Four independent groups of scientists say they’ve constructed a special class of quantum computer that could help physicists prove the worth of the potentially more-powerful quantum computers they’ve been working on.

By doing millions of calculations simultaneously, future quantum computers offer the hope of quickly solving problems that would take even the best supercomputers a thousand years to work through. But quantum computing experts have been dogged by a nagging fact: None of the rudimentary systems they’ve produced so far—or could produce in the near future—are powerful enough to prove that they would be faster at solving these complex problems than an ordinary computer.

“It begs the question as to whether quantum computers themselves are indeed necessary,” notes Matthew Broome, a physicist at the University of Queensland, inBrisbane, Australia. Broome is part of a multinational team that built a system that could hold the key to answering that question: The system is called a quantum boson sampling machine, which MIT theorists Scott Aaronson and Aleksandr Arkhipov dreamed up in 2010.

See on spectrum.ieee.org

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