Nasa buys into 'quantum' computer

A $15m computer that uses "quantum physics" effects to boost its speed is to be installed at a Nasa facility.

Unlike standard machines, the D-Wave Two processor appears to make use of an effect called quantum tunnelling.

This allows it to reach solutions to certain types of mathematical problems in fractions of a second.


"Qubit" probability distributions

Effectively, it can try all possible solutions at the same time and then select the best.

It will be shared by Google, Nasa, and other scientists, providing access to a machine said to be up to 3,600 times faster than conventional computers.

Google wants to use the facility at Nasa's Ames Research Center in California to find out how quantum computing might advance techniques of machine learning and artificial intelligence, including voice recognition.

Canadian company D-Wave Systems ... makes the machine ...

... D-Wave Systems has been focused on building machines that exploit a technique called quantum annealing - a way of distilling the optimal mathematical solutions from all the possibilities.

Annealing is made possible by physics effect known as quantum tunnelling, which can endow each qubit with an awareness of every other one.

Dr Rose's approach entails a completely different way of posing your question, and it only works for certain questions.

But according to a paper presented this week (the result of benchmarking tests required by Nasa and Google), it is very fast indeed at finding the optimal solution to a problem that potentially has many different combinations of answers. ... combinatorial optimisation" problems ...

The D-Wave Two chip can compare all the possible itineraries at once, rather than having to work through each in turn.

Reportedly costing up to $15m, housed in a garden shed-sized box that cools the chip to near absolute zero, it should be installed at Nasa and available for research by autumn 2013.

US giant Lockheed Martin earlier this year upgraded its own D-Wave machine to the 512 qubit D-Wave Two.

Tags: D-Wave computer, quantum annealing

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