## 1 Molecule Computes Thousands of Times Faster Than a PC 246

Posted
by
timothy

from the but-only-for-certain-tasks dept.

from the but-only-for-certain-tasks dept.

alexhiggins732 writes with this tantalizing PopSci snippet:

*"A demo of a quantum calculation carried out by Japanese researchers has yielded some pretty mind-blowing results: a single molecule can perform a complex calculation thousands of times faster than a conventional computer. A proof-of-principle test run of a discrete Fourier transform — a common calculation using spectral analysis and data compression, among other things — performed with a single iodine molecule transpired very well, putting all the molecules in your PC to shame."*
## Computronium. (Score:4, Insightful)

I think we are going to see a lot more of this sort of thing as humans get better and better at organizing matter into computing machines. The future is looking very very bright!

## Re: (Score:2)

"The future is looking very very bright!"That's not brightness you're seeing, it's just an oily sheen.

## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

Will these calculations be affected by radiation?

Will one have some sort of error detection in that case?

## Need more computing power? (Score:5, Funny)

Add more table salt.

## Re: (Score:2)

## Thats cheating (Score:5, Insightful)

In a way. thats just the same as claiming a laser can caluclate a 2D FFT if you look at the frauenhofer diffraction of an aperture.

Or that single candle can render better than any GPU by the way a room looks like when its illuminated by it.

You just have to redefine a basic property of your system as "calculation"

## Re:Thats cheating (Score:5, Interesting)

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That's like saying that the only thing a transistor can only compute is how it will behave for given applied voltages across its base and collector. Strictly true, but it's a critical building block. Any time you can deterministically create a particular quantum state, allow it to evolve, and read the output you can perform some quantum computations. Similarly, any classical system can perform some classical computations; the question is whether those computations are useful. Frauenhofer diffraction perform

## Re: (Score:2)

I was aware of the using-diffraction-to-compute-Fourier-transforms idea; in fact, I was under the impression that it was somewhat popular before the advent of digital computers. A really good comparison.

Still, I think that maybe "cheating" is exactly what we should be doing more of. We

canuse obscenely-sophisticated multigrid PDE solvers to solve Navier Stokes... or we can build a wind tunnel and instrument it with sensors. What I'm wondering is whether there are other physical processes that are good a## Re: (Score:2)

You just have to redefine a basic property of your system as "calculation"

Isn't this what we do with conventional computers? All any electronic computer does is open and close logic gates and send and receive signals in such a way that those operations

conceptuallymap to logical and arithmetical operations in the minds of humans. The collection of colored dots you're looking at right now are only "text" because you have been trained to interpret them that way. Whether any event in the universe is a "calculation" ultimately represents a judgment on the part of a human mind about## Re:Thats cheating (Score:5, Insightful)

No, the current through the transistor is a binary representation of a value, which can be run through arbitrary programs on the same general hardware. This is just using analog resonances to create a dedicated mechanical "FFT device" of actual waveforms, not performing analyses on numeric data.

To use a Car Analogy (TM), this is like saying I've invented a better driving simulation algorithm than Gran Turismo/Forza/rFactor/etc by building & driving a physical car.

## Re:Thats cheating (Score:5, Interesting)

If you define enough real world processes as calculation, you prove none of our laws of physics are the real ones.

For just one example, Nature can't be storing irrational numbers as infinite series expressions (where would the infinitely large registers to store them be?). Another way to put this is, if some process in Nature counts as a calculation, Nature can't be doing that calculation using numbers such as pi or e, but rather finite approximations of such numbers, that allow results in finite time.

(Otherwise, somewhere 'outside' the observable universe, there is an infinite amount of storage available for each number needed, and some sort of mechanism that handles those calculations in what looks like finite time to any point of view inside the universe - congratulations, you've just proved both the omnipresence and the omnipotence of God - probably not what you were aiming to do).

There are other ways around this, such as claiming real world events are just approximations - but what does it mean to say that nature has approximated what would happen to that apple that just fell on Newton's noggin, if there had been an exact inverse square law of gravity inside our computationally finite universe? This sort of claim sounds suspiciously like Plato's cave. Is there an ideal law of gravity that is somehow more real than the law of gravity actually expressed in the universe?

Alternately, maybe the problem is with claiming that some things

arecomputations, just because they can be interpreted as approximate (usually analog) computations by an observer, that also has other knowledge necessary to parse the events as the results of computations. That's probably just as likely to lead to wild implications, but at least they are different wild implications.## Re: (Score:2)

Gravity is a bad example because we honestly have no clue how it works [wikipedia.org].

A better example would be the electroweak interaction -- we actually know how that works.

Otherwise I agree with you.

## Re: (Score:2)

If you define enough real world processes as calculation, you prove none of our laws of physics are the real ones.

For just one example, Nature can't be storing irrational numbers as infinite series expressions (where would the infinitely large registers to store them be?). Another way to put this is, if some process in Nature counts as a calculation, Nature can't be doing that calculation using numbers such as pi or e, but rather finite approximations of such numbers, that allow results in finite time.

There exists a small number of physicists who are willing to entertain the idea that Nature does not, in fact, deal with any irrational numbers. If all measurable values are quantized (including time and space), then Nature need not bother with "real" numbers. Nature might be perfectly content to get by with, say, some large algebraic extension of the rationals.

## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

I think you're looking at it backwards.

Pi and e are our approximations of nature's behaviour. Our laws of physics are modelled on the behaviour of nature as best as we can observe. In fact, you could argue that all of mathematics is the same. We try and shoehorn these natural constants into integer bases, and we're shocked when they don't play nicely.

Nature is not some calculator approximating a physics simulation with some arbitrary level of precision.

## Re: (Score:2)

(Otherwise, somewhere 'outside' the observable universe, there is an infinite amount of storage available for each number needed, and some sort of mechanism that handles those calculations in what looks like finite time to any point of view inside the universe - congratulations, you've just proved both the omnipresence and the omnipotence of God - probably not what you were aiming to do).Dude, I want some of that shit you're smoking!

## Re:Thats cheating (Score:4, Insightful)

The universe is a pattern of vibrations/energy. Physical laws are just representations or patterns we observe that behave in a consistent way, which we have codified in some sort of language (usually maths). There are no "real" laws of physics, just abstract representations of observable phenomena. Some do a better job of representation than others.

Nature doesn't "use" pi or e to do calculations. These symbols are just part of our codification of consistent patterns which we have abstracted and aren't real outside our heads. Nothing "calculates" the physical world, rather, we calculate how parts of it will behave. In other words physics and maths MIMIC the universe; the universe is certainly NOT based on maths or physics. What will calculate the calculator. Don't confuse abstractions with reality.

## Quantum computers aren't X times faster. (Score:5, Interesting)

I really hate it when people come up with the simple "Quantum computer 1000 times faster than conventional computer". It's not just overly simplistic, it's wrong.

Quantum computers can turn some problems that require exponential time to solve into a polynomial time. So instead of taking 2^n time, it might take n^3 time. That's cannot in any realistic way be described as being "X times faster".

## Re: (Score:2)

So instead of taking 2^n time, it might take n^3 time. That's cannot in any realistic way be described as being "X times faster".

You can compare specific cases of n. For example, with 2^n for a conventional computer and n^3 for the quantum computer, if n = 24, the quantum computer is roughly 1000 times faster (2^24 / 24^3 = 1213).

I agree that it's overly simplistic, but it's not always wrong. Just a bit too specific, maybe. And also: try explaining the difference between 2^n and n^3 to the general population.

## Re: (Score:2)

I agree that it's overly simplistic, but it's not always wrong.

If you're smart and knowledgeable enough to know the cases where the comparison is correct, you didn't need the comparison in the first place.

try explaining the difference between 2^n and n^3 to the general population.

Don't. Simply say it fundamentally changes the way computers solve problems, and can make some problems that were nearly insolvable ones into ones that can be solved. Telling them it's 1000 times faster makes it sound like they m

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It has to do with the complexity of calculations, and the time a computer needs to find the solution for a problem with n variables/elements. For a certain way of solving a problem, increasing the amount of variables (n) increases the complexity, and thus the calculating time.

An example: simulating a traffic situation with n cars. Doing the simulation with 11 cars is more complex than with 10 cars, because there's one extra car that's interacting with all the other cars.

If a problem is of the order of compl

## Re: (Score:2)

Yes, such statements are gross simplifications.

However, saying that "a single molecule can perform a complex calculation thousands of times faster than a conventional computer" is in no way false.

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Along the same lines, one could say that a wind tunnel can perform a calculation at least 10^23 (eg Avogadro's constant) times faster than a computer, if you're comparing a snapshot photograph with a simulation program which would try to individually compute the trajectories of all the air molecules in the same vol

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The commonly accepted way to compare two numerical procedures is by expressing them (perhaps implicitly) as sequences of arithmetical operations. That yields a necessary common basis for comparison, which is lacking here.

The problem with viewing the dynamics of a molecule as a calculation (or perhap

## Re: (Score:2)

So in your opinion the question "Is a computer faster than an abacus?" has no answer then? Seriously, get a grip - it's just to tell that it can do some things much faster and that is why you should care. That's the first thing you should get across in any communication, there's tons of things that are technically correct but uninteresting or useless. If you can't get that across within the first 30 seconds, I got better things to do. Or since I'm sitting here I probably don't, but anyway...

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

So in your opinion the question "Is a computer faster than an abacus?" has no answer then?

On many levels, yes. Since the problem you're trying to solve is open ended, there's as many answers to it as their are ends to the question.

it's just to tell that it can do some things much faster and that is why you should care. That's the first thing you should get across in any communication, there's tons of things that are technically correct but uninteresting or useless. If you can't get that across within the f

## Re:Quantum computers ... P & NP (Score:2)

Quantum computers can turn some problems that require exponential time to solve into a polynomial time.

you mean transforming nondeterministic polynomial (NP, or deterministic exponential) into polynomial (P) problems, then

this is wrong:[wikipedia.org]"There is a common misconception that quantum computers can solve NP-complete problems in polynomial time. That is not known to be true, and is generally suspected to be false."The word "some" doesn't save you either, if you do it for one NP-complete problem, you'd just gotten yourself a Fields Medal :)

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

NP-complete is different fromNP. There are severalNP(but notNP-complete) problems that quantum computers can solve in polynomial time: integer factoring [wikipedia.org], for example.## Re: (Score:2)

Also,

NPdoesn't mean deterministic exponential. There are sub-exponential problems inNPtoo.## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

It's not unlike comparing a train ride with a flight. Yes, the airplane is faster than the train, but sometimes when you factor in the lenght of time it takes to drive to the airport, board the plane, fly, unboard, drive from the airport to the destinati

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## Let me be the first to say it (Score:5, Funny)

## Is this the limit? (Score:2)

I'm no quantum theory expert, but does this represent the limit? Or are there some hypotheses about doing calculations with smaller particles?

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## Show me a single molecule quantum device (Score:5, Interesting)

I've never seen a quantum computing device smaller than the size of a small room, so I'm not really sure how fair it is to compare it to a PC.

Really the PC doesn't even use full atoms for calculations, it uses electrons and electron holes in the atoms, and its at least 2000 times smaller than any quantum device I've seen.

You don't really get to say its one molecule when its a device made up of a fuckton of molecules and you are comparing too it a PC which uses subatomic elements to actually do the work.

You have a fast calculator ... the size of a room ... which I can put 2000 slower and easier to make calculators in and end up faster.

Sure, eventually, they'll make it smaller and smaller, but your comparison is like saying using an f16 to deliver mail is faster than using a postal truck to deliver milk. Just because you make two statements that share a verb doesn't mean you've made a comparison thats in any way meaningful.

## Re: (Score:2)

Lets dial that back 60 years

"I've never seen a computing device smaller than the size of a small room, so I'm not really sure how fair it is to compare it to a team of specialists"

Interesting.

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## The need for speed (Score:5, Funny)

## Neat! (Score:2)

I want one so i can overclock it by adding neutrons.

## To understand the implications of Quantum Compu... (Score:2)

.... say bye bye to encryption...

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## Re: (Score:2)

also, plain old XOR (with OTP white noise key the size of the cryptogram) remains unbroken.

## Re: (Score:2, Funny)

Unless your Microsoft(tm) white noise generator generates the key 00000000.......

## Re: (Score:2)

nah... you underestimate them.

1111-1111-1111-1112

## Re: (Score:2)

But the only so-called quantum cryptography I have heard of is hardly cryptography. It is a way to generate a shared secret between 2 computers that happen to be directly linked by optical fiber, while detecting any attempt at eavesdropping. It is worthless unless the two computers that want to communicate have a dedicated fiber line that connects them.[1]

Further while it prevents eavesdropping, it does not prevent full blown man-in-the-middle, where the fiber is severed, and converted into a pair of fiber

## Re: (Score:2)

trusted relays doesn't sound very secure.

## Re: (Score:2)

And say hello to theoretically unbreakable (not 10^15 years unbreakable, literally unbreakable) quantum entanglement-based one time pads.

## Re:To understand the implications of Quantum Compu (Score:5, Insightful)

One time pads already are unbreakable.

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## heisenberg principle? (Score:2)

the molecule might have the right answer, but i imagine that it can only give you a proabilistic answer

## Original article (Score:4, Informative)

## So in other words... (Score:2)

...You could run Crysis on about half a ton of iodine?

## Silicon (Score:2)

## I can haz FFT now, plzkthx? (Score:2)

I just wish they would finally come up with something that is production-ready.

There are so many uses for FFT, it’s not even funny. And all normal algorithms always will be imperfect and slow.

Instant FFT (and inverse FT) would (also) instantly change the world.

## Outsourced Again! (Score:2)

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Informative)

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Actually, this is a very simple OFET.

This is considered an organic semiconductor, and thus an organic transistor.

Moore's law still holds, if not just got smashed by this possible computational breakthrough. Instead of roughly doubling every 18 months, try three orders of magnitude every 6 months. The amount of calculating power this could allow would speed up technology development immensely.

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Informative)

Moore's law isn't about the tip of high-tech research. It's about the leading edge of profitable manufacturing of computational devices.

I.e., until someone like Applied Materials or KLA Tencor is done installing a fab line for this process node, you can't count it as a data point in the history of the law.

## Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:4, Interesting)

I think the real question should be how many measurements per second can you do.

This is what standard computes do. To get the next step, you have to measure/read the previous state. So you have just zero or one, because that is the easiest to measure. Then you measure in gigahertz.

How many measurements per second can quantum computers do?

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

The literature that I've read in the press seems unanimous in stating that quantum computers are going to be better than conventional computers. This is particularly evident with respect to encryption and searching. I am now begi

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

The simplest explanation I can offer is that, at the quantum level, moving bare information (yes, even abstract ones and zeros) from one location to another to perform calculations runs into a bottleneck due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principal. The simple act of measuring (for example, reading a bit out of RAM or out of a CPU register) gets more and more disruptive to increasingly small systems.

Quantum computing is not magic, but it does differ from the classical approach in that you perform a lot of yo

## Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

## Re: (Score:3, Informative)

Moore's law

Moore's 'law' isn't a law of nature (or of humans) in any meaningful sense. It's a conjecture, a guess, a prediction, and nothing more. Why people who are supposedly rational cling to it as some unchanging constant of nature mystifies me. Why even bother to argue about whether it is true or not? It's already completely out of date, in that he wisely limited his guess to 10 years, up to 001975.

If Moore's conjecture is broken, or has already been, so what? Have any fundamental laws of physics been violated, h

## In defense of Moore's law (Score:5, Insightful)

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But the time from this point until practical seems a very long way off, we still have a shitton of learning to do regarding molecular quantum computation.

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Informative)

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From the top of my head, among these limitations are:

Even with all of these conditions, purpose-driven machines for research would still be quite a boon.

Even this proof-of-concept here for computing FFTs shows potential...

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I know what a P-value is, but I don't understand what you mean. Please explain.

I thought all results for anything testable comes with a P-value. Maybe I don't understand what it is after all.

Or are you saying this "molecule computer's" results come with a

highP-value?## Re: (Score:2)

I don't either, that part was in the quote of the parent. You should ask the parent.

I think the P-Value is the 'certainty' or 'confidence' value.

## Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

This P-value and the P-value you're thinking of aren't the same. Ordinarily, when we think of P-value, we're thinking of errors caused by statistical chance, errors in the data and so on. However, in quantum computing, even purely mathematical computations have a probability of correctness. In other words, when you add 2 + 2 with a quantum computer, you don't get 4. You get 4 (p=.95). When you evaluate the mathematical function, you get the result, plus a probability of that result being the correct res

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:4, Informative)

The same goes for conventional computing. No computer is error-free, and bit errors can and do happen. There are unsolved/unsolvable problems in electronics like metastability that always come with a P-value which you can make as large as you want by trading off speed.

Conventional computers are tuned such that the error rates are small enough that people can live with them (e.g. once a few months for crappy consumer hardware, or hopefully once every decade or more for proper servers). The question is whether quantum computing will still be faster after being tuned to similar error rates. There are also tricks you can use, such as ECCs and other types of parity for conventional computers. For example, on quantum computing you can have several computers running the same problem and then require that they agree on the result.

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Funny)

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Probably.

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To be honest, the Bistro drive seems more likely. Have you ever tried organizing a dinner party at a Bistro?! Man, we're halfway there already!

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It's an ... erm, eventually.

infiniteimprobability drive, so the actual probability of it existing must be 1## Re: (Score:2)

Yes, a probability of 1 means it IS certain ... it might take an infinite amount of time before it actually happens though.

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Funny)

So we can make improbability machines and then in 10 years an infinite improbability drive?

Magic 8 Ball sez:

UNCERTAIN## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:5, Interesting)

Bah! People need to stop complaining when it turns out that an important incremental advance in the field of quantum computing isn't already a commercially viable quantum computer that's being integrated into a chip for release next week. There won't be commercially viable products for many years to come. What is needed many, many incremental improvements in a broad variety of disciplines. None of the proof-of-principle experiments around today are attempting to be demonstrations of viable technology. This experiment demonstrates that am arbitrary quantum state can be deterministically written to the vibrational modes of a molecule, allowed to evolve and be read out by projective measurement. It

isan important result because it helps open a new avenue of attack: vibrational energy levels in molecules.The experiment is a beast that requires expensive, ultra-fast lasers, pulse shaping optics, and a molecular jet. It won't be integrated into PCI expansion card anytime soon but the fact that it is possible to coherently prepare superpositions of vibrational modes in molecules is interesting in its own right and is potentially important for quantum computation. Another decade or three of fundamental research and well funded grad students (ha) are going to be required before we can expect a commercial application.

## Re:This could be the breakthrough... (Score:4, Informative)

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Bah! People need to stop complaining...

Hi, welcome to slashdot.

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Funny, not even a year ago, it seemed the consensus on /. was that there was no such thing as quantum computing at all. Now that there are proofs of concepts, it's "a long ways off." I'm starting to think the majority on this site say what they want to be true at least as much as what they have investigated and believe to be true. I suppose it's base human nature, but still funny to see. Fnord!

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Don't get me wrong, I think reasonable skepticism and questioning of authority is necessary. I will go so far as to say that if I have equal reason to accept or question authority, I will doubtless land on the questioning side. But no further. Unreasonable skepticism is as idiotic as unreasonable faith.

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Nonono, you misunderstand slashdot.

All posts refer to the previous article on the same topic, as the posts are made before the current topic has been read or researched.

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The ultimate improbability bomb...I like it. The advertising slogan could be "yes, God DOES play dice with the world...and you can, too!"

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Sadly we will probably be too old (or dead) to enjoy most of it, I fear...

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Sounds like a dual purpose benefit! When we go to the moons around the outer planets something like that could be really helpful. Oh, wait, sorry, the nice gentlemen in the white suits say it's time for my pills.

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## Re:Finally! (Score:4, Funny)

It would be like a whole fraction of a millimeter across! Careful! You'll step on the datacenter!

## Re: (Score:2)

Well, sperm is basically the biological equivalent of a USB key; it's for moving data around in the form of DNA.... Not sure if that helps you or not!

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Redundant? Who said this before me?