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Volume 574 Issue 7779, 24 October 2019

Quantum supremacy

In this week’s issue, John Martinis and his colleagues describe a significant step in the development of quantum computing. For the first time, the researchers have demonstrated experimentally that a programmable quantum computer can outperform the world’s most powerful conventional processors — a state known as quantum supremacy. The team used a quantum processor made up of 53 functional qubits to tackle a task that involved sampling the output of a quantum circuit generating random numbers, a task that becomes increasingly demanding the more qubits there are in the system. The quantum processor, dubbed Sycamore, was able to collect 1 million samples from the circuit in roughly 200 seconds, a feat that the authors estimate would take a state-of-the-art supercomputer around 10,000 years to perform. The cover shows an artistic rendering of the Sycamore chip.

Cover image: JVG

This Week

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News in Focus

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Books & Arts

  • Book Review

    • Robert Shiller’s new book probes how social behaviour trumps statistics in determining the fate of economies — Tim Jackson reviews.

      • Tim Jackson
      Book Review
    • The strange circumstances surrounding the invention of the world’s first PC are probed by a new book — Sharon Weinberger reviews.

      • Sharon Weinberger
      Book Review
  • Essay

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  • News & Views

    • A programmable quantum computer has been reported to outperform the most powerful conventional computers in a specific task — a milestone in computing comparable in importance to the Wright brothers’ first flights.

      • William D. Oliver
      News & Views
    • Microorganisms in the gut influence fear-related learning. The results of a study that reveals some of the mechanistic underpinnings of this phenomenon promise to boost our understanding of gut–brain communication.

      • Drew D. Kiraly
      News & Views
    • The spectroscopic fingerprints of buckyballs have been observed in space, but questions remain about how these large molecules form. Laboratory experiments have revealed a possible mechanism.

      • Alessandra Candian
      News & Views
    • The ability of structures called optical resonators to trap light is often limited by scattering of light off fabrication defects. A physical mechanism that suppresses this scattering has been reported that could lead to improved optical devices.

      • Kirill Koshelev
      • Yuri Kivshar
      News & Views
    • Cells regulate gene expression in part through the chemical labelling of histone proteins. Discovery of a label derived from lactate molecules reveals a way in which cells link gene expression to nutrient metabolism.

      • Luke T. Izzo
      • Kathryn E. Wellen
      News & Views
    • Fossil finds that can provide clues about how aquatic vertebrates evolved into land dwellers are elusive. But the ancient bones of a newly discovered species of tetrapod now provide some crucial missing evidence.

      • Nadia B. Fröbisch
      • Florian Witzmann
      News & Views
  • Articles

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Nature Index

  • This supplement highlights the world’s leading young universities (aged 50 and under) in the natural sciences in the Nature Index, and explores the research and the strategies behind their success.

    Nature Index
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