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D-Wave quantum computer matches the tenth ranked supercomputer for speed

By Brian Dodson
May 13, 2013

There have been years of controversy about whether the superconducting quantum annealing computers manufactured by D-Wave are a) quantum computers; and b) fast enough for a) to matter. Now a test of the 512-qubit Vesuvius chip establishes at least that computing based on quantum annealing is, in the words of a computer science professor at Amherst College, "in some cases, really, really fast."

Comparing apples and fish

Professor Catherine McGeoch is an expert on the sometimes obscure difficulties that crop up when evaluating and comparing different types of computing performance. To prepare a study that would compare the performance of a classical computer against that of a quantum computer, McGeoch had to learn the principles, quirks, and foibles of adiabatic quantum computing, of which quantum annealing is a special form.

"It’s such a whole different approach to computation that you have to wrap your head around this new way of doing things in order to decide how to evaluate it." said Prof. McGeoch. "It’s like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and fish, and the difficulty was coming up with experiments and analyses that allowed you to say you’d compared things properly. It definitely was the oddest set of problems I've ever coped with.”

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