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After Google said they had achieved what quantum computer researchers had been trying to do for years, a team of Chinese researchers now claims to have replicated the performance of Google’s Sycamore quantum computer using traditional hardware.
In 2019, Google researchers claimed to have passed a milestone known as quantum supremacy when their Sycamore quantum computer performed a complex calculation in 200 seconds that they said would tie up a supercomputer for 10,000 years.
Now researchers in China have performed the calculation in a few hours with ordinary processors. Rumor has it that the supercomputer could beat Sycamore outright.
“I think they’re right that if they had access to a big enough supercomputer, they could simulate the task in seconds,” said researcher Scott Aaronson, a computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin.
The team used a system composed of 512 GPUs to complete the same calculation developed by Google to demonstrate that it passed the milestone of quantum supremacy in 2019.
That advance takes some of the shine off Google’s claims, said Greg Kuperberg, a mathematician at the University of California, Davis.
Still, the promise of quantum computers remains untarnished, the team said.
Sergio Boixo, chief scientist at Google Quantum AI, said in an email that the Google team knew its advantage might not last long.
“We said in our 2019 paper that classical algorithms will improve,” he said. But “we don’t think this classical approach can keep up with quantum circuits in 2022 and beyond.”
The “problem” solved by Sycamore was designed to be difficult for a conventional computer, but as easy as possible for a quantum computer that manipulates qubits that can be set to 0, 1, or any combination of 0 and 1 at the same time.