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Quantum computers are the next big wave, machines capable of performing certain tasks like running queries over a database at speeds that are orders of magnitude faster than current computers can achieve. A paper in the journal Nature Photonics reports the development of the biggest ever, multiplexing 10,000 photons, each functioning as a holder for a quantum data bit or qubit. This was a computer built out of laser light, and the best-performing forerunner in its class was capable of only eight qubits. The best quantum computer ever, built out of ions in a droplet of fluid, offered 14 qubits. So, does this ground-breaking project of the Australian National University and Tokyo University mean that the future is upon us? Alas, not right away.

Quantum computing will be transformative in ways that we cannot imagine today, but the great disruption is still decades away. Some researchers fear that it will remain forever on the drawing board and David Deutsch, one of the founders of the concept, believed that the quantum computer is valuable as just that: a concept which urges researchers to think about data and computing in novel ways. However, the Australian project brings quantum computing much nearer the realm of the possible. While earlier machines could solve sudokus but were intellectual midgets in the real world, this project has demonstrated scalability and could pave the way to true artificial intelligence.

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