Making cancer as harmless as the common cold

World-renowned physicist Michio Kaku thinks that one day a cancer diagnosis will be far less scary than it is today.

Michio Kaku: I think we’re entering the fourth wave of scientific innovation and wealth creation. The first era was steam power, when we physicists worked out the laws of thermodynamics we could calculate how much energy you get from a lump of coal to energize a locomotive or a steam engine or a factory. That was the first big breakthrough.

The second wave of innovation and wealth generation was electricity and magnetism. When we physicists worked out the laws of electromagnetism that gave us the light bulb, it gave us television, radio, it gave us the electric age.

The third revolution took place when we physicists worked out the transistor and the laser, opening up the world of high technology.

The fourth wave is at the molecular level, and that is artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and biotechnology.

In fact I think the synergy between biotechnology and artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize everything around us.

First of all the job market is going to explode in that area because baby boomers are aging, and baby boomers have disposable income; they want answers now to their problems not next year, and so there’s going to be plenty of money involved with people who want to find cures for horrible diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s.

At the present time we have no cure for these, but a tremendous amount of effort is now being redirected toward illnesses of old age. Also, take a look at cancer research. We’re going to have a magic bullet against cancer using nano medicine, that is, individual molecules in cells that can target individual cancer cells using nanotechnology.

And the next big thing is when your toilet becomes intelligence. In the future your toilet will be your first line of defense against cancer because your bodily fluids—blood and your bodily fluids contain signatures of cancer colonies of maybe a few hundred cancer cells in your body maybe years before a tumor forms.

Think about it for a moment. There are people watching this program right now, right now who have cancer growing in their body. Maybe a few hundred cancer cells in a colony, but they won’t know it for perhaps ten years, when you have ten billion cancer cells growing in your body forming a tumor. We will have what is called liquid biopsies, DNA chips that allow us to search for the signatures of cancer colonies of a hundred cells, cancer genes, cancer enzymes, cancer protein circulating in our blood and bodily fluids.

So in other words one day your toilet will tell you that “You have cancer. Do something. You have ten years to do it.”

So another words ladies and gentlemen what I’m trying to tell you is in the future the word tumor will “disappear” from the English language. We will have years of warning that there’s a colony of cancer cells growing in our body.

And our descendants will wonder, how could we fear cancer so much?

Cancer is going to become like the common cold, that is we live with the common cold, it doesn’t really kill anybody except maybe if you have pneumonia, but for the most part we tolerate the common cold because it’s too difficult to cure 300 different varieties of rhinoviruses. In the future we may see cancer the same way.

There are probably thousands of different varieties of cancer, we can’t cure every single one, but we’ll live with it, we’ll tolerate it, and we’ll eradicate it in the same way that we live with the common cold.

World-renowned theoretical physicist Michio Kaku thinks that one day a cancer diagnosis will be far less scary than it is today. He posits a world where something as universal as your toilet—via what he refers to as liquid biopsies—can tell you whether you've got cancer... and how long you have to do something about it. In a world of uncertainty, its a future that can't come soon enough.

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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.
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  • 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.

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700,000 Japanese people are thought to be hikikomori, modern-day hermits who never leave their apartments (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images).
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  • A hikikomori is a type of person in Japan who locks themselves away in their bedrooms, sometimes for years.
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