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Quantum leap in computing as scientists claim 'supremacy'

Paris: Scientists claimed Wednesday to have achieved a near-mythical state of computing in which a new generation of machine vastly outperforms the world's fastest super-computer, known as "quantum supremacy".

A team of experts working on Google's Sycamore machine said their quantum system had executed a calculation in 200 seconds that would have taken a classic computer 10,000 years to complete. A rival team at IBM has already expressed scepticism about their claim.

But if verified and harnessed, the Google device could make even the world's most powerful supercomputers -- capable of performing a giddying 20,000 trillion calculations per second -- look like an early 2000s flip-phone.

Regular computers, even the fastest, function in binary fashion: they carry out tasks using tiny fragments of data known as bits that are only ever either 1 or 0.

Fragments of data on a quantum computer, however, can be both 1 and 0 at the same time, harnessing some of the most mind-boggling powers of quantum mechanics to process exponentially larger amounts of information.

These fragments are known as qubits, and due to their dual-state nature can drastically accumulate computing power.

In a study published in Nature, the international team designed a quantum processer made up of 54 qubits and used it to perform a task related to random-number generation.

The Sycamore sampled and verified the accuracy of the solutions all within 200 seconds, a process that on a regular machine would take 10,000 years — several hundreds of millions of times faster, in other words.

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