It’s 2018–it’s the future! We have those doors that go “swoooosh” from Star Trek, and that’s about it! No warp drive, no replicator, and certainly no functional quantum computers yet. What we do have, however, is the sound of quantum computing as recorded at IBM Q, a laboratory that’s trying to make practical quantum computing a reality. Check it out:
IBM has recorded the sounds made by its Q quantum computer. Jump to the 1:33 mark to hear it.
A new short, created by IBM and seemingly inspired by the internet subculture ASMR, lets you listen to the sounds of the lab, including the humming of the refrigeration equipment needed for the qubits to operate. IBM’s open dilution refrigerator–a cryogenic device that provides continuous low temperatures–runs at a 50 millikelvin (-459F). As the hush-toned narrator puts it, that’s “colder than outer space, cold enough to make atoms almost completely motionless.” That temperature, as well as complete darkness, is needed for the qubits–made of niobium, silicon, and aluminum–to operate. According to IBM, inside this computer it’s so dark and cold “that is almost impossible to find one photon of light.”
As opposed to classical computers, which use binary bits that can have one of two states (0 or 1) at a time to solve mathematical and logical operations, a quantum computer uses quantum bits which can have two states simultaneously. In theory, this characteristic enables these machines to perform two calculations at the same time, which will make them exponentially faster than classic computers. Companies like IBM or Google will be able to harness this power to run things like artificial intelligence applications millions of times faster than current computers.
According to IBM, the IBM Q network and the 20 qubit system you can see (and hear) in this video are now accessible by research organizations and companies around the world to help the company “build commercially available universal quantum computers for business and science.” But we still don’t know when we’ll see these practical applications–we’ve been hearing about how quantum computing will change everything for years, but so far, no one has been able to run a quantum computer reliably for commercial operations.
Maybe this video a sign that we’re closer to make quantum computers a practical reality–or perhaps it’s just the most expensive sleeping sound machine ever created.