Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart May 28, 2011 at 9:17 am

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.

May 28, 2011 at 9:46 am
Gary Phillips says:

It’s good to see the BOINC engine that’s been used for years by S.E.T.I & many other’s being put to another good use.

May 28, 2011 at 10:07 am
Joel miller says:

128-qubit? Why 128? I thought these numbers occour in computing due to their binary nature. Whats the reason for 128 in this case?

May 28, 2011 at 10:11 am
art101 says:

Seems like a lot of money for a computer to check Facebook if you ask me.

– It does Twitter too, shame on you for being so skeptical – Phillis

May 28, 2011 at 10:14 am

Quantum computing expert Prof. Scott Aaronson casts a skeptical light on D-Wave’s announcment on the Forbes blog.

May 28, 2011 at 10:15 am
mrsean2k says:

“It’s infinitely more environmentally friendly…” – it’s nothing like it.

There’s idle, and there’s idle.

If my processor is doing nothing, it’ll fall back on difference schemes to conserve power, with different levels of aggression depending on how quickly I fancy a response when I actually want it to do something.

If I’m processing on someone else’s behalf, regardless of whether or not I perceive anything happening, that power saving *cannot* be realised.

And then there’s the overhead of distributing information for processing and collecting and collating results when it’s finished.

Compared to doing the same thing locally, far, far more wasteful.

– Even at rest your machine never drops below 5% power usage on the processor, it’s a default position whilst it’s on, the CE only ever uses 5% of your processor, hence the power saving. The equivalent of hiring commercial machine to do the same work would eat up tens of thousand of watts of power. – Phillis

May 28, 2011 at 11:31 am
WadoAdi says:

What is new about McAndrew’s idea? Years ago there where applications that ran as screen savers to do just this! Have I missed something here?

– The millions raised for charity part :) – Phillis

May 28, 2011 at 11:56 am
Jerome Leclanche says:

The Charity Engine is no new concept. There are hundreds of various programs like it, the oldest ones dating back to 1997 ( and 1999 (SETI@Home).

– Do they give all their earnings to charity? – Phillis

Also, a byte is a total of 8 bits and can be any value from 0 to 255. A bit, however, is either 0 or 1. Not to be petty but this is pretty basic.

May 28, 2011 at 2:56 pm
Jonathan says:

I’d recommend taking a look here to see what an expert in the field has to say about these claims:

May 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm
Jonathan says:

The comment “speed isn’t actually the point of a quantum computer” isn’t right as far as I understand. Anything that can be done on a quantum computer can be done on a classical computer, but it will (depending on the problem at hand) take longer. If you want to factor a large number, a quantum computer can look for possible factors in parallel. A classical computer with the same number of bits can also do it, but it will take longer.

– The quantum processors are actually comparable to binary machines in terms of their “speed” (e.g 3Ghz processor) which is why this measurement isn’t relevant. A quantum computer works in a way that can be a million or even billions of times faster as a result. In some tasks like rendering graphics a quantum computer will be no faster than a binary machine. :) – Phillis

May 28, 2011 at 10:52 pm
spiderabc1 says:

Anyone know if the first song a computer sang was Daisy Bell?

May 29, 2011 at 11:20 am
Marc says:

Maybe the computers may speed up “evolutionary computing” to design stealth fighters with the best aerodynamic properties. Who wants flying bricks?

May 29, 2011 at 12:23 pm
Alienanthropologist says:

So sad that the first time this technology is put to actual use, it is for making more effective killing machines. Just sad.

May 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm
Nicholas says:

This is fantastic, I’m in.

Turning greed on its head. Fantastic. Imperative that these guys are genuine,

Bringing scientific research and people together, maybe. No fear of technology, reasonable fear of very powerful systems, religious, national, political, military, medical, but mainly economical. But this work appears altruistic in nature, and it looks billions of times healthier than other corporate policies. Fingers crossed for more of the same.

Would love to know if their is some truly out there inspirational thinking behind donating equal money to charities and general public other than raising publicity.

Fingers crossed against sky net ;D.

May 29, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Hey guys,

Very honoured to be mentioned, thank you.

To answer the green question: Charity Engine is aiming for maximum efficiency, not maximum power. If you’re not using your PC, we say turn it off.

However, if you ARE using your PC, chances are your CPU is almost completely idle. (To see for yourself, hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE, click “Start Task Manager”, then “Processes”. System Idle will be showing 95%-99%).

Charity Engine lets the idle CPU cruise at 60%, which is the sweet spot for efficiency as it only uses ~7% more power than idling. We will also be harnessing ultra-efficient smartphone CPUs when they’re idle and charging, and sending work to the coldest parts of the grid first. A warmer PC is no problem in Winter.

Result: huge amounts of extra computing for very little extra energy.

June 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm
alan says:

First quantum computer just sold to Lockheed Martin but binary computers fight back.
Shouldn’t be much of a fight though. Since “quantum”, by definition, means very small. Also, it has to repeat a lot of its output. Due to the fact that it’s on D-wave.

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.
Could you ask for more?
Does it come with free antivirus?

June 1, 2011 at 6:13 pm
Raymond says:

I keep waiting for Paul Wilson to come in dressed as a delivery guy at Lockhead, drop of a huge crate filled with peanuts and a letter saying: You’ve been Hustled Monkeys!


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