It's not every day that an 18-year-old college student catches the eye of the computing world, but when Ewin Tang took aim at recommendation algorithms similar to those commonly used by the likes of Amazon and Netflix, the University of Texas at Austin mathematics and computer science undergraduate blew up an established belief: that classical computers cannot perform these types of calculations at the speed of quantum computers.
In a July 2018 paper, which Tang wrote for a senior honors thesis under the supervision of computer science professor Scott Aaronson, a leading researcher in quantum computing algorithms, she discovered an algorithm that showed classical computers can indeed tackle predictive recommendations at a speed previously thought possible only with quantum computers. "I actually set out to demonstrate that quantum machine learning algorithms are faster," she explains. "But, along the way, I realized this was not the case."
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