One reader here is about to get rich!

Quantum computing is on cusp of commercial breakthrough
A Cambridge start-up’s operating system could lead to the creation of a software market

Given that one reader here is a senior bod in this quantum computing lark.

Altho’, y’know, slips ‘tween cup and lip.

More realistically, how much of an advance is this O/S?

41 thoughts on “One reader here is about to get rich!”

  1. I think I know your reader, a little. He tried to explain quantum computing to me. ZOOOOOM over my head it went. So obviously it can’t be real.

  2. I’m a Fellow of the British Computer Society. Have tried again and again to understand quantum computing. I now know as much as you…

  3. As the physicist Niels Bohr said,
    “If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.”

    I suppose its better than Microsoft having a go at it, as you wouldn’t even be sure if you have to turn it off and on again.

  4. Hi, remember me? Of course you do, we’ve crossed swords on Tim Worstall’s blog many times so you and I go waaay back.
    Thing is, I find myself in a little temporary cash flow difficulty and since we’re old mates and I know you as a kind and generous soul…

  5. I reckon they could always write software for the Government/NHS/Crapita.

    Based on the Uncertainty Principle, you could either have software that works, but the tax payer will never be able to find out how much it costs or how long it will take to finish.

    Or, you could have software at a fixed, known price – but you can’t tell whether it works or not.

  6. The best way to write this software would be to get an infinite number of cats, and sit them on an infinite number of keyboards…

  7. Bloke in Brum,

    Can you actually turn a quantum computer off? Or on? And reliably know if it is off or on?

    And if you do reliably know that it is switched on, is its output reliable?

  8. Well, the article is paywalled for me but I think Philip probably has it – it’s a “gimme more cash” thing. As for quantum computing, in no way is it practical now, being small and needing to operate near absolute zero. The two problems are scaling it up, and having the quantum entanglements last long enough (coherence time) to compute something useful. The second is a major killer, hence operating near absolute zero to avoid thermal noise issues.

    I read an article the other day that suggested as coherence time gets longer with improvements in technique, then cosmic rays and natural background radiation will start to screw it up (they do now but other factors are dominant). So besides having to put it all in a Dewar of liquid helium, it also has to sit at the bottom of a gold mine and be surrounded by ultra-pure lead from which the 40K and other decaying isotopes have been removed…

    Faced with the hardware issues I think whizzy software is less than relevant at this point.

  9. So besides having to put it all in a Dewar of liquid helium, it also has to sit at the bottom of a gold mine and be surrounded by ultra-pure lead from which the 40K and other decaying isotopes have been removed…

    So… you’re saying I *should* buy the extended warranty from PC World?

  10. They’ve been running a small quantum computer on Microsoft Azure and anyone can access it, but I’m not seeing a lot of chatter about it. If the nerds aren’t playing around with it, it ain’t happening yet.

    This is just some company looking for some finance from the sort of rubes who think that the Enterprise Editor of The Times isn’t some bluffer who hasn’t the first idea about the future.

  11. The comments in this thread are great. Made me laugh.

    And you only know if a quantum computer is on or off when you go to access it. Once you know if it’s on or off you won’t then know if it stayed on, or off until you try again and then possibly discover it’s changed states. How the hell it can get any computing done is beyond me.

  12. “Faced with the hardware issues I think whizzy software is less than relevant at this point.”
    That’s the point – It’s a new paradigm entirely, meaning different problems entirely.

  13. The best way to write this software would be to get an infinite number of cats, and sit them on an infinite number of keyboards…

    Wired to the mains

  14. Well, our chap is in Oxford (if it’s the guy I know). One of his greatest problems is checking deliveries. All those cat boxes, of which a great many are needed. The problem is the lorry driver needs a signature accepting the goods in satisfactory condition. And you can’t look in the box.

  15. What I want is a quantum entangled router, so I can get decent WiFi wherever I go in the universe (will settle for house).
    If Sky offered it, would they still try to push the WiFi extender though?

  16. Rhoda, many of the ‘Shrink Wrap’ software agreements are very quantum, in that you can’t know what you’re agreeing to, until after you’ve signed on the dotted line.

  17. Looking for a career in Quantum Physics? On the good side you get to look at the vacant expressions of people as you explain how it works, BUT you have to pretend to appreciate all the lame-ass jokes about dead cats.

  18. ‘Quantum computing is on cusp of commercial breakthrough’

    I don’t know enough about alleged ‘quantum computing’ to comment.

    But I know enough to ask, “Why the press release?”

    Internet searching to try to learn something about it retrieves a basket of qualifiers. Is quantum computing real? Are they just blurring our vision with the extraneous to keep getting funding?

    From Scientific American:

    ‘Quantum computers rely on the same physical rules as atoms to manipulate information. Just like traditional, classical, computers execute logical circuits to run software programs, quantum computers use the physics phenomena of superposition, entanglement and interference to execute quantum circuits. One day soon, they should be able to perform mathematical calculations out of the reach of the most advanced current and future classical supercomputers.’

    Word salad. Gibberish.

    Several renowned scientists said that if you can’t explain something to an 8 year old, you don’t really understand it yourself. Even as a computer scientist (ret), I don’t feel bad about not understanding quantum computing. Those involved don’t understand it, either.

  19. So Much For Subtlety

    Steve September 7, 2020 at 10:15 am – “The important question here is: does it play Doom?”

    I see you studied Computing in the late-80s or early-90s.

    The more general question is whether you can use it to watch porn. That seems to be all the customers want.

    I can foresee some problems with that. “Is it in?” “Well, ummmmm….”

    But at least there will be one happy customer base – “Is it male-on-female or female-on-female?” “Well, sort of both. Depends how you look at it”

  20. ’One day soon, they should be able to perform mathematical calculations out of the reach of the most advanced current and future classical supercomputers.’

    That is plausible except for the word ‘soon’.

  21. So Much For Subtlety

    Gamecock September 7, 2020 at 2:15 pm – ‘One day soon, they should be able to perform mathematical calculations out of the reach of the most advanced current and future classical supercomputers.’

    I am pretty sure I know how this ends:

    “Do you have an answer for us?”
    “Yes. …. But I don’t think you are going to like it”

    Personally I don’t care as long as it looks like Orac

  22. Oof. Jenna from Blake’s 7.

    Only throw in Erin Gray from Buck Rogers and the Scooby Doo gal in the white dress, and you’ve gift-wrapped most of my psychoses.

    If that’s the word I want.

  23. A lot of people seem to think a quantum computer will be just like a ‘traditional’ computer, but much faster. But that’s really only true for specific tasks – rapidly factorising large numbers being the best known. For most of the practical work for which computers are used, quantum offers little improvement in performance.

  24. Here’s my reading:

    From reading the press release – the technology in this OS is probably useful but it’s not exactly an advance in quantum computing itself. More like an advance in computing ‘with’ quantum than ‘of’ quantum.

    Way down in the text there are two key points made.

    One is that this OS creates a general layer of abstraction between the machine and the user. The user can control the machine through the OS. That’s useful, but totally standard operating system stuff in some sense. The value-add I suppose is that the OS will be able to send computations that benefit from the quantum processing into the hardware In the right way (assuming of course the hardware is compatible with their self-defined standards!). If it catches on, you’ll be able to write programs that run on this OS and not worry about what’s happening underneath in the hardware at all.

    The other point is the claim about speed. This is where it gets slightly disingenuous in my opinion. It turns out the speed advantages are all about being able to use things called FPGAs. These are basically processing chips (not quantum) that can be reconfigured in operation.

    If you have some very specialised computing to do, you can create chips that are optimised to do it. The most familiar example are perhaps GPUs – very good at fast graphics or bitcoin mining, but not so good for running a whole computer system.

    FPGAs allow you to create semi-optimised chips, but they can then be changed into chips that can be semi-optimised to do something else. In some circumstances that can be optimal for overall speed.

    Essentially, the company appears to be doing work analogous to this kind of thing in the non-quantum world:

    https://www.techrepublic.com/article/feniks-microsofts-cloud-scale-fpga-operating-system/

    The part I can’t gauge is how useful it actually is to be able to use FPGAs to run the control system of a quantum computer. Probably very in some types of computation, but maybe not that many.

    In some ways this is just combining three things that are already being done – managing hardware (quantum and FPGAs) through an OS, performing quantum computation operations.

    But I wouldn’t sneer at it because it’s something that does need to be done (at least the OS part anyway – the FPGA thing maybe a bit more of a nice-to-have), and it is a complex thing to do in the ordinary sense of the word, even though it’s not a scientific advance in itself.

  25. Even firewalled, this thing already reads as something a certain BOFH would check the defenestration protocols for, in anticipation of ….

  26. ’One day soon, they should be able to perform mathematical calculations out of the reach of the most advanced current and future classical supercomputers.’

    We are not told how. +-/* getting a new friend?

  27. Worrying amount of lust for cartoon characters on show… Funnily enough, I am catching up with a mate from school this week, who once confessed that he regularly knocked one out to Cheetara from Thundercats.

    The holy 70s/80s* trinity is Erin Gray, Lynda Carter & Catherine Bach.

    *mebbe 70s shows but I watched them in the 80s

  28. The holy 70s/80s* trinity is Erin Gray, Lynda Carter & Catherine Bach.

    I can’t really disagree there. The pursuing pack will involve Cheryl Ladd and Heather Locklear no doubt.
    I have recently been watching repeats of the Six Million Dollar Man and the main point of discussion afterwards has been how disappointing Lindsey Wagner’s legs are ( also I had completely forgotten/probably never realised that Stefanie Powers used to make the occasional appearance as an alien in a very tight catsuit when the Sasquatch was involved).

    In my dotage, I have often wondered, judging by the girls in their cartoons, whether the creative teams in Hanna Barbera or Filmation would have their hard drives checked by the authorities today.

  29. Go back further – Betty Boop. I’m sure I’ve seen a cartoon of her wearing no panties.

    Bloody autocorrect! It rendered ‘Boop’ as ‘VoIP’ before I caught it!

  30. @Gamecock
    A true quantum computer can run Shor’s algorithm to factorise numbers in far less time than can be done using a standard computer. But building a QC with a significant number of quantum bits (qbits) is a tough technical challenge. So far they can tell you that 15 = 3 x 5, which you probably already knew.

    If they can be made to work, a lot of cryptography (which depends on such calculations being insuperable difficult) will become obsolete. But the boffins are already working on new techniques which won’t be susceptible to quantum attack.

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