Precision Is Nature’s Gift to Technology

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Nobel Prize-winning physicist Frank Wilczek explores the secrets of the cosmos. Read previous columns here. Precision is a powerful tool, but it can be hard to come by. That theme, with variations, is a leitmotif of science, organic life and modern technology. It is sounding again today, at the frontier of quantum computing. Consider biology. Complex organisms store their essential operating systems—instructions for how to build cells and keep them going—within long DNA molecules. Those basic programs must be read out and translated into chemical events. Errors in translation can be catastrophic, resulting in defective, dysfunctional proteins or even in cancers. So biology has evolved an elaborate machinery of repair and proofreading to keep error rates low—around one per billion operations. A series of complicated...

A student’s physics project could make quantum computers twice as reliable

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A student's tweak in quantum computing code could double its ability to catch errors, piquing the interest of Amazon's quantum computing program. The new code could be used to build quantum computers that live up to the promises of lightning-fast processing time and the ability to solve more complex problems than traditional computers could handle. So far, only two computers have reached "quantum supremacy," or the ability to complete a quantum calculation faster than the fastest supercomputer. But neither of those computers used error correction codes that will be necessary to scale up quantum computing for widespread, reliable use, the researchers on the new study said. Regular computing depends on "bits," which are like switches that can toggle between the "on" or "off" position. The position of the bits encodes information. Quantum computing...

Lack of symmetry in qubits can’t fix errors in quantum computing, but might explain matter/antimatter imbalance

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Newswise — LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Feb. 22, 2021—A team of quantum theorists seeking to cure a basic problem with quantum annealing computers—they have to run at a relatively slow pace to operate properly—found something intriguing instead. While probing how quantum annealers perform when operated faster than desired, the team unexpectedly discovered a new effect that may account for the imbalanced distribution of matter and antimatter in the universe and a novel approach to separating isotopes.“Although our discovery did not the cure the annealing time restriction, it brought a class of new physics problems that can now be studied with quantum annealers without requiring they be too slow,” said Nikolai Sinitsyn, a theoretical physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Sinitsyn is author of the paper published Feb. 19 in Physical Review...