D-Wave heads for New Mexico

Los Alamos kicks the quantum tyre

The Los Alamos National Laboratory has become the latest organisation to give quantum annealing a whirl, with D-Wave announcing that the facility will take delivery of its thousand-qubit 2X system.

The national security research outfit will be collaborating with the Department of Energy and “selected university partners” to put the is-it-isn't-it-quantum computer through its paces.

The machine is due for delivery in early 2016.

The D-Wave release quotes director of the lab's Weapons Physics Directorate, Mark Anderson, as saying “we need to investigate new technologies to support our mission.

“Researching and evaluating quantum annealing as the basis for new approaches to address intractable problems is an essential and powerful step, and will enable a new generation of forward thinkers to influence its evolution in a direction most beneficial to the nation”, he added.

In other words, conventional supercomputers can only do so much nuke-simulation, and if quantum annealing works as it says on the box, it'll help give the US a shiny new arsenal without having to actually blow things up.

Not that the release directly referenced nuclear weapons: instead, it emphasised the lab's high performance computing leadership.

D-Wave US president Bo Ewald also referenced “critical problems related to national security, energy, the environment, materials, health and earth science”.

For D-Wave, the contract will give it a chance to expand its algorithms, applications and software tools.

In quantum annealing, the “lowest energy state” of the machine's qubits is meant to correspond to the opimala solution of a problem. That puts a premium on being able to set up problems quickly, since there's no point in outpacing a conventional supercomputer if every new problem demands a lot of custom preparation.

D-Wave's release is here. ®

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