In DepthQUANTUM COMPUTING

Tests measure progress of quantum computers

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Science  28 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6447, pp. 1218-1219
DOI: 10.1126/science.364.6447.1218

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Summary

To gauge the performance of a supercomputer, computer scientists turn to a standard tool: a set of algorithms called LINPACK that tests how fast the machine solves problems with huge numbers of variables. For quantum computers, which might one day solve certain problems that overwhelm conventional computers, no such benchmarking standard exists. Yet, even before the machines have done anything useful, researchers are making some of their first attempts to take the measure of quantum computers. Researchers at Google are trying to show that their machine can solve an abstract problem that classical computers cannot to achieve so-called quantum supremacy. More practically, developers at the startup Rigetti Computing aim to show that their machine can perform some useful task more accurately, faster, or more cheaply than classical computers, thereby realizing a quantum advantage. IBM researchers are focusing more on the quantumness of their hardware, which they measure in a metric called quantum volume, and developers at IonQ prefer head-to-head comparisons of benchmark algorithms. Yet nobody knows how these metrics relate to the bigger issue: how to scale today's embryonic quantum computers up hugely in size.

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