Nov 10, 2017

IBM's quantum computer reaches 50-qubit milestone

Part of the cooling system used in IBM's 50-qubit quantum computer. Photo: IBM Research / Flick

IBM announced on Friday it has built a prototype 50 quantum bit (qubit) computer — the number some researchers think is needed to establish "quantum supremacy" over traditional computers. The company said its cloud computing platform will also be upgrading to a 20-qubit computer by the end of 2017.

Why it matters: Today's supercomputers are on processing par with quantum computers operating with less than 50 qubits. But quantum processors with more than 50 quantum bits are thought to be able to perform simulations and calculations that traditional computers cannot. IBM's previous version used 17 qubits.

How it works: Standard computers store information as a 0 or a 1. Quantum versions can represent it as 0, 1 or both at the same time, which gives them more processing power that could be useful for particular types of calculations.

Yes, but: It isn't ready for practical use. The quantum state lasts a mere 90 microseconds. And, the University of Maryland's Andrew Childs tells MIT Technology Review, it isn't just about the quantity of qubits but also quality. "Those qubits might be noisy, and there could be issues with how well connected they are."

Keep in mind: Quantum computers are well-suited for solving some problems — simulating chemical interactions at the subatomic level or optimizing supply chains, for example — but not necessarily everyday tasks.

Other players: Google, Intel, and a company called Rigetti are all working on quantum computing.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 1,094,068 — Total deaths: 58,773 — Total recoveries: 225,519Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 6 p.m. ET: 273,880 — Total deaths: 7,077 — Total recoveries: 9,521Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  4. 2020 latest: Wisconsin's governor called for a last-minute primary election delay. "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said on the 2020 election, as more states hold primaries by mail.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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Government will cover uninsured patients' coronavirus treatment

Azar at Friday's briefing. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The federal government will cover the costs of coronavirus treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a White House briefing Friday.

How it works: The money will come from a $100 billion pot set aside for the health care industry in the most recent stimulus bill. Providers will be paid the same rates they get for treating Medicare patients, and as a condition of those payments, they won't be allowed to bill patients for care that isn't covered.

More states issue stay-at-home orders as coronavirus crisis escalates

Data: Axios reporting; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a stay-at-home order on Friday as the novel coronavirus pandemic persists. The order goes into effect Saturday at 5 p.m. and will remain in place through April 30. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson also issued a statewide social distancing order on Friday.

The big picture: In a matter of weeks, the number of states that issued orders nearly quadrupled, affecting almost 300 million Americans.

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