aware that this likely is nothing more than a lark, a barely useful project, and $10m is a drop in the bucket to them.

(2) Lockheed Martin doesn't know if this is viable or not, but is willing to spend $10m for the opportunity to investigate it and possibly reverse-engineer it just in case it's something ground-breaking.
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Old 06-03-2011, 01:08 PM   #37
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Possibility #3: Quantum computer is a myth. $10M is seed money for some black project, and this is just a cover story.
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Old 06-03-2011, 01:19 PM   #38
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(1) Lockheed Martin is fully aware that this likely is nothing more than a lark, a barely useful project, and $10m is a drop in the bucket to them.
Well, that's the interesting thing, at least to me.

One of the present-day leading supercomputer architectures is the IBM "Blue Gene". The current model, BlueGene/P, sells for approximately $1.3M per rack (4,096 processor cores per rack) and is scalable to configurations as large as 256 racks, yielding 1,048,562 processor cores, 1,024 Terabytes of RAM, and delivering an estimated performance of around 3.5 PetaFLOPs. (Such a configuration would presumably cost $332 million, not including installation costs and the construction of the building to house it in.)

In that light, spending $10M for a computer really isn't all that big of a deal once you've reached a certain scale. The question which occurs to me is whether this machine is likely to deliver higher performance than $10M worth of a competing technology.


I hate to be a skeptic on this one. I mean, computing is the one field in which so disproportionally many of the great advances of the past 50 years have been made by either some guy in his garage or some random group of guys working out of a small shop. This just seems less an invention in computing than a supposed redefining of our understanding of physics. We (as a species) are still at a point in our scientific comprehension where most discussion of quantum phenomena consists of sitting around arguing about whether it even exists and throwing tiny particles at things to try and see it in action, and here these folks claim that they've gone and built a whole machine out of the stuff.
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