A quantum computer can work better than a supercomputer conventional. This phrase, so simple to write, is a feat that has taken decades of work and contributions of dozens of researchers. The scientific community, I sensed that they could reach, but no one had crossed that border. The pioneer who planned the trail is a computer quantum Spanish Google, Sergio Boixo: “We are exploring new scientific frontiers which we have never done experiments before, we feel like pioneers,” he says in conversation with THE COUNTRY from Mountain View (California).

The quantum computation has lived one of the more weeks moved of its history. The Google team has officially announced that it has achieved supremacy quantum: to make a quantum computer do in a few minutes something that a supercomputer conventional it would take thousands of years. Its major commercial competitor, IBM, has put in doubt the magnitude of the finding, but in the scientific community there is little doubt that the step is a milestone, no doubt in that field. “The scientific achievement is huge if it holds, and I believe it will,” said Scott Aaronson, scientific computing of the University of Texas, in an article in Nature.

“we Wanted to show that a quantum computer may be faster than the largest supercomputers”

“I Designed the theoretical part of the experiment,” explains Boixo. “We started working about four years ago. We wanted to demonstrate that a quantum computer the fundamental can be faster than the largest supercomputers in the world.” No human had done anything like this before. It’s like looking at the future from a place where everything that lies ahead is darkness. Boixo was carrying the lantern to find the way: “you Have to design a measure to verify that the quantum computer works well. It is difficult when you’re constructing quantum computers becoming more powerful to do something that has never been done before”, he adds.

When someone is on the border of what is known, by definition don’t know what is beyond. You can in fact be “surprises fundamental”, an impenetrable wall put there by nature: “According to all the theories that we know and the developments of the pioneers of quantum computing, we did not know any obstacle. However, as you progress in the experiments and apply scientific theories which never have been applied there is always the possibility of a surprise fundamental”.

The magnitude of the experiments that drove the team Boixo is a leap extraordinary with respect to labor in the pre –

One day, in fact, felt that something like this could be happening. “When we started to collect data and wanted to see a curve predicted by the theory, suddenly the experimental data began to come down and at that time one of the options that we think is that maybe the experiment didn’t work. In the worst cases we find new physics, we think. But what we said a bit of a joke, we were really worried about if I didn’t go out,” he explains.

The magnitude of the experiments that drove the team Boixo is a leap extraordinary with regard to work previous: “previous experiments have shown that quantum computing works with a complexity of a thousand states, and in this experiment we explored a dimension of 10 billion states. We have moved the order of complexity by a factor of 10,000 million and should be checked experimentally”.

Boixo, whose official title is chief scientist of theory of quantum computation, was the head of the programmers of the computer of Google, but the device itself was in Santa Barbara. Boixo had created the “instructions”, but the “vehicle” pilot that allowed him to move as he had made another computer Google.

Boixo came to Google in 2013 and it was only the second or third member of the team of quantum computing, which has headquarters in Los Angeles. The unit was theoretical but, being Google, followed by a thought that had been put into practice. That’s when they signed to to the team of John Martinis at Santa Barbara, because “they had qubits with very good quality.” The qubits (quantum bits) are the unit that measures the ability of a quantum computer.

why he studied philosophy

Boixo, he studied philosophy in order to know what to specialize in when finished computer engineering: “I liked the science, computing and engineering. Quantum computing, that combines all of that, and even philosophy, did not yet exist. I thought that studying philosophy would help me decide in which to specialize, and also to understand better the actual world”, he explains.

For someone like Boixo, who works at the frontier of knowledge, he has not gone wrong the background in philosophy. Quantum physics also has its interpretations, explains: “As a computer scientist quantum, the philosophy informs the way in which I interpret quantum physics. There is still an open debate on the postulates of quantum physics, the problem of the measure, and the role of the observer. In philosophy this debate has existed since the EIGHTEENTH century, and my interpretation of quantum physics is rather kantian”.

The trip Boixo up to the top quantum started in Lion in 1973. In your family had a tradition: his father, Ignacio, is in charge of raising awareness among the staff of the Bank of Spain on the importance of cyber-security; his grandfather was a veterinarian and pioneer in Lion; his grandmother was a passionate of chemistry, and his uncle works at a research center in León. He also began early: “I Remember reading scientific books of disclosure of Isaac Asimov when I was 12 or 13 years. As I grew older I read things more and more technical,” he explains.

“I’ve Always had the vocation, but everything in life requires effort,” he adds. A fellow of the faculty evokes the backpack of Sergio. Always went with scientific books above, even today. His father recalls telling him in a trip to an ethnic festival in Cáceres: “Sergio, I don’t know how you can continue studying at these conditions. Are the two of the morning, you have only one light that lights up less than a cigarette lighter and this is a club.”

what is a quantum computer

When Boixo started at the beginning of the century in quantum computing he was not convinced that would be a computer of this type in his career: “it is certain that he did not think that in 2019, we would be able to be surpassing the capabilities of the supercomputers larger. Has advanced faster than I expected,” he says. The experiment Boixo has made a quantum computer to do a specific calculation without errors.

“I’ve Always believed that quantum computers will be a reality and will have a major impact. And I thought because together the two technological revolutions, the most important of the second half of the TWENTIETH century: the computing and quantum technology,” he says. The benefits that have brought the computers are obvious, but without principles based on quantum physics nor we would have semiconductors, lasers or flat panel displays.

When quantum computers are programmable, and operate at full capacity, your capacity will be difficult to imagine today. Boixo wait a second industrial revolution for more energy efficient and help combat global warming: “there Will be 8,000 or 9,000 million people in the world and with the technologies we have now, we can’t all enjoy a western lifestyle. With quantum computing we believe that long-term it can simulate chemical processes, physical.

global warming is an energy issue and energy is physics and chemistry. Now we are a little blind because there are calculations that we cannot do with the computer classic,” explains Boixo. Quantum computing may allow to create better batteries, lighter materials to spend, therefore less energy.

Number one in engineering

That mentality led him to be the number one of the first class of Computer Engineering of the Complutense university in 1996. His companion reminds him reading the newspaper in class. Boixo explains: “I have Always liked to study on my own. Many times you came to class and I had already read the book that touched or something similar, and sometimes it was on the bottom of the class, paid attention but could have a newspaper in front because they were going over something that had already read it,” he says.

His career as a vocational not closed the way to the sport or to the follies of youth. Once in a few weeks he changed his hair color and beard three times: the yellow chicken to blue and then to purple. “So much change, I dropped the hair of the beard,” he recalls. While studying computer science, graduated in Philosophy and Mathematics from the UNED. Before returning to research, he passed by the private company and public institutions because I wanted to save before you start the phd. “I was at the European Central Bank practices. I was offered a great job, but I wanted to pursue concerns more scientific. If I stayed, that was going to be my career,” he says.

Before starting his phd at the Universitat Autònoma de Bellaterra (Barcelona), Boixo lived about a year in Egypt. I wanted to live in other cultures before getting married. During the conversation highlighted the support received from his wife during the difficult early days of his academic career, with whom he has three children. But Boixo also insists on remembering the role of other researchers in quantum Spanish: Dario Gil, and now his competitor in IBM; Ignacio Cirac, director at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, or Diego Porras and Juanjo García Ripoll, CSIC.

In Barcelona, he learned quantum physics with professor Albert Bramon: “taught Me in the summer, in your free time. I said that I would read a book and off to see him in the evenings”, he says. The year, he was given a scholarship from La Caixa and in 2004 traveled to the united States not to return. Went to the California Institute of Technology with John Preskill, who was the one who coined the concept of supremacy quantum. After a year at Harvard, ended up at the University of Southern California, where he worked with a machine, considered the first processor quantum commercial. “I was the first programmer of the quantum that was hired to work with a processor like that,” he recalls. And so he continues to be a pioneer.


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