In a case that's somewhat chicken-and-egg, one of the many reasons computer scientists and physicists are pursuing a working quantum computer is to model quantum systems themselves. Modeling some quantum properties for systems even with a just a few dozen particles is impossible on even the biggest conventional supercomputers, and the pursuit of new materials and next-level science requires that we find a way to do so.
Silicon semiconductors have taken us a dazzling distance along the computing road. But even if they continue unabated to get faster and more powerful (and it's growing more difficult to make that happen) there's a limit to what classical computing can do.
The next real game-change in computing is quantum--tapping the quantum mechanical properties of materials to process information in ways that will make today's biggest and baddest super computers look like pocket calculators. And for the first time scientists, at places like IBM, are moving beyond just theorizing about them to actually envisioning how a finished quantum computer would work. In labs across the globe, the first building blocks of the first quantum computers are slowly becoming real.
That's huge considering a working quantum computer would be the kind of thing that truly moves the ground beneath our feet. With a relatively modest quantum computer, scientists could slice through sophisticated encryption schemes, model quantum systems with unprecedented accuracy, and filter through complex, unstructured databases with unparalleled efficiency.
But first they have to build one.
A group of scientists at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology have created a new scale (and process for weighing) that increases the accuracy of small-scale, um, scales to new heights. Their new scale, which uses short nanotubes at very low temperatures, was able to measure the vibration of items down to a single yoctogram, one septillionth of a gram. For some (possible helpful) scale (that word again!), a single proton weighs 1.7 yoctograms. The scale could be used in the future for medical diagnostics as well as research. [via Nature]
Professor Antonio Ereditato, the man who found neutrinos traveling faster than light late last year, has resigned from his job at the Gran Sasso physics laboratory in Italy. Attempts to reproduce the amazing superluminal result were not successful, and the finding was eventually blamed on a loose cable.
The notion of a person flying like a bird has universal and enduring appeal, so it's not surprising that the "Human Bird Wings" video from "Jarno Smeets" went viral within a few days. However, now that it has been revealed to be an elaborate hoax, eight months in the making, and now that our dreams have been thusly dashed, let's examine a scientific red flag in the video, one that when pursued bursts the entire fantastical premise: the problem of speed. Watch the video: He really isn't moving very fast when he lifts up off the ground, so it doesn't look quite right. Let's analyze that.
The trick to any good 3-D tech is creating a system in which the viewer's eyes receive two slightly different images, creating the kind of dual perspective that gives imagery depth--and hence the illusion of three-dimensions even within a flat space like a television display. With most light emitters, which look the same when viewed from any angle, this can prove difficult. But a new kind of fiber developed at MIT that can emit light variably in different directions along its entire length can present light at different intensities to two different viewers, and it could lead to woven 3-D displays that project different visual information to a viewer's left and right eyes.
Atomic clocks are the most accurate timekeepers in the world, but a “nuclear clock” would be even better. An international team of researchers from the University of New South Wales, the University of Nevada, and Georgia Tech have propsed a new kind of atomic timekeeper that wouldn’t lose or gain 1/20th of a second in 14 billion years (that's roughly the age of the entire universe). It would be 100 times more accurate than the best atomic clocks we have right now, the researchers claim.
Ohio State University researchers have captured the first-ever images of atoms moving within a molecule using a novel technique that turns one of the molecules own electrons into a kind of flash bulb. The technique has yielded a new way of imaging molecules, but could one day help scientists to intimately control chemical reactions at the atomic scale.
Before it stopped colliding for good, America’s defunct Tevatron collider saw a hint of the elusive Higgs boson, physicists announced Wednesday. Even more interesting: Scientists spotted something unusual in the same energy range where their European colleagues glimpsed something unusual at the Large Hadron Collider last winter.