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Friday, October 22, 2021

The Quantum jump race- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

From land to sea, from space to cyberspace, China is en route to world domination. At least that’s what Comrade Xi wants. China owns more supercomputers than other nations. Now its quantum computer Jiuzhang has reportedly achieved quantum supremacy by completing a calculation in 200 seconds that would take a supercomputer 2.5 million years.

Jiuzhang used 50 photons, 100 inputs, 100 outputs, 300 beam splitters and 75 mirrors to beat the computing capability of Sunway TaihuLight, again a Chinese machine, which would have taken time equaling one-fifth of the total age of the universe to do the same. The difference between classical computers and their quantum descendants is that the former can operate code based on binary bits of zero and one, while the latter can do both together.

This speeds up power exponentially. Last year Google was the first to achieve quantum supremacy with its Sycamore processor beating the most powerful supercomputer by 10,000 years with 200 seconds of processing time. So, are normal computers going out of business? Far from it. Quantum computers are not needed for daily tasks, nor have they proved their stability quotient. Jiuzhang and Sycamore are just peeing contests for countries and companies to show off.

There are over 500 supercomputers in the world, including India’s PARAM-Siddhi AI with 63rd rank in the Top500 list of the world’s most powerful supercomputers and the weather forecaster Pratyush ranked 78th on the November edition of the list. Japan’s Fugaku is the fastest supercomputer in the world, set to be operational in 2021. Its mission is drug discovery, personalised medicine, weather and climate forecasting, clean energy development, and exploring the fundamental laws of the universe. It is being used for Covid-19 research.

Summit (US) belonging to the US Department of Energy has slipped to #2 after two years of displacing China from the top spot in six years. It analyses genetic data to assess chronic pain and response to opioids. It’s currently engaged in discovering treatments and vaccines against Covid. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory’s Sierra was #2 in November 2018.

The supercomputer makes models to game US Nuclear Security possibilities. China’s Sunway TaihuLight, which debuted in June 2016, is used for climate science-related tasks, offshore oil drilling, marine forecasting and warns ships to avoid rough seas. Tianhe-2, again made by the Chinese, is used for government security applications to maintain the totalitarian state’s control over citizens and a host of other classified actions. Its activities are classified. 

So, are normal computers going out of business? Far from it. Quantum computers are not needed for daily tasks, nor have they proved their stability quotient.



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