University of Sydney student, 21, solves baffling quantum computing mystery

Australian student, 21, solves quantum computing mystery that baffled global experts for 20 years – and now Amazon and Yale are using his code

  • Genius university student cracks a 20-year-old computer coding mystery
  • The quantum computing breakthrough is going to be used by Amazon and Yale
  • Supercomputers have the ability to reshape the modern world by ushering in AI

An Australian student has cracked a quantum computing mystery that theoretical physicists around the world have been perplexed by for decades.

Pablo Bonilla, 21, found a way to improve code-writing for supercomputers while he was working on a physics assignment at the University of Sydney.

The second-year student’s ingenious discovery has now drawn the eyes of Yale University in the US and the world’s largest tech company Amazon – who plan to start using his code.

Quantum computing, which goes beyond classical binary coding, has the ability make an exponential amount of calculations per second making it up to a trillion times faster than the computers we use now.

An Australian student has cracked a quantum computing mystery that theoretical physicists around the world have been perplexed by or decades. Pictured: Pablo Bonilla (right) and mentor Ben Brown (left)

The problem with supercomputers:

Coding errors are extremely rare in the digital transistors, or switches, that classical computers use to run our phones, laptops.

However, the subatomic ‘switches’ in quantum computers, known as qubits, are particularly sensitive to interference, or ‘noise’, from the external environment.

In order to make quantum machines work, scientists need to produce a large number of high-quality qubits.

This can be done by improving the machines so they are less noisy and by using some capacity of the machines to suppress qubit errors below a certain threshold in order for them to be useful.

That is where Pablo Bonilla’s quantum error correction code comes into play

Source: Scimex

The technology will one day revolutionise the way we live by ushering in a new age of machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Complex global problems such as energy consumption, cyber security and pharmaceutical development could potentially be solved in the blink of an eye once next-gen supercomputers are widely adopted.

But at the moment it’s still a long way off.

‘Quantum technology is in its infancy, partly because we haven’t been able to overcome the inherent instability in the machines that produce so many errors,’ Mr Bonilla said.

‘In second-year physics I was asked to look at some commonly used error correcting code to see if we could improve it.

‘By flipping half of the quantum switches, or qubits, in our design, we found we could effectively double our ability to suppress errors.’

Pablo Bonilla found a way to improve code-writing for supercomputers while he was working on a physics assignment at the University of Sydney (pictured)

Pablo Bonilla found a way to improve code-writing for supercomputers while he was working on a physics assignment at the University of Sydney (pictured)

Pablo Bonilla (left) and one of his co-academic mentors Ben Brown (right) are pictured.

Pablo Bonilla (left) and one of his co-academic mentors Ben Brown (right) are pictured.

Classic computer code uses 1 or 0 to record information but subatomic ‘qubits’ found in quantum machines have the ability to go beyond the binary increasing capacity exponentially.

With governments, universities and firms around the world racing to develop the technology, some of the globe’s biggest quantum players have taken notice of Mr Bonilla’s breakthrough after his work was published in the prestigious journal Nature Communications.

Assistant Professor Shruti Puri from the quantum research program at Yale University said her team is very interested in using the new code.

‘What amazes me about this new code is its sheer elegance. It’s remarkable error-correcting properties are coming from a simple modification to a code that has been studied extensively for almost two decades,’ Assistant Professor Puri said.

‘It is extremely relevant for a new generation of quantum technology being developed at Yale and elsewhere. With this new code, I believe, we have considerably shortened the timeline to achieve scalable quantum computation.’

Dr Earl Campbell who is a senior quantum research scientist at the Amazon Web Services Center for Quantum Computing in California, agrees.

‘This research surprised me. I was amazed that such a slight change to a quantum error correction code could lead to such a big impact in predicted performance,’ he said.

‘The AWS Center for Quantum Computing team looks forward to collaborating further as we explore other promising alternatives to bring new, more powerful computing technologies one step closer to reality.’

The second-year uni student's ingenious discovery has now drawn the eyes of Yale University in the US and the world's largest company Amazon - who plan to start using his code

The second-year uni student’s ingenious discovery has now drawn the eyes of Yale University in the US and the world’s largest company Amazon – who plan to start using his code

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