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Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP/Getty Images

In a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Google reportedly achieved a milestone by using quantum computers to solve a calculation in mere minutes that current machines could not complete in thousands of years.

Why it matters: "Quantum supremacy," the achievement Google is touting, would represent a big but early step toward reliable quantum computers that could solve some currently intractable problems.

Google scientists said their quantum machine completed in less than 3.5 minutes a calculation that would take the most powerful present-day computers 10,000 years to finish.

How it works: Quantum machines use atomic particles to represent "qubits" — short for "quantum bit." One qubit can convey twice as much information as a single traditional computer bit, thus beefing up a system’s computing power. A system's computing power increases exponentially with each additional qubit.

Yes, but: IBM scientists, who are also developing quantum machines, recently argued that Google's team underestimated the power of current computers.

  • IBM scientists claim that a modern computer system could perform the calculation in Google’s report in 2.5 days, and it would make fewer mistakes than Google's quantum machine.

Of note: There's debate over the utility of quantum random number generation — the task Google's machine completed. However, Google says it's important for next-generation cryptography.

Go deeper: Heading off the quantum encryption apocalypse

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.

Supreme Court agrees to hear challenges to Texas abortion law

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear two cases challenging Texas' abortion law, which bans the procedure as soon as six weeks into pregnancy, but left the law in place in the meantime.

Why it matters: The court is moving extraordinarily fast on the Texas cases, compressing into just a few days a process that normally takes months. And that schedule means the court will take up Texas' ban a month before it hears another major abortion case — a challenge to Mississippi's own 2018 ban on abortions after 15 weeks.