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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How New York's largest hospital system is predicting COVID-19 spikes

Northwell Health is using insights from website traffic to forecast COVID-19 hospitalizations two weeks in the future.

Credit: Getty Images
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • The machine-learning algorithm works by analyzing the online behavior of visitors to the Northwell Health website and comparing that data to future COVID-19 hospitalizations.
  • The tool, which uses anonymized data, has so far predicted hospitalizations with an accuracy rate of 80 percent.
  • Machine-learning tools are helping health-care professionals worldwide better constrain and treat COVID-19.
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Here’s the view from humanity’s furthest spacecraft

Already 14 billion miles from the Sun, Voyager 1 is speeding away at 38,000 mph.

The view from Voyager 1, the furthest human-made object in space.

Credit: NASA's Eyes, public domain
  • Jimmy Carter was U.S. president and Elvis Presley was still alive in 1977, the year Voyager 1 was launched.
  • Back in 1990, Voyager 1's last picture showed Earth as nothing more than a 'Pale Blue Dot'.
  • Voyager 1 is now traversing interstellar space – here's what our solar system looks like from there.
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From NASA to your table: A history of food from thin air

A fairly old idea, but a really good one, is about to hit the store shelves.

Credit: Brian McGowan/Unsplash/mipan/Adobe Stock/Big Think
  • The idea of growing food from CO2 dates back to NASA 50 years ago.
  • Two companies are bringing high-quality, CO2-derived protein to market.
  • CO2-based foods provide an environmentally benign way of producing the protein we need to live.
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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.

Supporters of US President Donald Trump enter the US Capitol's Rotunda on January 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Credit: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • 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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How high did our ancestors get? We might soon be able to tell.

Traces of heroin and cocaine have been found in the tartar of 19th-century Dutch farmers.

Photo: Elena / Adobe Stock
Surprising Science
  • Archaeologists can now tell what drugs our ancestors used thanks to tooth tartar.
  • For this study, they tested 10 cadavers and discovered 44 drugs and metabolites.
  • This new method will offer us insights into the types of drugs our ancestors used.
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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.

Videos
  • 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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