CBS News Logo Hawking, CERN scientists win $3 million physics prize

The foundation of a Russian billionaire announced Tuesday (Dec. 11) that it would hand out two $3-million physics prizes -- one to legendary cosmologist Stephen Hawking and the other to group of CERN scientists who spearheaded this year's discovery of a Higgs-like particle at the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), in Geneva. The Fundamental Physics Prize, nearly three times as lucrative as the Nobel Prize, was founded last year by physicist-turned-entrepreneur Yuri Milner and stands as world's richest science award. Hawking is being honored for his work on black holes and his "deep contributions to quantum gravity and quantum aspects of the early universe," according to a statement. In particular, he was cited for theorizing what is now called "Hawking radiation," a faint glimmer of radiation emanating from black holes. The prolific physicist said he was "delighted and honoured" to receive the prize, in an email to the Guardian. "No one undertakes research in physics with the intention of winning a prize. It is the joy of discovering something no one knew before," Hawking wrote. "Nevertheless prizes like these play an important role in giving public recognition for achievement in physics. They increase the stature of physics and interest in it." [Stephen Hawking Biography] Hawking added that he will use the money to help his daughter with her autistic son and "maybe buy a holiday home, not that I take many holidays because I enjoy my work in theoretical physics." The other award is set to go to LHC particle physicists, who announced they'd finally found what looks to be the Higgs boson after decades of searches have turned up nothing. Scientists first predicted the existence of the Higgs boson, nicknamed the "God particle" by some in the popular media, in the 1960s to explain why other particles have mass. That multimillion-dollar prize will be split between seven scientists involved in the discovery, including: Peter Jenni and Continue Reading

‘The Dialogues’ Takes On Physics And Reality In Words And Pictures

Culture Facebook Twitter Flipboard Email Enlarge this image An image from Clifford Johnson's The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe. Courtesy of Clifford Johnson hide caption toggle caption Courtesy of Clifford Johnson An image from Clifford Johnson's The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe. Courtesy of Clifford Johnson The origin of the universe, the nature of space, the reality of time: These are ancient questions. Libraries across the world are filled with heavy books that are, themselves, heavy with equations on these issues. But how many graphic novels are exploring these questions? More importantly, how many graphic novels written and drawn by expert theoretical physicists are there? Well, happily for us all, the answer to the latter question is "at least one," thanks to University of Southern California physicist Clifford Johnson. Johnson's new book The Dialogues: Conversations about the Nature of the Universe is a penetrating exploration of questions — that are both ancient and modern — about the nature of the universe. I found The Dialogues to be compelling, and the use of the graphic novel format only deepened that impression. After finishing the book I wanted to understand more about how this project took shape. Clifford Johnson was kind enough to answer my questions, included below, over a series of emails. Why did you decide to use this format? Once I decided that it was important to me to present ideas in the form of an accessible series of conversations, I realized a bit later that it would be really great to see who was having the conversations: ordinary people of all kinds. Then, I thought it would be valuable to see where the conversations were taking place — out there in the world, in cafes, on the street, etc. So visually, I get to drive home the idea that science is in the mouths of everyday people, and out there in the world, as opposed to Continue Reading

Scientists are one step closer to creating a world-beating quantum computer

Tech & Science Quantum Computing Computers atoms Scientists have taken a significant step toward creating a revolutionary, fully-functional quantum computer, according to the results of a new study published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday. The researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia said they had managed to get the most basic units of the next-generation computer, known as quantum bit or qubits, to communicate with each other—an important milestone for the technology and a world first that, until now, had been never been demonstrated. The reason for the discovery’s significance is that the scientists are now closer to being able to "entangle" their qubits—an essential step to building a viable quantum computer. See all of the best photos of the week in these slideshows Quantum entanglement is a mind-boggling physical phenomenon described by the bizarre laws of quantum mechanics in which pairs or groups of tiny particles interact with each other in such a way that they can no longer be described independently, even if they are separated by vast distances—such as being on opposite sides of the universe, for example. Once researchers are able to effectively entangle qubits, they will be able to unlock the full potential of quantum computers. A single quantum chip containing just 50 to 60 entangled qubits, for example, would have more power than the world’s fastest supercomputers, which take up whole buildings. An artist's impression of two qubits—one made of two phosphorus atoms and one made of a single phosphorus atom—placed 16 nanometers apart in a silicon chip. UNSW And by the time you get to around the 300 entangled qubits mark, in principle, you would have enough computing power to perform more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the visible universe. This is possible because the power of qubits scales up exponentially—a Continue Reading

Google’s Bristlecone Chip Aims for Quantum Supremacy

The concept of quantum computing has been around for decades. A traditional computer stores data in the form of bits, which can be in one of two definite states at any given time. A quantum computer stores data in the form of qubits, which can be in a superposition of states. In other words, somewhere in between.This property of qubits creates the potential for a quantum computer to solve problems that can't be practically solved with a traditional computer, or to vastly speed up certain types of computations. While this technology is likely many years away from meaningful commercialization, a handful of tech companies are charging ahead.Image source: Alphabet.Quantum GoogleAlphabet's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google is one of them. Google presented its new 72-qubit Bristlecone quantum processor on Monday at the American Physical Society meeting. The company plans to use Bristlecone as a test bed for further research into error rates and scalability of quantum systems. Google also will use the chip for applications in quantum simulation, optimization, and machine learning.One of the biggest challenges to building a useful quantum computer is dealing with errors. Traditional computers can use redundancy to correct errors. Error correction in quantum computers, with qubits in fuzzy combinations of states, is more complicated.Google is "cautiously optimistic" that Bristlecone eventually will achieve quantum supremacy, meaning that the processor would be able to solve a problem that can't be practically solved by a traditional computer. The company believes getting the 2-qubit error rate below 0.5% is the threshold for this achievement. With its earlier 9-qubit linear array technology, Google got that error rate down to 0.6%.Not the only game in townGoogle's 72-qubit system comes a few months after International Business Machines (NYSE: IBM) unveiled its own prototype 50-qubit quantum computer. Along with that news, IBM announced partnerships with 12 organizations, including Continue Reading

Machine Learning 101

Excitement around artificial intelligence and machine learning has been buzzing around in sci-fi and tech enthusiast spheres for over 50 years now, but only recently has research around it started taking off at exponential speeds. In this Industry Focus: Tech clip, our analysts talk about the fascinating origins behind modern machine learning tech, and how the unprecedented advances we're seeing today almost never came to be, what machine learning is and why companies across the board are so excited about its potential, some of the most exciting advances we've seen in the past few years, where artificial intelligence could go from here, and more. A full transcript follows the video. 10 stocks we like better than Wal-Mart When investing geniuses David and Tom Gardner have a stock tip, it can pay to listen. After all, the newsletter they have run for over a decade, the Motley Fool Stock Advisor, has tripled the market.* David and Tom just revealed what they believe are the ten best stocks for investors to buy right now... and Wal-Mart wasn't one of them! That's right -- they think these 10 stocks are even better buys. Click here to learn about these picks! *Stock Advisor returns as of January 2, 2018 The author(s) may have a position in any stocks mentioned. This video was recorded on Jan. 5, 2018. Dylan Lewis: Before we get too deep in conversation, I think it's probably good for us to formally define AI and deep learning/machine learning, because those are two terms that are going to be coming up again and again, and it's good to just get that out of the way. Eric Bleeker: You know, I hate to do a history lesson. Lewis: I love history lessons. Bleeker: But you kind of have to start with it in AI. I think your average person has a lot of natural skepticism around artificial intelligence that's completely warranted. The reason for that is, the term "artificial intelligence" was coined in 1956. Lewis: That's a long time ago. Continue Reading

Theater review: ‘That Physics Show’ is no quantum leap

Physics is important and physics can be fun — but an off-Broadway show, it isn’t. “That Physics Show” has a cheeky title and a likeable leading man in Dave Maiullo, an as-seen-on-TV science instructor who races through 90 minutes of tinkering in his laboratory-cum-stage. “That Physics Show” is like a low-budget “Mythbusters,” with Maiullo as the less-illuminative Bill Nye the Science Guy. Maiullo is not a natural performer, but once he starts igniting hydrogen balloons, smashing beer cans with ping pong balls, dunking fresh flowers into a deep freeze, and using a bowling ball as a pendulum, you don’t mind. But that’s the extent of the “show” in “That Physics Show.” Maiullo pretends that his his geeky explosions and frenetic motion are meant to demonstrate several of the laws of physics, but he moves between the displays so quickly that he doesn’t end up connecting any dots. Remind me again — why am I wearing glasses to turn all the lights into rainbows? Was there a point here? Adults will find “That Physics Show” a bit unsatisfying, but kids will certainly amused by Maiullo’s exploits and maybe even learn a thing or two. And everyone will wish they had had a science teacher like Dave Maiullo. He’s definitely a credit to that nobel profession. But he should leave the base world of the theater to the professionals. "That Physics Show" opens March 9 and runs through May 1. Tickets can be bought at Ovation Tix. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau schools reporter who tests politician’s knowledge of quantum computing

The Internet was abuzz with praise for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Saturday after clips showing him schooling a reporter on quantum computing went viral. While political opponents learned a lesson about underestimating the photogenic Trudeau, 44, during last year’s surprise electoral upset, the unnamed reporter fell into the same trap during an event at a Canadian university on Friday when he jokingly tested the former teacher's knowledge. JUSTIN TRUDEAU'S YOGA PROWESS IS GOING VIRAL AGAIN Trudeau’s explanation on quantum computing generated cheers and applause from the room and set social media abuzz."I was like YEAHH I voted for this guy," said a Twitter user with the handle @smoakoverwatch. Canadian writer Anakana Schofield tweeted about the reporter's experience: "This is what teenagers call 'getting owned,'" using a colloquial expression for utter defeat. The exchange began when the reporter told Trudeau: “Morning, sir, I was going to ask you to explain quantum computing" but quickly added a question on when the prime minister expected Canada to resume its mission against Islamic State militants occupying parts of Iraq and Syria. Trudeau immediately shot back with an explanation on quantum computers, explaining how they do not operate on the principles of conventional physics and are more powerful than current mainstream computers. “I wish there were more like him,” said a Twitter user with the handle @tonticologo. Trudeau addressed Canada’s actions against the Islamic State militants directly afterward, although he did not announce any new measures. The son of a former prime minister, Trudeau led his center-left Liberals to a majority victory in last year’s election with a campaign that emphasized hope and optimism. His political opponents had attacked him as “just not ready” for the job, implying his best feature was his hair Continue Reading

Columbia University will ‘review’ weird antics of quantum mechanics prof Emlyn Hughes, who stripped onstage

Columbia University is investigating the antics of a nutty professor who stripped down to his skivvies and delivered a bizarre lesson in quantum mechanics, the institution confirmed Tuesday. Columbia Assistant Vice President Robert Hornsby said administrators “are currently reviewing” Prof. Emlyn Hughes’ off-the-wall behavior during class Monday. Students were bombarded with projected images of the collapsing Twin Towers and Nazi Germany as Hughes stripped down to his underwear and rap music played. The whole incident was caught on camera and later posted on the student website Bwog. During the five minute display, two people dressed as Ninjas blind-folded two stuffed animals and then impaled one with a sword. After, Hughes explained to the class that they would have to “strip raw” and “erase all the garbage” from their brains to properly learn quantum mechanics. “I thought that the 9/11 thing was a little offensive,” said freshman Andrew Stoughton, who said his dad worked in the World Trade Center but was late to work Sept. 11. “I try to take it with a grain of salt, like, okay, it's a personal tragedy for people but it's also a historical event that needs to be contextualized,” Stoughton said. “Walking that line is tricky and I think he misstepped.” On the other hand, Stoughton said, “I was definitely paying a lot more attention than I usually do.” Freshman Jared Greene agreed that the lecture kept him “awake,” but thought the class “might have been in poor taste.” That said, the frosh thinks it’s “misguided” for the prof to get “flak for trying to make a lecture more interesting.” Freshman Mariam Gulaid said she was just confused. “I wasn't thinking about it in an offensive or non-offensive way,” she said. “I was trying to figure out what was going on. “And Continue Reading

Does luxury still live in New York?

Tell Jay-Z that luxury is dead and he'll show you the wood paneling in his Gulf-stream V. Tell the buyers of a luxury condo backing onto the rail tracks in Long Island City that luxury is dead and they'll swear by their double-paned silent windows it's alive and kicking. While luxury is a million different things to a million different people, for the past 25 years, brand marketers have pummeled the word into a sad state where its meaning is as confusing to consumers as quantum physics. Volvo claims it's a luxury vehicle. So does Cadillac. Lexus tried to redefine the word in the 1980s but diluted it even more. Ralph Lauren was luxury, then he licensed his label to mass manufacturers. Now, according to fashion insiders, he's buying back his name in certain product categories to better control his brand image. The concept of luxury has become confusing, but it's far from dead. When it comes to New York-area housing, luxury is applied by architects, home hunters and real estate agents to describe anything from a wall-to-wall carpeted two-bedroom condo in Asbury Park, N.J., to four-bedroom apartments overlooking Central Park with Corinthian marble entryways, bathroom bidets, 14-foot ceilings and Venetian blown-glass kitchen tile. "Luxury is a misused term because the market tries to apply it to everything," says Dr. Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group and co-author of "The Annual Survey of Affluence and Wealth in America," produced by American Express Publishing and Harrison Group. The 2008 version of the most definitive survey undertaken today on the habits of America's wealthiest individuals is being released at American Express' Luxury Summit conference on Tuesday. The data even cover those with $20 million or more in individual assets. "It serves marketers' interest to say their own product is luxurious," said Taylor. Luxury Defined So what is luxury? According to Taylor, whose clients include Gucci, Four Seasons Hotel Group, Continue Reading

This son is the star at the center of my universe

Recently, I received a phone call from my son, Rob. It was a phone call that every parent dreads. That's right: My son told me that the universe does not exist. Or at least it does not in any way resemble my concept of it. According to Rob, I understand the universe about as well as a barnacle understands a nuclear aircraft carrier. I blame college. That's where Rob is getting these ideas, which have to do with Einstein's Theory of Relativity and something called "quantum physics." (At one point - I swear this is true - we got into a bitter argument about whether people in Minneapolis age at the same rate as people in Miami.) When I was in college, during the '60s, there was no such thing as "quantum physics." Or, if there was, nobody told ME about it. Back then, when we stayed up all night, we were not trying to figure out the universe: We were trying to figure out how to operate the phone, so we could order pizza. (Note to young people: Phones were MUCH more complicated in the '60s.) I was an English major, and when we English majors thought about physics, we were trying to solve problems like: "You are required to turn in a 15-page paper on 'The Brothers Karamazov.' You have written a grand total of 311 words on this topic. How big do you have to make your margins to make these words stretch over 15 pages? Do you think the professor will notice that your 'paper' is a little anorexic worm of type running between margins wide enough to land an airplane on? Do you think that anybody in history has ever actually read all the way to the end of 'The Brothers Karamazov'? Why?" This is not to say that I know nothing about physics. I studied physics for an ENTIRE YEAR in Pleasantville High School under the legendary Mr. Heideman. We learned that there are five simple machines: the lever, the pulley, the doorbell, the hammer and the toaster. We learned that the most powerful force in the universe is static electricity, which Mr. Heideman demonstrated by Continue Reading