The ‘Why’ Behind Dr. Greene

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February 5, 2024

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Anastassia Lauterbach

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Many good stories have a villain in them. I am not writing a psychology thriller; my task is to educate families about AI and Robotics while packing technology concepts into an exciting story. But there is a villain in the book, and this anti-hero happens to be the Founder and CEO of Q-Bidder (an imaginary name – don’t look it up in the Crunchbase!)

In the illustration, he wears a black turtleneck and wants to take Roby from Mum by force. His company claims to be able to implement a one-million-qubits quantum machine. Quantum theory can be applied to all matter and energy in the universe. Therefore, there might be thousands of ways to build a quantum computer.

Michio Kaku, professor of physics at the City University of New York and author of “Quantum Supremacy”, talks about six design approaches. Let me mention two of them here.

Superconducting Quantum Computer

Google announced in 2019 that it had achieved quantum supremacy with its Sycamore model. IBM moved ahead with its Eagle quantum processor, which broke the 100-qubit barrier in 2021. Since then, IBM developed the 433-qubit Osprey processor.

Both Google and IBM utilise off-the-shelf proven technology, meaning they work on etching tiny circuits on silicon wafers. In conventional computer architectures, it is possible to represent the numbers’ numbers’ 0” or ”1” by the presence or absence of electrons in the circuit with every single chip. In quantum technology, one must bring the temperature down to a fraction of a degree above zero to bring circuits into a quantum mechanical state. In this state, circuits achieve a so-called coherent state, so the superposition of electrons is undisturbed. Coherence means in other words, that atoms could be arranged precisely so they vibrate in unison. Bringing various circuits together can entangle them to make calculations possible.

Implementing this approach has an engineering challenge, as it is not easy to cool the machine down. Besides, the slightest vibration or impurity will break the coherence of circuits. Because it is impossible to reach absolute zero in temperature, errors will inevitably occur in calculations. For this reason, there is no absolute precision in quantum calculations if the machine is based on the superconducting quantum computer’s design.

One can address the error dilemma by creating so-called redundancies.

As Kaku explains it, formidably, whenever a quantum computer does a calculation with three qubits backing up each qubit, it produces the string of number 101. Since the values do not all match, the centre digit is most likely wrong and should be replaced by ”1.” Redundancy can reduce the errors in the final result but at the cost of vastly increasing the number of qubits needed to make the system function at its best.

It has been assumed that probably 1000 qubits might be needed to back up just one qubit so that these additional qubits can correct for errors. This implies that one needs a million qubits for a 1000-qubit quantum computer. So far, there aren’t any superconducting quantum computers with one million qubits in design or implementation. Google, however, believes that a million-qubit processor might be attainable within ten years.

Q-Bidder, a company of the diabolic Dr. Greene, promises exactly one million qubits to the markets. This is why Dr. Greene can collect millions in funding and propel to the front pages of business and technology publications.

We are not sure whether Dr. Greene went after superconducting quantum design. He might have followed another approach – a silicon photonic computer. Today there are wonderful companies working on such an approach.

PsiQuantum, announced in 2015, wants to deploy the world’s first useful and fault-tolerant silicon photonic machine. They base their engineering on leveraging the so-called dual nature of silicon. Not only can silicon be used to make transistors and control the flow of electrons. It can also be used to transmit light as it is transparent to specific frequencies of infrared radiation. This dual nature is crucial to entangling photons. PsiQuantum claims that by the middle of the century, they will create a million-qubit silicon optical computer to serve practical applications. In this regard, they are more bullish than the competitors following other design approaches.

We are living in an exciting time of the nascent quantum industry that harnesses the power and complexity of the atomic realm and might help humans solve the most significant scientific problems, from curing cancer to addressing climate change.

I understand that quantum computing might seem an intimidating topic to many people. There are organisations of young enthusiasts assembling online resources to educate students about quantum technologies. I recently met Girls in Quantum and absolutely loved their work.

It would be wonderful to learn what your kids learn about quantum computers in schools. Looking forward to your comments!

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Book 1

Romy & Roby And the Secrets Of Sleep.

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