Quantum physics trick means we could send information twice as fast

Tech & Science Quantum Physics Information Security Our world is all about information, so perhaps it's no surprise that quantum physicists think about how they can manipulate their field to send information faster. And in a pair of recent papers, a team of quantum scientists have outlined a way to do just that—and in a way that no wannabe spy could ever listen in on. The gist of the technique feels a bit like the famous riddle in which two guards—one of whom always tells the truth and one of whom always lies—protect two doors, one of which hides a tiger. The trick is to always ask what the other guard would say: that way, it doesn't matter whether you've asked the truthful guard or the lying one, you have precisely one lie and one truth in the answer, so you can work backwards to avoid the tiger. The physicists' technique could mean information can travel twice as fast—with complete security. Leon Neal/Getty Images See all of the best photos of the week in these slideshows In the quantum communication scenario, it's not about truth and lies, it's about knowledge and uncertainty between two people. For simplicity, imagine the tiniest message possible, which includes either yes or no, no additional information. Each person knows what message they sent. Traditionally, each person would send their yes or no encoded in a particle of light and the other person would receive it based on how long light takes to bridge the distance between them: two people, two particles, twice the wait time. But here's where the new research speeds things up. Quantum physics means that the same particle can be—as one of the researchers told Live Science—essentially "in two places at the same time." Read more: Can Artificial Intelligence Help Scientists Unravel the Secrets of Colliding Black Holes? That nifty trick means two people can communicate with just one particle of light in which both people have encoded their Continue Reading

Quantum physics just solved one of space’s biggest mysteries

Tech & Science Planets Black Holes galaxies Quantum mechanics is concerned with the behavior of the tiniest of particles, and usually the mathematics behind it is relegated to this tiny realm. Now, a researcher from the California Institute of Technology has used a fundamental quantum physics equation to understand huge self-gravitating space disks. Konstantin Batygin, an assistant professor at Caltech, has discovered that the changing shapes of spinning disks of matter around massive astronomical objects like black holes can be described by the Schrödinger equation. The evolution of these disks has stumped astrophysicists for many years. Swarming matter An artist's impression of the research, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. James Tuttle Keane/California Institute of Technology See all of the best photos of the week in these slideshows From the satellites that fly around Earth to the the planets that swarm around the sun, gravitational forces create huge rotating disks of matter throughout the universe. Over time, these flat circular disks can become warped and distorted, but astrophysicists don’t really know why. Batygin decided to use a mathematical scheme called perturbation theory to try and explain why these spinning disks lost their shape. The model, frequently used in astronomy, blended individual bits of matter traveling on particular orbital trajectories into wires. These concentric loops of matter slowly spread angular momentum between each other. "When we do this with all the material in a disk, we can get more and more meticulous, representing the disk as an ever-larger number of ever-thinner wires," Batygin said in a statement. These wires can mirror the real orbital evolution over millions of years, resulting in a fairly accurate approximation of the changing disk. Batygin’s mathematics, however, revealed an unexpected result. A fundamental quantum physics equation was Continue Reading

Quantum Radios May Aid Underground, Underwater Communication In The Future

Have you ever been frustrated at the lack of cellphone signal inside a giant building? Not being able to use your map app indoors? Now, researchers have found that quantum physics might enable communications and mapping services in locations where GPS and ordinary cellphones and radios don't work like remote indoor locations, forests and even underwater or underground. Imagine working in a submarine. Just to communicate with the outside world in case of an emergency, the whole ship has to rise to a depth lesser than 18 meters to send a one-way signal. Despite the leaps we have made in communication in the last decade with smartphones — GPS technology has become a common tool for most — this technology is limited as they don’t penetrate very deeply and cannot travel in water, soil or through building walls. This is a major roadblock for people in high risk jobs that work underground or underwater or even soldiers fighting in remote jungles where a one bar signal could save thousands of lives by getting those airstrikes on time. Now, researchers from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have used very low frequency (VLF) digitally modulated magnetic signals to successfully send signals through building materials, water and soil with a much greater efficiency than conventional communications signals, which operate at much higher frequencies. These VLF electromagnetic fields are already used by submarines to send emergency signals. But, there's not enough data-carrying capacity in this technology for it to carry large files across. Underwater to land communication is restricted to telegram like short text messages. "The big issues with very low-frequency communications, including magnetic radio, is poor receiver sensitivity and extremely limited bandwidth of existing transmitters and receivers. This means the data rate is zilch," NIST project leader Dave Howe said in a press release. "The Continue Reading

Physicists just upended quantum theory by tracking ‘secret’ particles, a feat considered impossible

Physicists have done the seemingly impossible: found a way to track mysterious quantum particles even when those particles aren’t being directly observed.In classical physics, an object occupies only one state of being at a time; something could be either alive or dead, for example, but not both simultaneously. But quantum physics, which seeks to explain how life works at the subatomic level, isn’t so intuitive. Quantum physics differs from classical physics in that under quantum theory, objects can exist as both waves and particles, occupying both states at the same time. They only exist as either one or the other after they’ve been measured, as a press release from the University of Cambridge explains.Now, researchers from the University of Cambridge have shown that the movements of those particles actually can be tracked without measuring them first—by observing the way the particles interact with their surrounding environments, according to the press release. A paper describing the work was published in the scientific journal Physical Review A. Keep up with this story and more Think of Schrödinger’s cat, the standard paradox for illustrating this particular aspect of quantum theory. A cat in a closed box that also contains a vial of poison could be thought of as either alive or dead, so long as we can’t see inside the box, as National Geographic has explained. To see that the cat is not occupying both states simultaneously, but either one or the other, we need to directly observe it by looking inside the box. In this case, the researchers have created a way to track the quantum object (the cat) to determine if it’s either a wave or a particle (either alive or dead) without directly observing it (peeking inside the box).“This premise [of Schrödinger’s cat], commonly referred to as the wave function, has been used more as a mathematical Continue Reading

How quantum physicists accidentally solved the most iconic Yahoo! Answers post of all time

A fundamental assumption we make about time is that it moves in only one direction—forward. We call this the “arrow of time.” In November, physicists revealed that it’s possible to reverse that arrow using quantum physics. But how did they do it?Let’s begin, as more stories ought to, with this iconic 2010 Yahoo! Answers post. Keep up with this story and more The idea that it's impossible to unbake a cake is a great example of how we view entropy as only able to move in one direction. You can mix those ingredients, no problem. But once you’ve done so, you can’t unmix them. The chaotic energy can only increase and move forward. Or so we believed.The physicists at the Federal University of ABC in Brazil demonstrated that a system can exist in which chaotic energy flows backwards. They showed a cold object heating up a hotter object, as PBS explained. It would be like the ingredients of the cake spontaneously separating and unbaking, a devastating blow to authors of many insistent comments on the Yahoo! Answers post. The physicists’ new system, as the MIT Technology Review reported, contains acetone, which is your standard nail polish remover, and chloroform. The chemical makeup of chloroform comprises one carbon atom, one hydrogen atom and three chlorine atoms—so, CHCl3.Physicists can manipulate the nuclear spins within that system using a technique known as nuclear magnetic resonance, according to the Technology Review. After aligning the nuclei within the carbon and hydrogen atoms with a strong magnetic field, and radio pulses flip one or both. This approach forces them to become entangled, which is quantum physics-speak for basically making them share the same existence. Then the physicists monitor the radio signals the nuclei emit to see how their quantum states evolve.Since the two nuclei are in what’s called “thermal contact,” the heat energy of each Continue Reading

IBM says it’s reached milestone in quantum computing

IBM has announced a milestone in its race against Google and other big tech firms to build a powerful quantum computer.Dario Gil, who leads IBM's quantum computing and artificial intelligence research division, said Friday that the company's scientists have successfully built and measured a processor prototype with 50 quantum bits, known as qubits.Gil says it's the first time any company has built a quantum computer at this scale.Quantum computing, a technology that's still in its early phases, uses the quirks of quantum physics to perform calculations at far higher speeds than current computers.Seth Lloyd, an MIT mechanical engineering professor not involved in IBM's research, says it's likely that IBM still has glitches to work out but the 50-qubit announcement is a sign of significant progress. More: Volkswagen, Google cooperate on quantum computing research More: Image is everything: The 10 most valuable brands of 2017 More: Tech careers: Can you benefit from a "new collar" job? More: Follow USA TODAY Money and Tech on Facebook   Continue Reading

Volkswagen, Google cooperate on quantum computing research

BERLIN — German automaker Volkswagen and Google have announced plans to cooperate in exploring possible uses in the auto industry for quantum computers.Quantum computing, a technology that's still in its early phases, uses the quirks of quantum physics to perform calculations at far higher speeds than current computers.Volkswagen said Tuesday that specialists from the two companies will work together using Google quantum computers, jointly developing algorithms and simulations.The automaker said it wants to use quantum computers for traffic flow optimization, exploring structures for new materials such as batteries for electric cars, and to develop artificial intelligence that could be used for self-driving vehicles. More: President Trump presses Japanese automakers to build more cars in U.S. More: Carmakers join forces in Europe to make electrics widespread More: Our devices are getting smarter. Even our wine dispensers.   Continue Reading

Nobel Prize goes to French-American duo for quantum physics

STOCKHOLM — A French-American duo shared the 2012 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for inventing methods to observe the bizarre properties of the quantum world, research that has led to the construction of extremely precise clocks and helped scientists take the first steps toward building superfast computers. Serge Haroche of France and American David Wineland opened the door to new experiments in quantum physics by showing how to observe individual quantum particles while preserving their quantum properties. A quantum particle is one that is isolated from everything else. In this situation, an atom or electron or photon takes on strange properties. It can be in two places at once, for example. It behaves in some ways like a wave. But these properties are instantly changed when it interacts with something else, such as when somebody observes it. Working separately, the two scientists, both 68, developed "ingenious laboratory methods" that allowed them to manage and measure and control fragile quantum states, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said. "Their ground-breaking methods have enabled this field of research to take the very first steps towards building a new type of superfast computer based on quantum physics," the academy said. "The research has also led to the construction of extremely precise clocks that could become the future basis for a new standard of time." Christophe Lebedinsky/AP This 2009 photo shows French physician Serge Haroche, right, and his aide Igor Dotsenko in Paris. Haroche is a professor at the College de France and Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris. Wineland is a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, or NIST, and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado. The two researchers use opposite approaches to examine, control and count quantum particles, the academy said. Wineland traps ions — electrically charged atoms — and measures them with light, while 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

Quantum physics prof Emlyn Hughes keeps his pants on at Columbia science class

Columbia’s nutty professor is up to his old tricks — minus the strip show. Prof. Emlyn Hughes took the podium Monday for the first time since his bizarre quantum mechanics lecture baffled students last week — and his love for the surreal remained unbowed. The class began with Hughes’ wife asking students to not record the talk — even coffee was prohibited, according to Columbia’s student-run BWOG. Then the show began. A woman in a ski mask turned on a video that played images of mushroom clouds — including those that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki — to the tune of Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise.” Then Hughes walked onto the stage wearing black sunglasses and a black sweatshirt with his hood pulled up. He lectured on nuclear fission and nuclear proliferation. “I think he was making a point with the gangster music and the images of people blowing up nuclear bombs all over the world," said freshman Zach Hendrickson after the Frontiers of Science class concluded. The most bizarre moment occurred when two blonde women carrying laptops walked onto the stage mid-lecture, raised their hands, were ignored by Hughes, then left. The class didn’t approach the insanity of last week’s legendary lecture, which included images of the collapsing Twin Towers and Nazi Germany as Hughes stripped down to his underwear and rap music played. "Today was nothing compared to last time," said student Ben Lewinter, 19. "Last time was mad weird.” Hughes, who wouldn’t comment to a reporter after class, only referenced last week’s antics in passing during the class. “Of course I do lots of unwise things in lectures, and you have punished me for it (by talking to the press),” he said. “We’ll talk about that later. “You all made this the most famous class in America,” he added. Continue Reading