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Google’s ‘quantum supremacy’ feat earns respect

Quantum computing chip
The Sycamore processor is at the heart of Google’s quantum computing project. (Google Photo / Erik Lucero)

Word that a Google-led team of researchers had achieved “quantum supremacy” with a new type of computer chip leaked out weeks ago, but today’s publication of the team’s study in the journal Nature gave outsiders their first good look at what was done. And most of them were impressed.

There were the usual caveats, of course: The project focused on a specific problem in random number generation that’s doesn’t relate directly to everyday applications, and it could be years before the technology behind Google AI Quantum’s Sycamore chip becomes commercially available.

Nevertheless, the computational demonstration provided evidence that quantum computers can do some tasks far more quickly than classical computers.

“This is an exciting scientific achievement for the quantum industry, and another step on a long journey towards a scalable, viable quantum future,” Microsoft, one of Google’s competitors in the realm of quantum computing, said in a statement emailed to GeekWire.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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