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Programmable optical quantum computer arrives late, steals the show

Programmable optical quantum computer arrives late, steals the show

Excuse me a moment—I am going to be bombastic, over excited, and possibly annoying. The race is run, and we have a winner in the future of quantum computing. IBM, Google, and everyone else can turn in their quantum computing cards and take up knitting.OK, the situation isn’t that cut and dried yet, but a recent paper has described a fully programmable, chip-based . That idea presses all my buttons, and until someone restarts me, I will talk of nothing else.There is no question that quantum computing has come a long way in 20 years. Two decades ago, optical quantum technology looked like the...

Mar 8
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The Biggest Shot in Hollywood

The Biggest Shot in Hollywood

Ask any Hollywood insider if they know somebody who has pulled strings to get an , and the answer is almost always a quick “no” — followed immediately by a confession that, well, they do know someone who knows someone who chartered a private jet to fly to another state for just that purpose. Some share stories of celebrities volunteering at vaccination centers just to get a leftover inoculation at the end of the day, or showrunners asking doctors to hook up their cast and crew so they can keep filming.Everyone in Hollywood wants immunity, and lots of people are looking into what it would...

Feb 16
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Quantum device performs 2.6 billion years of computation in 4 minutes

Quantum device performs 2.6 billion years of computation in 4 minutes

I am a great believer in solving problems with lasers. Are you suffering from a severely polarized society and a fast-growing population living below the poverty line? Well, I have the laser to solve all your problems.OK, maybe not. But when it comes to quantum computing, I believe that lasers are the future. I suspect that the current architectures are akin to the Colossus or the ENIAC: they are breakthroughs in their own right, but they are not the future. My admittedly biased opinion is that the future is optical.  provides my opinion some support, demonstrating solutions to a...

Dec 7
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Planet X? Why not a tiny black hole instead?

Planet X? Why not a tiny black hole instead?

Planet X has a long and storied history of non-existence. For about 130 years, astronomers have debated the existence of an additional planet or planets to explain discrepancies in the orbits of the known planets (mainly Neptune and Uranus). Later, the list of discrepancies was expanded to cover trans-Neptunian objects. But none of the Planet X candidates discovered, including Pluto, have the mass or location to explain observations.Primordial black holes have now been proposed as  (or planet 9, since Pluto was demoted).Planet X’s origin starts with the discovery of Neptune. Neptune was not...

August 16, 2020
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Glowing silicon nanowire reveals how to put optics in your CPU

Glowing silicon nanowire reveals how to put optics in your CPU

The key term in integrated circuits is integrated. The ability of fabrication facilities to integrate things sets limits on what processes are available and what materials can be safely used. As soon as you suggest a different material or process, the whole chain is broken, and anybody suggesting such a thing should expect people questioning your suitability for your current position. “Compatibility” is why you will not find laser-powered integrated circuits in your laptop.The ability to make lasers using integrated-circuit-compatible materials, however, may have gotten a boost, with a (but...

April 11, 2020
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Hollow corkscrews may put a cork in noisy ventilation

Hollow corkscrews may put a cork in noisy ventilation

And now for a bit of research that is suddenly highly relevant in today’s locked-up and closed-in world: . Does air-conditioning drive you mad? The constant hiss of sterile air?The average building designer doesn’t seem to give a damn about it. As long as water doesn’t drip out of the vents and the dust is kinda-sorta filtered out… well, you’ve got headphones don’t you?It is actually surprisingly difficult to get rid of ventilation noises. Fans and airflow are noisy, and the very ducting that allows the air to flow into your office space also allows the sound in. Therefore, the easiest way...

April 14, 2020
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Microwave thruster makes for clean-burning jet

Microwave thruster makes for clean-burning jet

I usually approach  of alternative thrusters with a But we've finally been given a study on microwave thrusters that doesn’t rely on impossible physics. Instead, it used a plain old plasma thruster.Plasma thrusters have generally been thought of as a means of propulsion in space, but now one has been designed to operate . According to the researchers involved, it's an air plasma thruster that has the potential to produce the same thrust as a commercial jet engine.A jet engine is just a form of internal combustion engine: combine fuel and air and compress the living hell out of the mixture....

May 5, 2020
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Corkscrew light promises higher optical-communication data rates

Corkscrew light promises higher optical-communication data rates

The modern world depends on good communication. If you were one of the few who didn’t believe that, the recent obsession with video conferences should have convinced you otherwise. The key for video is volume: huge streams of data facilitated by high-capacity optical-fiber communications networks.It might surprise you to hear that, actually, optical communication is not very efficient. A recent paper shows off a laser that may allow the information density to be increased by using something calledBefore we get into the dizzying world of light that corkscrews its way through life, let’s see...

May 17, 2020
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