Quantum News Briefs January 30
TIME Magazine profiles quantum computing’s benefits & pitfalls in January 26 cover story
Charlie Campbell, East Asia correspondent, is the author of Time Magazine’s cover story on quantum computing entitled “Quantum Computers Could Solve Countless Problems—And Create a Lot of New Ones.” Quantum News Briefs summarizes.
Writing for a mass media readership, Campbell writes that “quantum technology that is set to transform pretty much everything”. Quantum’s unique ability to crunch stacks of data is already optimizing the routes of thousands of fuel tankers traversing the globe, helping decide which ICU patients require the most urgent care, and mimicking chemical processes at the atomic level to better design new materials. It also promises to supercharge artificial intelligence, with the power to better train algorithms that can finally turn driverless cars and drone taxis into a reality. Quantum AI simulations exhibit a “degree of effectiveness and efficiency that is mind-boggling,” U.S. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis tells TIME.
Tech giants from Google to Amazon and Alibaba not to mention nation-states vying for technological supremacy—are racing to dominate this space. The global quantum-computing industry is projected to grow from $412 million in 2020 to $8.6 billion in 2027, according to an International Data Corp. analysis.
Quantum’s earliest adopters are asset-management firms—for which incorporating quantum calculations involves few increased overhead costs—but commercial uses aren’t far behind.
But any disrupter comes with risks, and quantum has become a national-security migraine. Its problem-solving capacity will soon render all existing cryptography obsolete, jeopardizing communications, financial transactions, and even military defenses. “People describe quantum as a new space race,” says Dan O’Shea, operations manager for Inside Quantum Technology, an industry publication. In October, U.S. President Joe Biden toured IBM’s quantum data center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., calling quantum “vital to our economy and equally important to our national security.” In this new era of great-power competition, China and the U.S. are particularly hell-bent on conquering the technology lest they lose vital ground.
If China cracked U.S. encryption, why would it tell us?
There are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the paper’s claims, however, and even more reasons to question why Chinese researchers would show their hand if they really cracked our codes.
If China really broke RSA encryption, they wouldn’t tell us. Perhaps China is trying to get a seat at the table, seeking invitations to collaborate with quantum research facilities overseas. These invitations may have dried up after Washington enacted a series of policies blocking quantum technology sharing with China because of quantum’s military applications.
Beijing has previously published what appears to be cutting-edge research in efforts to garner praise, only to have that research debunked later. This seems to be the case yet again. Numerous quantum and computer science experts have already raised doubts about the new paper’s findings.
Given the scale of the threat, however, dismissing the Chinese claims as mere boasting would be dangerous. Why would China sacrifice significant strategic advantage for academic bragging rights?
Perhaps the Chinese government is trying to convince the world that it has cracked RSA encryption to build a kind of deterrence. If one repeats false information often enough, others may start believing it. The quantum paper could be part of a series of efforts to convince the United States that China has obtained unsurpassable technological dominance. Beijing may be betting that, facing a stronger adversary, American decisionmakers will acquiesce to China’s will on various global issues.
Beijing’s strategic planners are no doubt watching to see how America and its allies respond—how much handwringing Washington engages in, how much reactive behavior, and how much resignation. Part of America’s assessment of its next actions should be an evaluation of what lessons China might learn from how the U.S. government reacts. Click here to read National Interest article in-entirety.
University of Waterloo receives Quantum Horizon funding award
Adrian Lupascu, a member of the Institute for Quantum Computing and the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo, is a co-principal investigator (PI) alongside Anne-Marie Valente-Feliciano, an accelerator physicist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Mustafa Bal, an associate scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory-hosted Superconducting Quantum Materials and Systems (SQMS) Center, is the lead PI who will coordinate the project “QIS and nuclear physics technologies for next generation materials and architectures for high coherence superconducting qubits” funded by the award.
This awarded proposal seeks to understand and mitigate the loss of quantum information in quantum systems by a phenomenon called decoherence. “One of our team’s main areas of interest is understanding how well quantum information is preserved in devices. For this process, the quality of materials is essential,” Lupascu said. “The film expertise at Jefferson Lab and the collaboration with SQMS will provide an opportunity to explore new physics and advance quantum devices.” Click here to read announcement in-entirety.
Okinawa researchers use AI to discover & apply stabilizing pulses of light or voltage with fluctuating intensity to quantum systems
Controlling the movement of quantum systems like atoms and electrons poses a much great challenge. These tiny particles are prone to perturbations that can cause them to deviate from their intended path in unexpected ways. Additionally, movement within the system degrades, known as damping, and noise from environmental factors like temperature further disrupts its trajectory.
The machine learning-based method that Dr. Bijita Sarma, the article’s lead author and a Postdoctoral Scholar at OIST Quantum Machines Unit, and her colleagues designed demonstrates how artificial controllers can be used to discover non-intuitive, intelligent pulse sequences that can cool a mechanical object from high to ultracold temperatures faster than other standard methods. These control pulses are self-discovered by the machine learning agent. The work showcases the utility of artificial machine intelligence in the development of quantum technologies.and her colleagues designed demonstrates how artificial controllers can be used to discover non-intuitive, intelligent pulse sequences that can cool a mechanical object from high to ultracold temperatures faster than other standard methods. These control pulses are self-discovered by the machine learning agent. The work showcases the utility of artificial machine intelligence in the development of quantum technologies. Click here to read article in-entirety.
Sandra K. Helsel, Ph.D. has been researching and reporting on frontier technologies since 1990. She has her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona.