A grand sampling of today’s quantum movers and shakers shows many come from physics depts, R&D equipment makers, and the like, and that should remain the case for some time. This is one among many clues indicating the quantum computing industry is still struggling to be born. One foot is very much in the labs where quantum physics research has been going on for 10s of years.
A lot of work going on now has to do with moving particles and waves in ways that forward knowledge of the underlying quantum aspects of nature. It’s the stuff of headlines describing breakthroughs in Science and Nature magazines, as well as Nobel prizes. Manipulating things subatomic – it’s still not quite commonplace activity.
A news release from Sandia National Labs provides a glimpse into what goes on as researchers strive to scale-up quantum computing beyond the original test beds. From Sandia comes word that the Dept of Energy Office of Science has conferred a five-year Early Career Research Program Award grant to Timothy Proctor to improve the quantum computer programs now being devised at the honored research labs. A look at Proctor’s work discloses some of the friction points with which ‘quantumists’ must deal.
Proctor came to Sandia via Leeds University, where he explored a variety of techniques for creating computational quantum gates. A lot of that work has to do with creating operating system software that manages new types of hardware and communications. Error correction, boot order, and other operational traits that were fairly suitably solved some time ago in classical computing are still frontier undertakings for the quantum kind.
These days, he is looking at how commands are arranged and structured and what effect different approaches have on computing accuracy. That use case, in fact, is one of the key ones that fledgling quantum software houses are pursuing. Not surprisingly, comparing results on highly divergent quantum computing types is the first order of business for many who are just now dipping toes in the water.
As part of their public debates on physics in the 1920s Einstein and Bohrs did thought experiments. After all, there was no apparatus to separate, observe and manipulate atomic and sub-atomic particles. So, they used their minds. Laboratory rigs accomplish those experiments today – but the scale does not yet match the scale where quantum computing dependably scales beyond today’s best systems. When will that change? Work like Proctor’s algorithmic efforts will yield clues. – Jack Vaughan