Virginia Tech Is Building an Artificial America in a Supercomputer

Synthetic citizens will help social scientists. The first task is to model flu transmission patterns from 100 gigabytes of population data

4 min read

4 December 2008—At a rally in rural North Carolina during the 2008 U.S. presidential election campaign, Alaska governor Sarah Palin infamously said that there was a ”real America” and presumably a fake one. Though she was the butt of jokes for the remainder of the campaign, in a way Palin was right. One state over, a team of computer scientists and a physicist from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), in Blacksburg, Va., was creating a fake America of its own.

The group has designed what it claims is the largest, most detailed, and realistic computer model of the lives of about 100 million Americans, using enormous amounts of publicly available demographic data. The model’s makers hope the simulation will shed light on the effects of human comings and goings, such as how a contagion spreads, a fad grows, or traffic flows. In the next six months, the researchers expect to be able to simulate the movement of all 300 million residents of the United States.

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An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

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