Google said on Wednesday that it had achieved a long-sought breakthrough called "quantum supremacy," which could allow new kinds of computers to do calculations at speeds that are inconceivable with today's technology. From a report: In a paper published in the science journal Nature, Google said its research lab in Santa Barbara, Calif., had reached a milestone that scientists had been working toward since the 1980s: Its quantum computer performed a task that isn't possible with current technology. In this case, a mathematical calculation that the largest supercomputers could not complete in under 10,000 years was done in 3 minutes 20 seconds, Google said in its paper. Scientists likened Google's announcement to the Wright brothers' first plane flight in 1903 -- proof that something is really possible even though it may be years before it can fulfill its potential. "The original Wright flyer was not a useful airplane," said Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin who reviewed Google's paper before publication. "But it was designed to prove a point. And it proved the point."
A quantum machine, the result of more than a century's worth of research into a type of physics called quantum mechanics, operates in a completely different manner from regular computers. It relies on the mind-bending ways some objects act at the subatomic level or when exposed to extreme cold, like the metal chilled to nearly 460 degrees below zero inside Google's machine. One day, researchers believe, these devices could power advances in artificial intelligence or easily overwhelm the encryption that protects computers vital to national security. Because of that, the governments of the United States and China consider quantum computing a national security priority. Further reading: Interview of Google CEO Sundar Pichai, who explains why quantum computing could be as important for Google as AI.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.