Thursday, February 15, 2007

DWave makes no splash?

The demise of classical computing has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, it is a total lie. I still stick by my earlier statements that I do not believe in the promise of quantum computing. I will believe it when I see it. DWave had unveiled what they 'call' a quantum computer. After digesting their press release and scouring their website for more information, I'm decidedly unimpressed.

All they had managed to accomplish is to show a proof-of-concept for an quantum analogue computer. This isn't quite the same thing as a digital computer. It is more akin to the electronic/mechanical analogue computer that I had been working on for the first part of my PhD. Hence, I can understand the advantages and disadvantages of just such a computational beast.

From the lack of reporting by the mainstream press, I would assume that they came away less than persuaded. I don't really blame them. From what limited reporting that I could glean from the Net, it seems that this machine is *far* less impressive than the quantum computing promise is supposed to be.

According to one article, the 'Orion' is much slower than most PCs. Also, it is smaller than the head of a pin, but stored inside a large vat, using liquid helium for cooling. To quote: "It is about as portable as an elephant stuck in 14 tonnes of cement". All pioneering computers were huge. But, until everyone has a supply of supercooled liquids, this one is a bit more difficult to deploy than the rest.

However, this is possible a very first step, just like how the mechanical/electronic analogue led to the mechanical/electronic digital computer. So, maybe in another decade or so, we would be able to see a real quantum computer. But, they will need to prove it to me before I will believe in it!

UPDATE: Quote from Wired, "And notwithstanding lofty claims in the company's press release about creating the world's first commercial quantum computer, D-Wave Chief Executive Herb Martin emphasized that the machine is not a true quantum computer and is instead a kind of special-purpose machine that uses some quantum mechanics to solve problems." So, the quantum physicists cannot quite celebrate yet!


Dan said...

oh well. back to the drawing board.

Gabriel Wu said...

heh, that was dissappointing for me... :(

YC said...

Actually, I think any quantum computer would by principle have to be "analog", or?
What I read somewhere is that the system they demonstrated is only 16 qubits wide - so the problems it can handle should be still manageable with a deterministic pc, and I'm not surprised that that is faster, too.
Look forward to discussing it a bit more over formal dinner!