Quantum computers may not be the stuff of science fiction for much longer. A new computer, the 512-qubit D-Wave Two, is a prototype that uses the quantum 'qubits' to store both 1's and 0's at the same time. 1's and 0's form the binary system that all computers function on.
With quantum computers, however, scientists and engineers harness the quirky behavior of subatomic physics to have both sides of binary stored simultaneously. This translates to super fast computing power. It was estimated that this technology wouldn't be around for years to come... but D-Wave says otherwise.
Of course, it's not something that is predicted to be in the market any time soon. Quantum computers have to work with an elusive set of mechanics that can be changed simply by the act of being observed. Which makes it tricky to prove that it's actually working properly. Complicated tests confirmed that the D-Wave is using quantum entanglement(qubits in two places at once), but could only confirm that in eight of the 512 it uses.
"This is the first peer-reviewed scientific paper that proves entanglement in D-Wave processors," Dr Colin Williams, director of business development at D-Wave, told BBC News. "What's even more remarkable is that this is the largest demonstration of entanglement in any quantum, superconducting computing scheme so far," he said. "It's a big achievement for the field." To counter skeptics he added, "We could have chosen any part of the processor to do this experiment on… There's no reason to believe the entanglement is limited to just these eight qubits."
There's still a long way to go for this 15 million dollar computer. The processor is designed to work together with ordinary computers to boost performance by 3,600 times. In theory, a quantum computer can do multiple searches simultaneously to give accurate answers instantly, with all the answer's variations, as well.
D-Wave claims their computer specializes in Optimization, Machine Learning, Pattern Recognition and Anomaly Detection, Financial Analysis, and Software/Hardware Verification and Validation.
Naysayers think that the alternative design, using gates instead of annealing (I'm not going to lie - I have no clue what that actually means), works more reliably than D-Wave's current design. The company also has not proven that it can tackle overly-complicated problems or resist the fallout that turns entangled binary into simple 1's and 0's over time.
Whatever the case, for us in the mainstream, this D-Waves design means quantum computers are nearer than ever. Woohoo!