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本文摘要:At the Collider exhibition in London’s Science Museum there is a mock-up of an office corridor at Cern, the huge Geneva laboratory where the Higgs boson was unmasked. A poster on a door, featuring the photograph of a cat, proclaims: “Lost cat”. Then, underneath: “Please return dead and alive to Erwin Schrdinger.”伦敦科学博物馆(Science Museum)的对撞机展上有条走廊,是根据欧洲核子研究中心(Cern,坐落于日内瓦的一座大型实验室,曾找到希格斯玻色子)一条办公室走廊的原貌拷贝过来的。

At the Collider exhibition in London’s Science Museum there is a mock-up of an office corridor at Cern, the huge Geneva laboratory where the Higgs boson was unmasked. A poster on a door, featuring the photograph of a cat, proclaims: “Lost cat”. Then, underneath: “Please return dead and alive to Erwin Schrdinger.”伦敦科学博物馆(Science Museum)的对撞机展上有条走廊,是根据欧洲核子研究中心(Cern,坐落于日内瓦的一座大型实验室,曾找到希格斯玻色子)一条办公室走廊的原貌拷贝过来的。走廊里有扇门上贴满一张海报,显眼地印了一只猫的照片,上奏“寻猫登报”。这几个字下面写出着:“请求将这只既死又活的猫送给埃尔温薛定谔(Erwin Schrdinger)。”The cat – a feline in a locked box that is both dead and alive until the box is opened – was a thought experiment devised by physicist Schrdinger to expose the counterintuitive weirdness of quantum theory. The theory posits that an entity can exist simultaneously in any number of states until the point at which it is observed, whereupon it will “collapse” into one state – either purring or deceased in the case of the trapped tabby, which is incarcerated with a poison that either has or has not been released through radioactive decay.“薛定谔猫”(一只关口在箱子里的既死又活的猫,只有关上箱子才能告诉它的干什么)是物理学家薛定谔设计的一个思想实验,用来展出量子力学那违背直觉的黑色幽默。


该理论假设,一个实体可同时正处于多种状态,直到它被观测到的那一刻为止,因为那时它不会“塌缩”成具体态——就那只被拘禁的花猫而言,就是要么它还在哪儿打呼噜,要么已是一具猫的尸体:关猫的箱子里放置一只毒气瓶,里面的毒气或者并未被或者已被基于放射性裂变机制的触发器释放出。Geniuses have spotted that tapping into the quantum realm could release fantastic amounts of computing power. Where a classical bit must be either 0 or 1, a quantum bit, called a qubit, can be 0 or 1 – or, crucially, a mixture of both. Freed of this “either-or” constraint, even a modest quantum computer would vastly outpace the fastest supercomputer. Cracking the world’s toughest encryption software, which would take a supercomputer about 1m years, would be an hour’s work.天才们早已找到,进占量子领域能释放出来极为可观的计算能力。一个二进制位(bit)上的数字非“0”即“1”;而一个量子位(qubit)上的数字可是“0”可是“1”——关键的来了,还可既是“0”又是“1”。挣脱了这种“非此即彼”的容许后,即便是一台一般般的量子计算机也能完爆最慢的超级计算机。

密码全世界最弱的加密软件,超级计算机必须大约100万年,量子计算机只必须一个小时。Google and Nasa have jointly forked out a reported $10m on a prototype quantum computer from D-Wave Systems, the only commercial company selling them.D-Wave系统公司(D-Wave Systems)是唯一一家销售量子计算机的商业公司——据报导,谷歌(Google)和美国国家航空航天局(Nasa)已牵头出资1000万美元出售该公司生产的一台量子计算机原型机。D-Wave’s financial backers include Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Goldman Sachs and the Canadian government. The company can claim “coolness” in another way: since atoms need to be cooled right down in order for quantum effects to appear, D-Wave’s laboratory near Vancouver houses possibly the coldest place on Earth, just 0.02C above absolute zero (the point at which atoms stop moving).D-Wave的金主还包括亚马逊(Amazon)创始人杰夫贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)、高盛(Goldman Sachs)以及加拿大政府。这是一家很“酷”的公司,这里的“酷”具有另一层含义:为了显露出量子效应,原子必须被大幅度加热,因此人们在D-Wave坐落于温哥华附近的实验室里可以寻找大约是地球上最热的地方,其温度仅有比绝对零度(原子暂停运动的温度)低0.02摄氏度。

Where tech visionaries tread, national governments follow. The UK will be spending 270m over the next five years to establish centres of excellence. As the world demands ever more powerful computers, and as conventional chips reach their physical limits, early investors hope Schrdinger’s cat can be turned into a cash cow.科技先锋南北哪里,政府就跟向哪里。未来五年,英国将投资2.7亿英镑创建样板中心(centre of excellence)。既然世界必须更加强劲的计算机,而常规芯片又约物理无限大,早期投资者们就期盼于薛定谔猫能变成摇钱树。



There is only one problem: there is a simmering debate over whether D-Wave’s quantum computers are actually quantum at all. Scott Aaronson, a quantum computing expert at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says that while there is evidence for small-scale quantum effects, there is no definitive evidence that D-Wave has achieved a fully fledged quantum computer. Neither, Mr Aaronson says, is it faster than classical computers.只有一个问题:环绕D-Wave的量子计算机否知道构建了量子计算出来,将要愈演愈烈一场辩论。美国麻省理工学院(MIT)量子计算出来专家斯科特阿伦森(Scott Aaronson)说道,虽然有证据表明不存在小规模量子效应,但没确凿证据证明D-Wave已用上了几乎成熟期的量子计算机,而且D-Wave的计算机也不比常规计算机慢。

Now IBM researchers have waded in. Two weeks ago scientists from the IBM Thomas JWatson Research Center in New York, abetted by colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, posted a paper entitled: “How ‘Quantum’ is the D-Wave Machine?” By taking on the same fiendish computing challenge posed to the D-Wave, and showing they could churn out pretty similar results with a classical algorithm, they claimed it was impossible to say definitively whether the machine was truly quantum.现在,IBM的研究人员也参予进去。近日,纽约IBM托马斯J沃森研究中心(Thomas JWatson Research Center)的科学家在美国加州大学伯克利分校(University of California, Berkeley)同僚的唆使下,公布了一篇取名为《D-Wave的机器究竟有多‘量子’?》(How Quantum is the D-Wave Machine?)的文章。


通过挑战D-Wave挑战过的一个极为棘手的计算出来难题,后用经典算法分解出与D-Wave十分相近的结果,这些科学家主张,不有可能具体确认D-Wave的机器究竟科不属于量子计算机。Geordie Rose, D-Wave’s pugilistic founder who is also a former Canadian wrestling champion, defended his machine and accused his detractors of cherry-picking data. On his Hack the Multiverse blog, he wrote: “When I saw how trivially wrong [the paper] was, it was like opening a Christmas present and getting socks.” Ouch.作为前加拿大拳击冠军,D-Wave创始人乔迪罗斯(Geordie Rose)的暴躁之风不改为。

他为自己的机器展开了申辩,并谴责他的批评者挑选出反对他们主张的数据。他在自己的“入侵多重宇宙”(Hack the Multiverse)博客上写到:“当我看见(那篇文章)拢得多么没价值时,感觉就像拆下圣诞礼物后看见里面是袜子。”哎哟,好辛辣!For all the delicious backbiting and ego-baiting and megamoney gambles, quantum computing really does look like the natural next step in computational problem-solving, even if it can only crack a limited class of problems. In these early days of the revolution, we may have to take it on faith that the quantum computers around today are the real deal.虽然这些背后中伤、射击别人轻视心理进行的欲注目不道德以及一掷千金的豪赌让人看得津津有味,但量子计算出来看起来显然看起来计算出来解法问题领域的必定发展方向,尽管它不能密码受限类别的问题。

正处于这场革命早期阶段的我们,也许被迫坚信目前经常出现的量子计算机是名副其实的。Still, there is a pleasing irony to the uncertainty. Central to quantum theory is Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which states that we can never measure every property of a particle to the utmost precision. The universe places fundamental limits on our ability to know: just as the fate of Schrdinger’s famous cat remains a mystery to anyone outside the box, so, perhaps, does the truth about today’s quantum computers.不过,这种不确定性也带着一丝有意思的讽刺意味。量子理论的核心是海森堡(Heisenberg)的不确定性原理(uncertainty principle),即我们总有一天无法十分精准地测量出有一个粒子的每一项属性。