Slashdot reader hackingbear shared this article from Scientific American:
In the race to create a quantum computer that can outperform a classical one, a method using particles of light (photons) has taken a promising step forward. Jian-Wei Pan and Chao-Yang Lu, both at the University of Science and Technology of China, and their colleagues improved a quantum computing technique called boson sampling to achieve a record 14 detected photons in its final results. Previous experiments were capped at only five detected photons. The increase in the number of the particles is small, but it amounts to a 6.5-billion-fold gain in “state space,” or the number of ways in which a computer system can be configured. The larger the state space, the less likely a classical computer can perform the same calculation.
The result was reported in a paper posted at the preprint server arXiv.org on October 22 and has yet to be peer-reviewed. But if it is confirmed, it would be an important milestone in the race for quantum-computational supremacy — a fuzzy goalpost defined as the point where quantum computers outpace their best classical counterparts…. Pan and Lu argue in their paper that their technique is another possible route toward quantum supremacy… Part of the trouble is its limited utility. “A universal computer can solve any different type of problem,” says Jonathan Dowling, a theoretical physicist at Louisiana State University, who was not involved with the research. “This can only solve one.” But solving just one problem faster than a classical computer would count as a demonstration of quantum-computational supremacy…
Over the past few weeks, the race for quantum computational supremacy has reached a breakneck pace. Google’s quantum computer performed an operation that its scientists claim would take a classical computer 10,000 years in just 200 seconds. IBM researchers, who are also working on a quantum computer, have expressed doubts, suggesting a classical computer could solve that problem in under three days… “Quantum supremacy is like a horse race where you don’t know how fast your horse is, you don’t know how fast anybody else’s horse is, and some of the horses are goats,” Jonathan Dowling, a theoretical physicist at Louisiana State University, says. But this result, he clarifies, is not a goat.