Pizza & Beer Wagered Over Topological Quantum Computing’s Existence In Ten Years
Two Physicists Bet Over a Quantum Computing Moon Shot
+ The current bet arose from one of Dowling’s Twitter diatribes, in which he accused Microsoft of overhyping its progress. Microsoft, the only big company investing in topological quantum computing, has been working to create non-Abelian anyons in materials since 2005, when the company established Station Q, a research center in Santa Barbara, California, dedicated to this endeavor. In 2012, 2016, and 2018, Microsoft-affiliated researchers presented promising but inconclusive results in the journals Science and Nature, writing that they’d puppeteered electrons in tiny wires stuck to superconductors into anyon-like patterns.
Preskill agrees that the work is taking longer than expected, but he doesn’t share Dowling’s cynicism. “I am confident we’ll have topological quantum computers at some time in the future, but the time scale is still very uncertain,” he says.
+ To Dowling, this progress is unpromising. “Microsoft put all of their resources into this, and they have nothing to show for it,” he says. “OK, that’s not bad—sometimes you bet on the wrong horse, and you get on with your life. But every year I hear someone from Microsoft give a talk, saying that they’re just a few days away from an important announcement, that they’ve demonstrated these non-Abelian anyons. And no announcement ever comes. At what point do they say this doesn’t work?”
+ If Dowling wins, he says he’d request a New York style pizza and a German wheat beer. However, he admits that he doesn’t really care about the outcome of the bet. “I would be really happy if I lost,” says Dowling. “That would mean somebody made a topological quantum computer.” The point of the wager is “to focus the community in a fun way on a particular unsolved problem,” he says.
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