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Does D-Wave's computer owe its high performance to bizarre quantum effects? Photo courtesy of D-Wave Systems, Inc. An experimental computer made by a Canadian company has proved its ability to solve increasingly complex mathematical problems.
But the question remains — just how much of this calculating power is actually due to the strange properties of quantum mechanics? In theory, quantum computers can perform calculations far faster than their classical counterparts to solve incredibly complex problems.
They do this Physics 35 questions essay storing information in quantum bits, or qubits.
They exist inside conventional electronic circuits, which follow the 19th-century rules of classical physics. A qubit, on the other hand, can be created with an electron, or inside a superconducting loop.
It can also become tightly linked to the state of its fellow qubits, a situation called entanglement. These are two of the unusual properties that enable quantum computers to test multiple solutions at the same time.
But in practice, a physical quantum computer is incredibly difficult to run. Entanglement is delicate, and very easily disrupted by outside influences. Add more qubits to increase the device's calculating power, and it becomes more difficult to maintain entanglement.
Instead of struggling to keep ever-larger numbers of qubits in balance, D-Wave Systems invested in a different kind of quantum computer, where entanglement is not as crucial. This enabled the company to incorporate qubits into its current model, the D-Wave Two. The D-Wave uses a limited form of adiabatic quantum computing called quantum annealing, in which the qubits exist in a bath of noise, or random electrical fluctuations, that can disrupt their delicate states, explained Daniel Lidar, who oversees the use of a D-Wave Two device at the University of Southern California.
It helps to compare a computer using quantum annealing to an explorer seeking the lowest point in a landscape of mountains and valleys. But a quantum expedition could survey the entire landscape with multiple walkers simultaneously.
Quantum annealing is one method to solve optimization problems, in which you need to find the best of all possible solutions, such as determining the most efficient path between multiple travel destinations. When you give the D-Wave an optimization problem, it then uses quantum annealing to reach the best solution.
In an attempt to apply an adiabatic algorithm to a practical problem, researchers, in collaboration with D-Wave, have used this method to calculate Ramsey numbers. Ramsey numbers indicate when order will appear in a disordered system.
For example, they quantify how many people you need to invite to a party in order to ensure that at least some of the guests will be mutual friends. The scientists transformed the Ramsey number calculation into an optimization problem, and ran it using 84 qubits of a qubit D-Wave device.
In the future, the algorithm may also be able to calculate unknown Ramsey numbers by incorporating more qubits. Scientists have been debating D-Wave's quantumness since the company announced its first device in It is an argument that continues both online, in blog posts and forums, and in scientific journals.
But in an adiabatic device, certain types of entanglement are not as vital as they are in the traditional model of a quantum computer. Some researchers are attempting to solve this conundrum by proving the presence or absence of entanglement.
If they show entanglement is absent, that would be the end of the discussion. On the other hand, even if some of D-Wave's qubits are entangled, this doesn't mean the device is taking advantage of it.
Another way to prove D-Wave's quantumness would be to confirm it is indeed performing quantum, and not classical, annealing. Even the D-Wave's speedy calculations don't serve as proof of a quantum origin.Need help with your Essay, Dissertation or School Assignment?
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Physics Jokes If you didn't get the joke, you probably didn't understand the science behind it. If this is the case, it's a chance for you to learn a little physics.
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Questions of the fundamental nature of matter continue to inspire and engage our imagination. However, the exciting new concepts of strings, supersymmetry and exotic matter build on ideas that are well known to physicists but mysterious and puzzling to people outside of these research fields.
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