On Wednesday, D-Wave Systems made history by announcing the sale of the world’s first commercial quantum computer. The buyer was Lockheed Martin Corporation, who will use the machine to help solve some of their “most challenging computation problems.” Lockheed purchased the system, known as D-Wave One, as well as maintenance and associated professional services. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
D-Wave One uses a superconducting 128-qubit (quantum bit) chip, called Rainier, representing the first commercial implementation of a quantum processor. Built around a superconducting processor, the entire system’s footprint is approximately 100 square feet. The total wall-plug power consumed by a D-Wave One system is 15 kilowatts (a standard laptop uses about 60 watts). Unfortunately the actual speed of the computer is secret, but this is because speed isn’t actually the point of a quantum computer.
A normal computer operates on the basis of units known as bits. Each bit in a normal computer can only be one of 0 or 1 and nothing else. No matter how many bits you have, each computer at a single point in time can only occupy one combination of these bits in order for the programming to actually work.
A quantum computer is different from this because of a principle in quantum mechanics known as superposition. The sort of problem that a conventional computer is very slow at which a quantum computer would be very good at are the ones where you are trying to find one out of billions of billions of billions of combinations which produces an answer. A conventional computer has to go through all the possibilities one by one, the quantum computer can in some sense try them all out at once and can therefore do the calculation in far fewer steps. They are however extremely expensive, the DWave has been rumoured to cost a cool $10-Million.
Despite the fact traditional binary machines have started to reach their limits, new emerging concepts are showing incredible promise. Marc McAndrew is one individual who has invented a machine known as The Charity Engine. The surprising thing is it’s more of a concept than an actual computer. McAndrew has realised that the wasted processing power of machines can be collectively harnessed to make the worlds most powerful supercomputer – for nothing.
By simply running his software on your PC (when it’s idle), you’ll be part of the world’s fastest computer, helping research cures for cancer or new technologies. And the best part of this is that the money the network generates from this research goes to charity. It’s infinitely more environmentally friendly and is so revolutionary that the likes of Amnesty International, Water Aid, Oxfam and ActionAid have all created donation programs to plug in to it – they also monitor the research that takes place to make sure it’s all completely 100% ethical from head to toe. McAndrew (an already successful business owner) has also signed up to a The Giving Pledge that guarantees if he ever makes any real money from the business most of his share will go to charity too. Could you ask for more?
You can sign up to the facebook page here, find out when the Engine will be launching and do your bit for charity too. To encourage you, everyone who signs up is automatically entered in to a completely free lottery draw of $1Million.