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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

New research shows how quantum computing can be used effectively on real-world problems.

The big picture: Quantum is undoubtedly the next frontier in computing, but theory still outpaces practice.

What's happening: In a paper published in Nature Communications this week, researchers from the quantum computing company D-Wave and Google demonstrated that D-Wave's system could simulate a programmable quantum magnetic system more than 3 million times faster than corresponding classical methods.

Why it matters: The problem the study tackles — which has its roots in research that won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2016 — is taken from the real world, albeit the highly complex real world of exotic matter.

  • "This isn't some made-up example that is only designed to showcase the DNA of a quantum computer," says Andrew King, director of performance research at D-Wave.

Between the lines: The research also demonstrated one of the advantages of quantum computing: its ability to more accurately simulate reality, which will be useful for material sciences and optimization problems in logistics.

The catch: Quantum computers are still too error-prone and finicky for wide use, and just last week, a Microsoft researcher announced that he would need to retract a 2018 paper that had provided much of the scientific foundation for the company's quantum computing efforts.

Go deeper

FBI, Homeland Security warn of increasing threat to Capitol

Photo: Eric Baradat/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security predict violent domestic extremists attacks will increase in 2021, according to a report reviewed by Axios.

Driving the news: The joint report says an unidentified group of extremists discussed plans to take control of the Capitol and "remove Democratic lawmakers" on or about March 4. The House canceled its plans for Thursday votes as word of the possible threats spread.

26 mins ago - World

Pope Francis set to make first papal visit to Iraq amid possible turmoil

Data: Vatican News; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Pope Francis is forging ahead with the first papal trip to Iraq despite new coronavirus outbreaks and fears of instability.

The big picture: The March 5–8 visit is intended to reassure Christians in Iraq who were violently persecuted under the Islamic State. Francis also hopes to further ties with Shiite Muslims, AP notes.

"Neanderthal thinking": Biden slams states lifting mask mandates

States that are relaxing coronavirus restrictions are making "a big mistake," President Biden told reporters on Wednesday, adding: "The last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking."

Driving the news: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday he will end all coronavirus restrictions via executive order, although some businesses are continuing to ask patrons to wear face masks. Mississippi is lifting its mask mandate for all counties Wednesday, per Gov. Tate Reeves (R).