The first full simulation of a high-energy physics experiment has been performed using an early version of a quantum computer—the ultra-powerful machines hailed for their revolutionary potential.
Researchers from the University of Innsbruck used a quantum device to simulate the creation of antimatter. Physicists believe this could be the first step in performing simulations that are too complex for ordinary computers to handle.
“We are not yet there where we can answer questions we can’t answer with classical computers,” Esteban Martinez, an experimental physicist at the University of Innsbruck who was part of the team that performed the simulation, told Nature. “But this is a first step in that direction.”
Since they were first theorized by the physicist Richard Feynman in 1982, quantum computers have promised to bring about a new era of ultra-powerful computing.
One of the field’s pioneers, physicist David Deutsch, famously claimed that quantum computers, which are still in the early stages of development, hold the potential to solve problems that would take a traditional computer longer than the age of the universe.
NASA, Google and the CIA are among the companies and organisations working on quantum computers, while the U.K. government has pledged $420 million towards quantum technology growth.
NASA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL) is working on assessing the potential quantum computers could have with regards to artificial intelligence, though has not specified what it is aiming to achieve beyond “addressing NASA challenges.”