D-Wave's Quantum Computer Successfully Models a Quantum System

science - Posted On:2018-07-16 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from Ars Technica: D-Wave's hardware has always occupied a unique space on the computing landscape. It's a general-purpose computer that relies on quantum mechanical effects to perform calculations. And, while other quantum-computer makers have struggled to put more than a few dozen qubits together, D-Wave's systems have already scaled to more than 2,000 addressable bits. But the D-Wave systems don't perform calculations in the same way and, despite all those bits, haven't clearly demonstrated performance that can outpace even traditional computing hardware. But D-Wave has come out with a research paper in Science that suggests that the system can do interesting things even in its current state. The company's researchers have set it loose modeling a quantum system that closely resembles the bits used in the hardware itself, allowing them to examine quantum phase transitions. While this still isn't cutting-edge performance, it does allow researchers full control over the physical parameters of a relevant quantum system as it undergoes phase changes. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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News of Trump passing cognitive test may make it harder to detect dementia

Science - Posted On:2018-07-16 18:44:59 Source: arstechnica

News reports in January that President Donald Trump passed a widely used test that screens for mild cognitive impairment flung the little-known clinical tool into public focus. Google searches for the test—the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)—spiked as dozens of media reports shared parts or all of the test and political commentators batted it around.

The president’s supporters proudly played up the test, boasting of Trump’s perfect 30-out-of-30 score and using it to laugh down those who questioned Trump’s mental state. Others snickered over the test’s seemingly straightforward components, such as asking test takers to correctly draw times on a clock and identify animals.

But the laugh may be on all of us, according to a research letter published Monday, July 16 in JAMA Neurology.

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How Trump taking a cognitive test may end up skewing everyone else’s results

Science - Posted On:2018-07-16 18:29:59 Source: arstechnica

News reports in January that President Donald Trump passed a widely used test that screens for mild cognitive impairment flung the little-known clinical tool into public focus. Google searches for the test—the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)—spiked as dozens of media reports shared parts or all of the test and political commentators batted it around.

The president’s supporters proudly played up the test, boasting of Trump’s perfect 30-out-of-30 score and using it to laugh down those who questioned Trump’s mental state. Others snickered over the test’s seemingly straightforward components, such as asking test takers to correctly draw times on a clock and identify animals.

But the laugh may be on all of us, according to a research letter published Monday, July 16 in JAMA Neurology.

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D-Wave’s quantum computer successfully models a quantum system

Science - Posted On:2018-07-16 17:30:00 Source: arstechnica

D-Wave's hardware has always occupied a unique space on the computing landscape. It's a general-purpose computer that relies on quantum mechanical effects to perform calculations. And, while other quantum-computer makers have struggled to put more than a few dozen qubits together, D-Wave's systems have already scaled to more than 2,000 addressable bits. But the D-Wave systems don't perform calculations in the same way and, despite all those bits, haven't clearly demonstrated performance that can outpace even traditional computing hardware.

But D-Wave has come out with a research paper in Science that suggests that the system can do interesting things even in its current state. The company's researchers have set it loose modeling a quantum system that closely resembles the bits used in the hardware itself, allowing them to examine quantum phase transitions. While this still isn't cutting-edge performance, it does allow researchers full control over the physical parameters of a relevant quantum system as it undergoes phase changes.

D-Wave's systems can be thought of as a large collection of magnets, each of which can flip orientations. These aren't qubits in the same way that the components of IBM or Intel's quantum processors are, but they do rely on quantum behavior for performing calculations. On their own, there's nothing that favors one orientation over another. But put a second magnet nearby and the two influence each other; now, if one flips its orientation, it changes the energy content of the system. D-Wave's current system scales this up to 2,048 individual magnets, along with associated control hardware that determines which of these magnets is connected and how strong that connection is.

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Britain joins the microlaunch space race with a new rocket and spaceport

Science - Posted On:2018-07-16 09:14:57 Source: arstechnica

The United Kingdom has entered the race to develop low-cost, high-volume rockets for small satellites. Orbex, a British-based company with subsidiaries and production facilities in Denmark and Germany, announced Monday that it has raised $40 million from public and private sources to develop what it is calling the "Prime" launch vehicle.

The company intends to launch Prime from a new spaceport—also just announced—that will be located in northern Scotland. This facility would be the first commercial vertical launch site in the United Kingdom, and represents a significant investment in rocket infrastructure by the British government after decades of dormancy.

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Telescope Offers 'Clearest View Yet' of Milky Way - Including Plasma Filaments

science - Posted On:2018-07-14 18:44:59 Source: slashdot

Chris Reeve writes: The MeerKAT radio telescope was inaugurated in South Africa this past Friday, revealing the clearest view yet of the center of the Milky Way. What is especially surprising about the produced image are the numerous prominent filaments which seem to appear in the foreground. Herschel made a similar announcement just three years prior that "Observations with ESA's Herschel space observatory have revealed that our Galaxy is threaded with filamentary structures on every length scale." Intriguingly, close inspection of yesterday's SKA image show these filaments twisting around one another, yet without combining — a phenomenon observable in most novelty plasma globes when the filaments are conducting electricity... The SKA telescopes is one of the first telescopes to witness these filaments because it is 50 times more powerful than any former telescope, but also because it is apparently one of the few telescopes which can observe dark mode plasmas. For these reasons, the SKA telescope will inevitably revive the debate over the underlying physical reasons for filaments which exhibit coherent thin magnetic structure over light-year distances. The original submission included a comment with more information about the theory of a plasma universe. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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HHS Plans To Delete 20 Years of Critical Medical Guidelines Next Week

science - Posted On:2018-07-13 23:44:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: The Trump Administration is planning to eliminate a vast trove of medical guidelines that for nearly 20 years has been a critical resource for doctors, researchers and others in the medical community. Maintained by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality [AHRQ], part of the Department of Health and Human Services, the database is known as the National Guideline Clearinghouse [NGC], and it's scheduled to "go dark," in the words of an official there, on July 16. "Guideline.gov was our go-to source, and there is nothing else like it in the world," King said, referring to the URL at which the database is hosted, which the agency says receives about 200,000 visitors per month. "It is a singular resource," Valerie King, a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Director of Research at the Center for Evidence-based Policy at Oregon Health & Science University, added. [She] said the NGC is perhaps the most important repository of evidence-based research available. Medical guidelines are best thought of as cheatsheets for the medical field, compiling the latest research in an easy-to use format. When doctors want to know when they should start insulin treatments, or how best to manage an HIV patient in unstable housing -- even something as mundane as when to start an older patient on a vitamin D supplement -- they look for the relevant guidelines. The documents are published by a myriad of professional and other organizations, and NGC has long been considered among the most comprehensive and reliable repositories in the world. AHRQ said it's looking for a partner that can carry on the work of NGC, but that effort hasn't panned out yet. Not even an archived version of the site will remain, according to an official at AHRQ. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Open offices are as bad as they seem—they reduce face-to-face time by 70%

Science - Posted On:2018-07-13 14:30:00 Source: arstechnica

Tearing down walls and cubicles in offices may actually build up more barriers to productivity and collaboration, according to a new study.

Employees at two Fortune 500 multinational companies saw face-to-face interaction time drop by about 70 percent, the use of email increase between 22 percent and 56 percent, and productivity slip after their traditional office spaces were converted to open floor plans—that is, ones without walls or cubicles that ostensibly create barriers to interaction. The findings, published recently in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that removing physical dividers may, in fact, make it harder for employers to foster collaboration and collective intelligence among their employees.

Many companies have waged a so-called “war on walls” to try to create such vibrant workspaces, the authors Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Harvard wrote. But, “what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office—is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).”

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In open offices, workers chat 70% less, are less productive, and email more

Science - Posted On:2018-07-13 14:15:00 Source: arstechnica

Tearing down walls and cubicles in offices may actually build up more barriers to productivity and collaboration, according to a new study.

Employees at two Fortune 500 multinational companies saw face-to-face interaction time drop by about 70 percent, the use of email increase between 22 percent and 56 percent, and productivity slip after their traditional office spaces were converted to open floor plans—that is, ones without walls or cubicles that ostensibly create barriers to interaction. The findings, published recently in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, suggest that removing physical dividers may, in fact, make it harder for employers to foster collaboration and collective intelligence among their employees.

Many companies have waged a so-called “war on walls” to try to create such vibrant workspaces, the authors Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban of Harvard wrote. But, “what they often get—as captured by a steady stream of news articles professing the death of the open office—is an open expanse of proximal employees choosing to isolate themselves as best they can (e.g. by wearing large headphones) while appearing to be as busy as possible (since everyone can see them).”

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Ötzi the Iceman’s last meal shows how Copper Age people ate on the run

Science - Posted On:2018-07-13 09:59:57 Source: arstechnica

In his final days, the Iceman ate a hearty mountaineer’s diet of red deer, wild goat, and whole grain einkorn wheat—but he may also have accidentally eaten toxic ferns.

Even after being chewed up, swallowed, partially digested in Ötzi’s stomach, and then frozen in a glacier for 5,300 years, some bits of Ötzi’s last meal are still recognizable, at least under a microscope. Frank Maixner of the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies and his colleagues saw compact bits of fatty tissue and bundles of muscle fibers, mixed with pollen from a genus of wheat called einkorn, which grows wild in the region but also includes some of the earliest domesticated wheat species. Mixed in with the partly-digested food bits, however, were spores from a fern called bracken, which is toxic to humans and other animals if not properly prepared.

Chemically, the remnants of Ötzi’s partially digested meal contained a compound called phytanic acid, which is a hallmark of fat or dairy products from ruminants like cattle, deer, and goats. There were also minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, and zinc, all of which are found in red meat and dairy products. And among the 167 different animal and plant proteins in the samples, Maixner and his colleagues found six that are specific to structures in the long contracting threads in ibex skeletal muscles—leg of wild goat, perhaps. Another protein in the mix is found only in deer muscles.

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Rocket Report: Virgin goes Italian, SpaceX’s giant net, a nuclear launcher

Science - Posted On:2018-07-13 07:29:57 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 1.08 of the Rocket Report! This week there is no shortage of news about SpaceX, as well as the race to become the first nation (or company) to build the first super-booster since the Saturn V rocket. Also, a company plans to launch 300km north of the Arctic Circle.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below. Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin Galactic signs deal to launch from Italy. Virgin Galactic and a pair of Italian companies have signed a framework agreement aimed at bringing Virgin Galactic's suborbital space tourism launcher to a future spaceport in Italy. The spaceplane would be based at Taranto-Grottaglie Airport, which Italian public-private partners aim to turn into a spaceport. The spaceport could become active as early as 2020, GeekWire reports.

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Rocket Report: Arctic launch, Israeli Moon shoot, China’s monster booster

Science - Posted On:2018-07-13 07:14:57 Source: arstechnica

Welcome to Edition 1.08 of the Rocket Report! This week there is no shortage of news about SpaceX, as well as the race to become the first nation (or company) to build the first super-booster since the Saturn V rocket. Also, a company plans to launch 300km north of the Arctic Circle.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below. Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Virgin Galactic signs deal to launch from Italy. Virgin Galactic and a pair of Italian companies have signed a framework agreement aimed at bringing Virgin Galactic's suborbital space tourism launcher to a future spaceport in Italy. The spaceplane would be based at Taranto-Grottaglie Airport, which Italian public-private partners aim to turn into a spaceport. The spaceport could become active as early as 2020, GeekWire reports.

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China's Quantum Radar Could Detect Stealth Planes, Missiles

science - Posted On:2018-07-13 03:14:58 Source: slashdot

hackingbear shares a report from Popular Science: China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC), China's foremost military electronics company, announced that its groundbreaking quantum radar has achieved capability of tracking high altitude objects, likely by increasing the coherence time entangled photons. CETC envisions that its quantum radar will be used in the stratosphere to track objects in "the upper atmosphere and beyond" (including space). Quantum can identify the position, radar cross section, speed, direction and even "observe" on the composition of the target such as differentiating between an actual nuclear warhead against inflatable decoys. [...] Importantly, attempts to spoof the quantum radar would be easily noticed since any attempt to alter or duplicate the entangled photons would be detected by the radar. The news is an important illustration of a larger trend of Chinese advancement in the new, crucial area of quantum research. Other notable projects in China's quantum technology include the Micius satellite, and advances by Alibaba and the Chinese University of Science and Technology in a world record of entangling 18 photons (a quantum supercomputer would require about 50 entangled photons), such that China arguably leads the world in quantum technologies. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Astronomers Detected a 'Ghost Particle' and Tracked It To Its Source

science - Posted On:2018-07-12 20:14:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: Astronomers have traced a high-energy neutrino to its cosmic source for the first time ever, solving a century-old mystery in the process. Observations by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole and a host of other instruments allowed researchers to track one cosmic neutrino to a distant blazar, a huge elliptical galaxy with a fast-spinning supermassive black hole at its heart. And there's more. Cosmic neutrinos go hand in hand with cosmic rays, highly energetic charged particles that slam into our planet continuously. So, the new find pegs blazars as accelerators of at least some of the fastest-moving cosmic rays as well. Astronomers have wondered about this since cosmic rays were first discovered, way back in 1912. But they've been thwarted by the particles' charged nature, which dictates that cosmic rays get tugged this way and that by various objects as they zoom through space. Success finally came from using the straight-line journey of a fellow-traveler ghost particle. On Sept. 22, 2017, [...] IceCube picked up another cosmic neutrino. It was extremely energetic, packing about 300 teraelectron volts -- nearly 50 times greater than the energy of the protons cycling through Earth's most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider. Within 1 minute of the detection, the facility sent out an automatic notification, alerting other astronomers to the find and relaying coordinates to the patch of sky that seemed to house the particle's source. The community responded: Nearly 20 telescopes on the ground and in space scoured that patch across the electromagnetic spectrum, from low-energy radio waves to high-energy gamma-rays. The combined observations traced the neutrino's origin to an already-known blazar called TXS 0506+056, which lies about 4 billion light-years from Earth. The IceCube team also went through its archival data and found more than a dozen other cosmic neutrinos that seemed to be coming from the same blazar. These additional particles were picked up by the detectors from late 2014 through early 2015. The findings are reported in two separate studies published in the journal Science. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Supermassive black hole shot a neutrino straight at Earth

Science - Posted On:2018-07-12 14:14:59 Source: arstechnica

For most of astronomy's history, understanding the heavens was limited to what we could see: the narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum that constitutes visible light. Only over the last century or so have we expanded beyond that, into the infrared and microwaves and up into the higher energies of X-rays and gamma-rays. The past few years have brought an even more fundamental change: we've started detecting astronomical events without photons at all. This was done most famously by LIGO, the hardware that detected gravitational waves. But LIGO was actually late to the game, as the South Pole's IceCube detector had started listening in on cosmic neutrinos a few years earlier.

But in one critical aspect, LIGO beat IceCube to the punch: it spotted an event where the gravitational wave signal was paired with an optical signal, a burst of gamma rays. This marked the first instance of what's being termed "multimessenger" astronomy, where a single event is observed using physically distinct signals.

While IceCube has spotted some phenomenally energetic neutrinos, we've not been able to match those with a specific photon source. As of today, that has changed with the announcement that an energetic neutrino was likely to have been sent our way by a blazar, a supermassive black hole with a jet pointed in Earth's direction.

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Ear Implant Lets Deaf Gerbils Sense Sound From Light Signals

science - Posted On:2018-07-12 14:14:59 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares a report: A research team at the University Medical Center Gottingen has created a cochlear implant that uses light to restore auditory responses in deaf gerbils. The study provides a proof-of-concept that combining optical stimulation with genetic manipulation can successfully restore sound perception, and could lead to a new generation of more accurate cochlear implants. Approximately 360 million people worldwide have hearing impairment. Traditional cochlear implants can partially restore the ability to hear in many of these patients by stimulating ear cells with electrical signals. In such devices, however, the generated current tends to spread around each point of contact, activation of a large population of neurons and limiting the resolution and clarity of sound signals. Christian Wrobel and colleagues tackled this obstacle by designing a light-based cochlear implant. Optical stimulation promises spatially confined activation of neurons in the auditory nerve, potentially yielding spatially precise ear cell stimulation with limited spreading. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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IceCube spots a neutrino source: A black hole jet pointed at Earth

Science - Posted On:2018-07-12 14:00:00 Source: arstechnica

For most of astronomy's history, understanding the heavens was limited to what we could see: the narrow band of the electromagnetic spectrum that constitutes visible light. Only over the last century or so have we expanded beyond that, into the infrared and microwaves and up into the higher energies of X-rays and gamma-rays. The past few years have brought an even more fundamental change: we've started detecting astronomical events without photons at all. This was done most famously by LIGO, the hardware that detected gravitational waves. But LIGO was actually late to the game, as the South Pole's IceCube detector had started listening in on cosmic neutrinos a few years earlier.

But in one critical aspect, LIGO beat IceCube to the punch: it spotted an event where the gravitational wave signal was paired with an optical signal, a burst of gamma rays. This marked the first instance of what's being termed "multimessenger" astronomy, where a single event is observed using physically distinct signals.

While IceCube has spotted some phenomenally energetic neutrinos, we've not been able to match those with a specific photon source. As of today, that has changed with the announcement that an energetic neutrino was likely to have been sent our way by a blazar, a supermassive black hole with a jet pointed in Earth's direction.

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First-Ever Color X-ray on a Human

science - Posted On:2018-07-12 13:45:00 Source: slashdot

What if, instead of a black and white X-ray picture, a doctor of a cancer patient had access to color images identifying the tissues being scanned? From a post: This is now a reality, thanks to a New-Zealand company that scanned, for the first time, a human body using a breakthrough color medical scanner based on the Medipix3 technology developed at CERN. Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product. Medipix is a family of read-out chips for particle imaging and detection. The original concept of Medipix is that it works like a camera, detecting and counting each individual particle hitting the pixels when its electronic shutter is open. This enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field. Hybrid pixel-detector technology was initially developed to address the needs of particle tracking at the Large Hadron Collider, and successive generations of Medipix chips have demonstrated over 20 years the great potential of the technology outside of high-energy physics. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Killing Rats Could Save Coral Reefs

science - Posted On:2018-07-12 05:14:57 Source: slashdot

The much maligned rat is not a creature many would associate with coral reefs. But scientists studying reefs on tropical islands say the animals directly threaten the survival of these ecosystems. From a report: A team working on the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean found that invasive rats on the islands are a "big problem" for coral reefs. Rats decimate seabird populations, in turn decimating the volume of bird droppings -- a natural coral fertiliser. The findings are published in Nature. Scientists now advocate eradicating rats from all of the islands to protect these delicate marine habitats. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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NASA May Have Discovered and Then Destroyed Organics on Mars in 1976

science - Posted On:2018-07-12 00:14:58 Source: slashdot

An anonymous reader shares a report: Over 40 years ago, a NASA mission may have accidentally destroyed what would have been the first discovery of organic molecules on Mars, according to a report from New Scientist. Recently, NASA caused quite a commotion when it announced that its Curiosity rover discovered organic molecules -- which make up life as we know it -- on Mars. This followed the first confirmation of organic molecules on Mars in 2014. But because small, carbon-rich meteorites so frequently pelt the Red Planet, scientists have suspected for decades that organics exist on Mars. But researchers were stunned in 1976, when NASA sent two Viking landers to Mars to search for organics for the first time and found absolutely none. Scientists didn't know what to make of the Viking findings -- how could there be no organics on Mars? "It was just completely unexpected and inconsistent with what we knew," Chris McKay, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, told New Scientist. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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