University of Strathclyde.
The most exciting thing that's happened this year in my research area:
I suppose it’s not a big secret that Google, jointly with NASA recently managed to achieve so-called “Quantum Supremacy”. This means that they managed to build a large-enough and accurate-enough Quantum Computer in order to perform a calculation that is considered ‘classically intractable’ (i.e. no classical computer can do this within any reasonable amount of time).
While the idea of it being classically intractable is debated (IBM came out the next day claiming that they could manage a problem of this size on the best HPC in the world, taking about 2 days to simulate the quantum results), the fact that it still shows a massive speed-up and is experimentally demonstrated is amazing. This is the first REAL step towards a Quantum Advantage over classical machines.
(I should note that the problem that was solved wasn’t anything terribly useful- only we could mathematically prove that it could not be done efficiently classically).
My latest work:
I’m currently trying to come up with Quantum Algorithms to improve solutions to so-called Partial Differential Equations which are very useful in many fields of Physics and Engineering (fluid-dynamics, electrodynamics, elasticity etc.).
Basically I’m trying to come up with new, better methods for old (but important) problems using the incredibly complicated way that Quantum Computers process information. It involves things like superposition and entanglement in order to improve speed or accuracy of solutions.
My favourite misconception about my area of science:
People tend to believe that Quantum Computers are simply faster than Classical ones at every task. This is very much not true. Not only are they not faster at some problems, there’s loads of things that a Quantum Computer can never be used for that a Classical one can!
That is not to say that it never could, but translating the problem from the deterministic way we think about it to the weird way that Quantum Mechanics works with information might make the simplest addition seem like a very difficult thing to do. You’d need to add hundreds of steps in the calculation to even get the right answer and you’d have to run the computation lots of times to make sure the outcome is the one you need.
Quantum Computers are suited to very particular problems and in those cases they can do what is classically impossible, in a sense (or exponentially difficult, which is a better way of putting it). Those problems can be very important to solve, but a Quantum Computer will almost certainly never be used to run a Google Search.