IPCC Report Unlikely to Shift Media/Public Agenda

Scientists and environmental advocates will watch with excited anticipation on Friday as the policymakers' summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is released in Paris, France. The IPCC reports are designed to be the most important events in climate science and policy, gathering world experts to craft an authoritative summary of the state of human understanding. Yet here in the United States, if past trends are predictive, the IPCC report is unlikely to make a major dent in the news or public agenda, much less shift public opinion.

As the Pew analysis (pictured above) of last week's major stories indicates, Iraq continues to dominate headlines, while 2008 horserace speculation comes in a close second. Up against these juggernaut narratives, the IPCC release is unlikely to compete for air time and column space. Nor is it likely to break through the powerful partisan lenses of the American public, with striking differences in the perception of reality across party lines.

Consider the graph below. Even at the daily newspapers, the media heavily favors drama and conflict, rather than the technical nature of a scientific consensus statement. The figure compares the amount of media attention to the previous 2001 IPCC report with that generated by the 2004 release of the science fiction blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow and the 2006 release of Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth. Not surprisingly, both films far surpass the IPCC report in generating media attention, but fall well short of either Fahrenheit 9/11 or Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ.

Note: Data on the IPCC report, the Day After Tomorrow, Fahrenheit 9/11, and Passion of the Christ is taken from a previous study published by Anthony Leiserowitz. Consistent with the method used in that study, the relative media agenda-setting impact of Inconvenient Truth was calculated by searching the headline and lead paragraph of major national and regional newspapers including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, Denver Post, Boston Globe, and the San Diego Star Tribune for the two month period leading up to the May 24, 2006 New York/Los Angeles release of the film and the two weeks following its opening.

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Quantum computing is on the way

Ready your Schrödinger's Cat Jokes.

Quantum entanglement. Conceptual artwork of a pair of entangled quantum particles or events (left and right) interacting at a distance. Quantum entanglement is one of the consequences of quantum theory. Two particles will appear to be linked across space and time, with changes to one of the particles (such as an observation or measurement) affecting the other one. This instantaneous effect appears to be independent of both space and time, meaning that, in the quantum realm, effect may precede cause.
Technology & Innovation
  • For a time, quantum computing was more theory than fact.
  • That's starting to change.
  • New quantum computer designs look like they might be scalable.

Quantum computing has existed in theory since the 1980's. It's slowly making its way into fact, the latest of which can be seen in a paper published in Nature called, "Deterministic teleportation of a quantum gate between two logical qubits."

To ensure that we're all familiar with a few basic terms: in electronics, a 'logic gate' is something that takes in one or more than one binary inputs and produces a single binary output. To put it in reductive terms: if you produce information that goes into a chip in your computer as a '0,' the logic gate is what sends it out the other side as a '1.'

A quantum gate means that the '1' in question here can — roughly speaking — go back through the gate and become a '0' once again. But that's not quite the whole of it.

A qubit is a single unit of quantum information. To continue with our simple analogy: you don't have to think about computers producing a string of information that is either a zero or a one. A quantum computer can do both, simultaneously. But that can only happen if you build a functional quantum gate.

That's why the results of the study from the folks at The Yale Quantum Institute saying that they were able to create a quantum gate with a "process fidelity" of 79% is so striking. It could very well spell the beginning of the pathway towards realistic quantum computing.

The team went about doing this through using a superconducting microwave cavity to create a data qubit — that is, they used a device that operates a bit like a organ pipe or a music box but for microwave frequencies. They paired that data qubit with a transmon — that is, a superconducting qubit that isn't as sensitive to quantum noise as it otherwise could be, which is a good thing, because noise can destroy information stored in a quantum state. The two are then connected through a process called a 'quantum bus.'

That process translates into a quantum property being able to be sent from one location to the other without any interaction between the two through something called a teleported CNOT gate, which is the 'official' name for a quantum gate. Single qubits made the leap from one side of the gate to the other with a high degree of accuracy.

Above: encoded qubits and 'CNOT Truth table,' i.e., the read-out.

The team then entangled these bits of information as a way of further proving that they were literally transporting the qubit from one place to somewhere else. They then analyzed the space between the quantum points to determine that something that doesn't follow the classical definition of physics occurred.

They conclude by noting that "... the teleported gate … uses relatively modest elements, all of which are part of the standard toolbox for quantum computation in general. Therefore ... progress to improve any of the elements will directly increase gate performance."

In other words: they did something simple and did it well. And that the only forward here is up. And down. At the same time.

Why Japan's hikikomori isolate themselves from others for years

These modern-day hermits can sometimes spend decades without ever leaving their apartments.

700,000 Japanese people are thought to be hikikomori, modern-day hermits who never leave their apartments (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images).
Mind & Brain
  • A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
  • This is a relatively new phenomenon in Japan, likely due to rigid social customs and high expectations for academic and business success.
  • Many believe hikikomori to be a result of how Japan interprets and handles mental health issues.
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Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

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