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NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) Division has apparently partnered with Google and acquired the world's largest quantum computer, D-Wave Two™:

In a partnership with Google and independent, nonprofit research corporation Universities Space Research Association (USRA), Ames has established the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (QuAIL) at its NASA Advanced Supercomputing (NAS) facility. The laboratory houses a 512-qubit D-Wave Two™ quantum computer.

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   Support structure for installation of the D-Wave Vesuvius processor, which is cooled to 20 millikelvin (Source: NASA / J. Hardman)

Pages I came across describing D-Wave Two are however rather scarce with information on what NASA actually plans to do with it. Some vague explanation goes like this:

NASA researchers will use this system to investigate quantum algorithms that might someday dramatically improve the agency's ability to solve difficult optimization problems in aeronautics, Earth and space sciences, and space exploration. Applications relevant to NASA include machine learning, pattern recognition, mission planning and scheduling, distributed navigation and coordination, and system diagnostics and anomaly detection.

But apparently, NASA experts are available for interviews about quantum computing, so my question is:

Have these NASA QuAIL (Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) team experts been more descriptive about what they plan on using this quantum computer for during some interview? In particular, I mean if they have revealed any specific function it would serve, for some specific project, and when is it expected to prove useful? What role has Google in all of this?

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    $\begingroup$ Of what use is a newborn child? $\endgroup$ – Mark Adler Nov 29 '13 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MarkAdler That was my first thought. At this point it is primarily research to see what we could do with it. We ultimately know the potential of quantum computing to revolutionize everything we do. Lockheed Martin also acquired a quantum computer (the D-Wave One) for similar reasons. $\endgroup$ – called2voyage May 9 '14 at 12:03
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From wired:

...at Nasa's Ames Research Center, not far from Google headquarters, there's a machine that could go even faster. This is the multimillion-dollar quantum computer shared by Google and Nasa, and Google engineers are already pitting the thing against the company's existing hardware and software. It's a race between the quantum computer and the classic computers.

"We set up a blue team and a red team that race each other," Google spokesman Jason Freidenfelds tells Wired. "The blue team throws up new problem classes they believe favor the [quantum] hardware, and the red team refines classical algorithms to match or outperform the hardware."

Google isn't ready to publish any results, so it can't say where the quantum computer is outperforming its more conventional digital computers. But the company is "optimistic that we can find challenges where the [quantum] hardware is superior."

Built by a Canadian company called D-Wave, this quantum machine is one of only two in use around the world. Early research involving the system took a bit of a hit during the government shutdown last month, but things are now back up and running, with both Nasa and Google running tests to better understand what the machine is actually capable of doing.

As Google runs its races, Nasa is running simulations that could feed the International Space Station project and various supercomputing efforts. It's an exciting time, says Rupak Biswas, the deputy director of the Exploration Technology Directorate at Ames: the dawn of the quantum computing age.

and

Nasa's first tests will study techniques for scheduling supercomputer resources -- figuring out which supercomputer nodes should be used at what times if you're running a thousand supercomputing jobs. They'd also like to use the machine to better schedule work on the International Space Station.Today, Nasa solves these kinds of problems using heuristics. "You make some educated guesses and you pare down your search space so that the search space becomes manageable," says Biswas. That means the space agency may not get definitive answers to its really complex problems.

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Some of the application of that quantum computer that i found

"If you're trying to schedule or plan a whole bunch of tasks on the International Space Station, you can do certain tasks only if certain preconditions are met," he explains. "And after you perform the task you end up in another state where you may or may not be able to perform another task. So that's considered a hard optimization problem that a quantum system could potentially solve."

......Kepler search for exoplanets . NASA astronomers use their various telescopes to look at light curves to understand whether any noticeable dimming represents a potential exoplanet as it moves across its host star. This is a massive search problem — one that D-Wave could conceivably help with.

"These computers would also come in handy if we had multiple rovers on Mars or other planets," he added. "And if you wanted to manage the way all those rovers coordinate with one another, that's a good candidate for wanting to apply quantum computers.

source: http://io9.com/what-will-nasa-be-doing-with-its-new-quantum-computer-1468333514

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