In what may be a huge milestone in computing, Google says it has achieved “quantum supremacy,” an experimental demonstration of the superiority of a quantum computer over a traditional one.
The claim, made in a new scientific paper, is the most serious indication yet that the promise of quantum computers—an emerging but unproven type of machine—is becoming reality, including their potential to solve formerly ungraspable mathematical problems.
Essentially, Google purports to have pulled off a stunt on a quantum computer that no classical machine—not even the world’s most powerful supercomputer—can replicate.
Fortune obtained a copy of Google’s paper, which was posted to NASA.gov earlier this week before being taken down. The Financial Times first reported the news.
A Google spokesperson declined to confirm the authenticity of the paper and its results. NASA did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
A source at Google familiar with the situation suggested, however, that NASA accidentally published the paper early, before its team’s claims could be thoroughly vetted through scientific peer review, a process that could take anywhere from weeks to months.
If the paper holds up under the scrutiny of the scientific community, it will herald a watershed moment in quantum science. Its central claim counters doubt that some unforeseen law of nature may prevent quantum computers from operating as hoped.
“Quantum speedup is achievable in a real-world system and is not precluded by any hidden physical laws,” the Google researchers write.
Further, they predict that quantum computing power will “grow at a double exponential rate,” besting even the exponential rate that defined Moore’s Law, a trend that observed traditional computing power to double roughly every two years.