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Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems that even the biggest supercomputers today can't manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to ensure it is working reliably? Depending on the algorithmic task, this could be an easy or a very difficult certification problem. An international team of researchers has taken an important step towards solving a difficult variation of this problem, using a statistical approach developed at the University of Freiburg. The results of their study are published in the latest edition of Nature Photonics.
Their example of a difficult certification problem is sorting a defined number of photons after they have gone through a defined arrangement of several optical elements. The arrangement provides each photon with a number of transmission paths - depending on whether the photon is reflected or transmitted by an optical element. The task is to predict the probability of photons leaving the arrangement at defined points, for a given positioning of the photons at the entrance to the arrangement. With increasing size of the optical arrangement and increasing numbers of photons sent on their way, the number of possible paths and distributions of the photons at the end rises steeply as a result of the uncertainty principle which underlies quantum...
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