The incredible physics behind quantum computing

Can computers do calculations in multiple universes? Scientists are working on it. Step into the world of quantum computing.

  • While today's computers—referred to as classical computers—continue to become more and more powerful, there is a ceiling to their advancement due to the physical limits of the materials used to make them. Quantum computing allows physicists and researchers to exponentially increase computation power, harnessing potential parallel realities to do so.
  • Quantum computer chips are astoundingly small, about the size of a fingernail. Scientists have to not only build the computer itself but also the ultra-protected environment in which they operate. Total isolation is required to eliminate vibrations and other external influences on synchronized atoms; if the atoms become 'decoherent' the quantum computer cannot function.
  • "You need to create a very quiet, clean, cold environment for these chips to work in," says quantum computing expert Vern Brownell. The coldest temperature possible in physics is -273.15 degrees C. The rooms required for quantum computing are -273.14 degrees C, which is 150 times colder than outer space. It is complex and mind-boggling work, but the potential for computation that harnesses the power of parallel universes is worth the chase.
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Should law enforcement be using AI and cell phone data to find rioters?

The attack on the Capitol forces us to confront an existential question about privacy.

Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
  • The insurrection attempt at the Capitol was captured by thousands of cell phones and security cameras.
  • Many protestors have been arrested after their identity was reported to the FBI.
  • Surveillance experts warn about the dangers of using facial recognition to monitor protests.
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Colorful brain mapping tool lights up neural connections

A powerful new tool lights up the brains of worms, and may soon help draw maps of other animals brains.

Credit: Eviatar Yemini
  • A new tool called NeuroPal allows scientists to map the brain in more detail than ever before.
  • By using the same color highlight for similar neurons, it allows researchers to more fully understand what areas of the brain do what.
  • It has already been made available to other researchers who are publishing new brain studies.
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How will we govern super-powerful AI?

The AI constitution can mean the difference between war and peace—or total extinction.

  • The question of conscious artificial intelligence dominating future humanity is not the most pressing issue we face today, says Allan Dafoe of the Center for the Governance of AI at Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute. Dafoe argues that AI's power to generate wealth should make good governance our primary concern.
  • With thoughtful systems and policies in place, humanity can unlock the full potential of AI with minimal negative consequences. Drafting an AI constitution will also provide the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of past structures to avoid future conflicts.
  • Building a framework for governance will require us to get past sectarian differences and interests so that society as a whole can benefit from AI in ways that do the most good and the least harm.
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NASA images of Mars reveal largest canyon in the solar system

Valles Marineris on Mars is 10 times longer and three times deeper than Earth's Grand Canyon.

  • The HiRISE instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured high-resolution images of Valles Marineris.
  • Valles Marineris stretches roughly 2,500 miles across the Martian surface, and was likely formed by geologic faulting caused by volcanic activity.
  • NASA's Perseverance rover is set to land on Mars in February 2021, where it will search for signs of ancient life.
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