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D-Wave takes quantum leap in Burnaby

While Burnaby may not be the centre of the universe, it may be the place where parallel universes meet, according to physicist Geordie Rose.

While Burnaby may not be the centre of the universe, it may be the place where parallel universes meet, according to physicist Geordie Rose.

Rose, who is co-founder and chief technology officer of the D-Wave quantum computer company, spoke at the opening of the company's new facility in Burnaby about the possibility that D-wave's quantum computer chips may connect parallel universes, if parallel universes do indeed exist.

"Remember, when you look at one of those big, black boxes, inside that thing is this chip, that if this multiple universe thing has some validity to it, is kind of the nexus point where these multiple parallel realities touch" he said. "There's a thing inside that box that is unlike any other engineered artifact that any other human has ever built or operated, where, if it's in fact true these things are in fact coexisting, the shadows of these parallel universes touch inside that box, which is super, super awesome."

Rose was speaking to investors and the media about the potential for the company's computers.

"Quantum computing, in one way of looking at things, is nothing less than going in and touching the deepest fabric of space-time, and with our brains and our technology and our tools, sticking our fingers in the guts of reality and just kneading the hell out of it, and making it do what we want," he said, adding, "This kneading the guts of the fundamental fabric of space-time allows you to solve problems that you couldn't otherwise solve, computational problems that matter, ones that are at the core of the reasons we don't have intelligent machines today."

The issue of artificial intelligence is a big focus for the company, as clients such as Google and NASA are looking for computers that can take on work that requires a level of intelligence, such as speech technology and image recognition.

"Ultimately what I want to do is turn the power of this new kind of machine against that particular kind of problem," Rose said. "Because if you can make inroads in that, the business opportunities are unbounded. The kind of paradigm shift that will come from the creation of intelligent machines, of the sort of intelligence that humans have, is underappreciated how big of a difference it's going to be in the world."

The company's president and CEO, Vern Brownell, also spoke about the potential of the company's computers, such as finding new medicines, a cure for cancer or "finding bad guys in large data streams."

The opening of the new facility included a tour of D-Wave's operations, demonstrating the components of its D-Wave Two computers.

The 512-qubit (quantum bit) computers are built using components that are primarily created - and invented - in shop. The chips must be kept at extremely cold temperatures in a completely noiseless environment to perform on a quantum level. The processors are kept in large refrigeration units and operate at -273.14 degrees Celsius, colder than interstellar space.

The computers operate extremely quickly, able to process huge amounts of data in a short amount of time, and compute large amounts of variables for solving particular problems.

D-Wave was founded in 1999 and is the world's first commercial quantum computing company, building computers using quantum mechanical theories.

The company has more than 100 granted U.S. patents and does a great deal of scientific research - the company has published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific papers thus far.

Its investors include In-Q-Tel (a not-for-profit venture capital firm that funds high-tech projects that may benefit the CIA and other intelligence organizations), Goldman Sachs and others. The company sold its first computer to Lockheed Martin in 2010 and upgraded that system this year.

Earlier this year, the company installed its new computer at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffet Field, California.

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