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Amherst Prof Devises First Head-to-Head Speed Test With Conventional Computing, and the Quantum Computer Wins

D-Wave quantum computer systems being tested in the lab.

Amherst College researchers comparing the performance of a quantum computer vs. a conventional computing equipment found the quantum computing gear can solve problems thousands of times faster.

Credit: Amherst College

Amherst College professor Catherine McGeoch recently devised and conducted experiments to test the speed of a quantum computing system against conventional computing methods.

"Ours is the first paper to my knowledge that compares the quantum approach to conventional methods using the same set of problems," McGeoch says.

The research shows that quantum computing can solve problems thousands of times faster than conventional computing methods can. "It’s such a whole different approach to computation that you have to wrap your head around this new way of doing things in order to decide how to evaluate it," McGeoch says. "It’s like comparing apples and oranges, or apples and fish, and the difficulty was coming up with experiments and analyses that allowed you to say you’d compared things properly."

The Amherst researchers used a D-Wave quantum system, which is designed to excel at specific combinatorial optimization problems. "This type of computer is not intended for surfing the Internet, but it does solve this narrow but important type of problem really, really fast," McGeoch says. "If you want it to solve the exact problem it’s built to solve, at the problem sizes I tested, it’s thousands of times faster than anything I'm aware of."

From Amherst College
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