Here’s what the people who claimed Google’s quantum supremacy have to say about it

Enlarge / Hartmut Neven, the head of Google’s Quantum AI lab, walked Ars and others through an overview of the company’s quantum computing efforts this week.

John Timmer

SANTA BARBARA, California—Early this autumn, a paper leaked on a NASA site indicating Google engineers had built and tested hardware that achieved what’s termed “quantum supremacy,” completing calculations that would be impossible on a traditional computer. The paper was quickly pulled offline, and Google remained silent, leaving the rest of us to speculate about their plans for this device and any follow-ons the company might be preparing.

That speculation ended today, as Google released the final version of the paper that had leaked. But perhaps more significantly, the company invited the press to its quantum computing lab, talked about its plans, and gave us time to chat with the researchers behind the work.The supremacy result

“I’m not going to bother explaining the quantum supremacy paper—if you were invited to come here, you probably all read the leaked paper,” quipped Hartmut Neven, the head of Google’s Quantum AI lab. But he found it hard to resist the topic entirely, and the other people who talked with reporters were more than happy to expand on Neven’s discussion.

Google’s Sergio Boixo explained the experiment in detail, describing how a random source was used to configure the gates among the qubits, after which a measurement of the system’s output was made. The process was then repeated a few million times in succession. While on a normal computer the output would be the same given the same starting configuration, qubits can have values that make their measured output probabilistic, meaning that the result of any one measurement can’t be predicted. With enough measurements, however, it’s possible to get the probability distribution.

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