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Shutdown hobbles advanced computer project

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Add Google's quantum computer project to the government's list of shutdown victims.

Wired reports D-Wave Two, housed within the Google-funded Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab at NASA's Ames Research Center, was booted up days before NASA furloughed 97 percent of its employees and closed all of the its main facilities, including Ames.

With the NASA personnel testing the machine at home and the facility closed, the computer is "still accessible and working," a Google spokeswoman told Wired, though it is unclear what – if anything – is actually happening with it.

Confusion is nothing new for D-Wave 2.

Though its creators bill the machine as a next-generation computing system able to harness the power of quantum mechanics, a legion of critics has challenged the machine's validity as a legitimate quantum computer.

While quantum computing is still in its infancy, its potential lies in the ability to use quantum-mechanical phenomena to perform operations on data or carry out calculations. Traditional computers encode data in the binary bit – either a one or a zero – whereas a quantum computer uses a quantum bit (qbit) that can represent a one, zero or any quantum superposition of the state. According to D-Wave's website, the key difference is that bits can be in 0 and 1 states simultaneously, rather than the either-or of traditional computing.

Technical details aside, it means that the computing capacity of a fully functional quantum computer is theoretically much greater than that of traditional computers.

 

About the Author

Frank Konkel is a former staff writer for FCW.

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