Quantum error correction | Research and science

In physics, everything that does not forbid duty. Thus, errors are inevitable and appear everywhere: in language, cooking, communications, image processing and, of course, computing. Mitigating or correcting them is what keeps society going. We can scratch the DVD and make it still work, blurred or scratched QR codes are still readable, and images from space probes travel hundreds of millions of miles and still keep sharp. Error correction is one of the basic concepts in information technology. Namely, errors may be inevitable, but they are also correctable.

This determinism applies to quantum computers as well. These new machines take advantage of the basic rules of physics to solve intractable problems using classic computers. It can have profound implications for science and business, but its great strength brings significant weaknesses: quantum computers suffer from errors that do not affect classical computers, so our usual debugging techniques cannot mitigate them.

I’m a physicist working on quantum computing at IBM, but that’s not where I started my career. I began as a condensed matter theorist, studying the quantum behaviors of materials, such as superconductivity. At the time I didn’t realize this would lead me to quantum computing, which it did later, when I took a break to work on science policy at the US State Department. From there I went to the Intelligence Advanced Projects Agency (IARPA), where I tried to apply the fundamentals of nature to develop new technologies.

Then quantum computers were taking their first steps. Although Paul Benioff of Argonne National Laboratory have suggested In 1980, it took nearly two decades for physicists build the first. A decade later, in 2007, they invented the basic unit of data used by quantum computers from IBM, Google, and other companies, known as Superconducting Transmon Qubit (where “qubit” is the English abbreviation for “quantum bit”). Suddenly the demand for my expertise in superconductivity increased. I helped develop several research programs on quantum computers at IARPA and then went to work at IBM.

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