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Quantum computing’s real-world app false dawn

Google and the XPrize Foundation have launched a competition worth US$5 million to develop real-world applications for quantum computers that benefit society – by speeding up progress on one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, for example.

The principles of quantum physics suggest quantum computers could perform very fast calculations on particular problems, so this competition may expand the range of applications where they have an advantage over conventional computers.

In our everyday lives, the way nature works can generally be described by what we call classical physics. But nature behaves very differently at tiny quantum scales – below the size of an atom.

The race to harness quantum technology can be viewed as a new industrial revolution, progressing from devices that use the properties of classical physics to those utilizing the weird and wonderful properties of quantum mechanics. Scientists have spent decades trying to develop new technologies by harnessing these properties.

Given how often we are told that quantum technologies will revolutionize our everyday lives, you may be surprised that we still have to search for practical applications by offering a prize.

However, while there are numerous examples of success using quantum properties for enhanced precision in sensing and timing, there has been a surprising lack of progress in the development of quantum computers that outdo their classical predecessors.

The main bottleneck holding up this development is that the software – using quantum algorithms – needs to demonstrate an advantage over computers based on classical physics. This is commonly known as “quantum advantage.”

A crucial way quantum computing differs from classical computing is in using a