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Google reportedly attains 'quantum supremacy'

Its quantum computer can solve tasks that are otherwise unsolvable, a report says.

A new quantum computer from Google can reportedly do the impossible.

Eric Lukero/Google

Google has reportedly built a quantum computer more powerful than the world's top supercomputers. A Google research paper was temporarily posted online this week, the Financial Times reported Friday, and said the quantum computer's processor allowed a calculation to be performed in just over 3 minutes. That calculation would take 10,000 years on IBM's Summit, the world's most powerful commercial computer, Google reportedly said.

Google researchers are throwing around the term "quantum supremacy" as a result, the FT said, because their quantum computer can solve tasks that can't otherwise be solved. "To our knowledge, this experiment marks the first computation that can only be performed on a quantum processor," the research paper reportedly said.

Google declined to comment on the FT's report.

Video: Quantum computers will blow your mind

The tech giant unveiled its 72-qubit quantum computer chip Bristlecone in March 2018. 

"We are cautiously optimistic that quantum supremacy can be achieved with Bristlecone," said Julian Kelly, a research scientist at Google's Quantum AI Lab, said at the time. "We believe the experimental demonstration of a quantum processor outperforming a supercomputer would be a watershed moment for our field."

Quantum computing, which can simultaneously evaluate multiple possibilities, will likely be used for physics and chemistry simulations that aren't possible with classical computers, which can't simulate complex chemicals. They could also create new drugs and solar panels, help develop artificial intelligence and self-driving cars, and even manage investment portfolios.

Earlier this week, IBM unveiled its 14th quantum computer, which has 53 qubits. It'll be available for quantum computing customers in October.

AT&T also recently said it's working on quantum networking, or the technology to link quantum computers.

First published at 12:12 p.m. PT on Sept. 20.
Updated on Sept. 24 at 11:57 a.m.: Adds more info on Bristlecone.

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