Over at Wired, Robert McMillan writes that the Government Shutdown has frozen research on Google’s new D-Wave quantum computer at Nasa Ames. Fully installed just two days before the shutdown began earlier this month, the cryogenic machine is now running in what scientists call a state of superposition.
Because the D-Wave has to be finely calibrated — it operates at near-zero Kelvin — it would be extremely costly to shut the thing down and then restart it when the government comes back to life. So the machine is now operational, but it’s in a kind of limbo, at least as far as Nasa is concerned. “All the people from Nasa who are supposed to be testing the computer now are standing down and it’s just sitting there, wasting electricity,” says Lee Stone, the Ames union president who was one of the few people at Nasa who could speak to us during the shutdown.
As for D-Wave, this shutdown could be a setback for the company, as the machine at Nasa Ames is only its second sale that we know of. D-Wave has attracted some notable HPC veterans as of late, including Bo Ewald and Rene Copeland. Rene tells me that being at the company is much like the early days of the supercomputing market, a time when he sold the first Cray to a Detroit automaker.
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