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"Game changer" superconductor discovered to power future computers

Scientists from John Hopkins find a material for quantum computing.

A qubit can exist simultaneously between two states. Schrodinger's cat is a well-known example of a qubit. This thought experiment involves a hypothetical cat that can be both dead and alive. In a similar way, a flux qubit, or a ring made of a superconducting material, can have electric current flowing both clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously.

Credit: Yufan Li
  • Researchers from John Hopkins University discovered a new superconducting material.
  • The material, called β-Bi2Pd, can create flex qubits, necessary for quantum computing.
  • Next for the scientists is looking for Majorana fermions.


Quantum computers may be closer to reality thanks to a discovery by researchers from John Hopkins University. Their recent paper, published in Science, describes their find of a superconducting material that can be the basis of the computers of the future.

The big difference between our contemporary computers and quantum computers is that instead of using bits of either "0" or "1" to store a piece of information, the quantum computers will employ quantum mechanics. They will store data in quantum bits (known as "qubits"). Such qubits exist in a superposition of two states, where both zero and one can be represented at the same time.

This technology, supercharging computational speed, could make quantum computers immensely superior to current computers, especially in such fields as artificial intelligence, predicting weather, the stock market, developing cures for illnesses, military applications and others.

What the John Hopkins scientists found is a way to create a qubit from a ring made out of a superconducting material known as β-Bi2Pd, which naturally exists in a quantum state. Usually you would need to add magnetic fields to achieve this effect, a fact that makes the "flux qubit" created from this substance a possible "game changer," said Chia-Ling Chien, Professor of Physics at The Johns Hopkins University and the paper's co-author.

In their study, the researchers observed that β-Bi2Pd exists between two states, with the current able to simultaneously circulate both clockwise and counterclockwise through its ring.

The scientists are most excited about the practicality of utilizing such a material.

Quantum Computing 2019 Update

Quantum computing overview that includes main concepts, recent developments from IBM, Intel, Google, Microsoft, D-Wave, Rigetti and other pioneers.

Much more research lies ahead, however, before the era of quantum computers is upon us. Next for the researchers is looking for Majorana fermions within β-Bi2Pd. Finding these theoretical particles is seen as an important milestone in quantum computing. What's significant is that they are anti-particles of themselves and can lead to error-free topological quantum computers.

The paper's first author. Yufan Li, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics & Astronomy at The Johns Hopkins University, thinks that discovering the special properties of β-Bi2Pd bodes well for finding within it the fermions.

"Ultimately, the goal is to find and then manipulate Majorana fermions, which is key to achieving fault-tolerant quantum computing for truly unleashing the power of quantum mechanics," said Li in a press release.

Xiaoying Xu of Johns Hopkins University; and M.-H. Lee and M.-W. Chu of National Taiwan University were the additional co-authors of the paper.

Check out their new paper, published October 11th, in Science Magazine.

Hints of the 4th dimension have been detected by physicists

What would it be like to experience the 4th dimension?

Two different experiments show hints of a 4th spatial dimension. Credit: Zilberberg Group / ETH Zürich
Technology & Innovation

Physicists have understood at least theoretically, that there may be higher dimensions, besides our normal three. The first clue came in 1905 when Einstein developed his theory of special relativity. Of course, by dimensions we’re talking about length, width, and height. Generally speaking, when we talk about a fourth dimension, it’s considered space-time. But here, physicists mean a spatial dimension beyond the normal three, not a parallel universe, as such dimensions are mistaken for in popular sci-fi shows.

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Does conscious AI deserve rights?

If machines develop consciousness, or if we manage to give it to them, the human-robot dynamic will forever be different.

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  • Does AI—and, more specifically, conscious AI—deserve moral rights? In this thought exploration, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, ethics and tech professor Joanna Bryson, philosopher and cognitive scientist Susan Schneider, physicist Max Tegmark, philosopher Peter Singer, and bioethicist Glenn Cohen all weigh in on the question of AI rights.
  • Given the grave tragedy of slavery throughout human history, philosophers and technologists must answer this question ahead of technological development to avoid humanity creating a slave class of conscious beings.
  • One potential safeguard against that? Regulation. Once we define the context in which AI requires rights, the simplest solution may be to not build that thing.

A new hydrogel might be strong enough for knee replacements

Duke University researchers might have solved a half-century old problem.

Lee Jae-Sung of Korea Republic lies on the pitch holding his knee during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group F match between Korea Republic and Germany at Kazan Arena on June 27, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Technology & Innovation
  • Duke University researchers created a hydrogel that appears to be as strong and flexible as human cartilage.
  • The blend of three polymers provides enough flexibility and durability to mimic the knee.
  • The next step is to test this hydrogel in sheep; human use can take at least three years.
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Technology & Innovation

Predicting PTSD symptoms becomes possible with a new test

An algorithm may allow doctors to assess PTSD candidates for early intervention after traumatic ER visits.

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