The story of the quantum computer is fascinating not just because of the technology involved, but because of its ties into politics, economic theory, corporate/government partnership, the government shutdown, the role of the religious right in undermining science education in the US, and the accelerating pace of dynamism.
If this technology can be reproduced on a commercial scale it will make the Internet look almost trivial. From Wired:
Built by a Canadian company called D-Wave, this quantum machine is one of only two in use around the world. Early research involving the system took a bit of a hit during the government shutdown last month, but things are now back up and running, with both NASA and Google running tests to better understand what the machine is actually capable of doing.
As Google runs its races, NASA is running simulations that could feed the International Space Station project and various supercomputing efforts. It’s an exciting time, says Rupak Biswas, the deputy director of the Exploration Technology Directorate at Ames: the dawn of the quantum computing age.
The D-Wave machine couldn’t be more different from the average computer. The thing won’t work unless it’s shielded from the Earth’s magnetic field. Parts of it get cooled to near absolute zero. And, because it must be carefully calibrated, you need about a month to boot it up. But the inner-workings of the system are still a bit of a mystery, and it’s not even clear whether this creation should be considered a true quantum computer.
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