Saturday, March 29, 2008


"Entanglement is one of the most puzzling phenomena in quantum mechanics, and also one of the most difficult to illustrate, which could help explain why this image of entangled photons has proved so popular. The photograph was created by Paul Kwiat and Michael Reck at the University of Innsbruck in Austria in 1995."

Entanglement or the creation of linked states for photons, electrons and even clouds of atoms, gives rise to the power of quantum computing because the superposition of states of entangled entities enables quantum systems to parallel process any problem (ray tracing, factoring numbers, database search, decryption and last but not least, creating reality itself) at speeds that go beyond calculation. The problem with creating this mother of all computers is decoherence whereby the delicate superposition of said linked entities existing at multiple states at the same time (spin up/down etc., etc.) collapses when "touched" by the most subtle of influences of the "real world" - until now.

"The team generated pairs of photons (in a silicon chip) which each encoded a quantum bit or qubit of information. They coupled these photons into and out of the controlled-NOT chip using optical fibres. By measuring the output of the device they confirmed high-fidelity operation.

In the experimental characterisation of the quantum chips the researchers also proved that one of the strangest phenomena of the quantum world, namely "quantum entanglement", was achieved on-chip. Quantum entanglement of two particles means that the state of either of the particles is not defined, but only their collective state."

When this tech is combined with findings from The Ames Lab, UCSB and Microsoft Station, interesting things could begin to happen. "researchers were able to manipulate the N-V centers interacting with an environment of nitrogen spins in a piece of diamond. Amazingly, the physicists were able to tune and adjust the environmental interference extremely well, accessing surprisingly different regimes of decoherence in a single system. The scientists showed that the degree of interaction between the qubit and the interfering environment could be regulated by applying a moderate magnetic field.

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill -- the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill -- you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Too Much Time on Their Hands

Doomsday Fears Spark Lawsuit - The builders of the world's biggest particle collider are being sued in federal court over fears that the experiment might create globe-gobbling black holes or never-before-seen strains of matter that would destroy the planet. (Stranglets and micro black holes are the envisioned culprits.)

The problem with this scenario is that even if the LHC generates micro black holes, the " black holes would be so weak that they could not exert sufficient gravitational force to pull in surrounding matter. As for strangelets, CERN points out that Earth is battered by cosmic rays of much higher energy intensities, but the planet is still here."

Doomsday events are often predicted when extreme tech is introduced to the world. One of the most famous was a sincere belief that the first A Bomb, due to the tremendous heat the device would generate, could theoretically ignite the earth's atmosphere, thus incinerating all life forms on the planet. Others too numerous to quote here involve natural as well as synthetic causes. To see a partial list, click here.

" I am become Death [Shiva], the destroyer of worlds..." - 16 July 1945 at 0529 HRS, in the Jornada del Muerto desert near the Trinity site in the White Sands Missile Range...quoting from the Bhagavad-Gita upon witnessing first atomic detonation by mankind. HRS Physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the supervising scientist of the Manhattan project.

Any questions?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Life Finds a Way

The possibility for life just keeps growing. "NASA's Cassini spacecraft tasted and sampled a surprising organic brew erupting in geyser-like fashion from Saturn's moon Enceladus during a close flyby on March 12. Scientists are amazed that this tiny moon is so active, "hot" and brimming with water vapor and organic chemicals."

Click on the image of Enceladus to get NASA's in-depth analysis on why life could exist there. It's a good read.

And if that's not enough, consider Titan, Saturn's largest moon possessing a dense atmosphere of methane, may harbor a vast ocean of water underneath it's crust or last but not least...

Europa, the leading candidate for extraterresterial life in our solar system as "Scientists are all but certain that Europa has an ocean underneath its surface ice, but do not know how thick this ice might be."

To read more on how life finds a way, click here.

The Holy Grail

The Holy Grail of truly clean energy is coming closer as researchers have been "able to synthesise a stable inorganic metal oxide cluster, which enables the fast and effective oxidation of water to oxygen."

By doing this, hydrogen can be produced in quantity without polluting the environment, something that existing tech cannot do. If this comes to pass, an elegant way out of non-renewables may be at hand.

This cutting edge research could not have been done without learning how photosynthesis really works, a discovery that only came about last year. Click here to see BRT's take on a truly remarkable process courtesy of Mother Nature.

Click here to get Physorg's article on AF.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Sound Waves

To date, working with computers usually involves using the ubiquitous mouse and keyboard, a set of tools that work very well in most situations but when size or the ability to work in hazardous, dirty environments comes into play, said mouse and keyboard can render any system useless in ways that defy description. An elegant way around this involves using sound as the front end because sound can create interfaces of any size with no moving parts save that of the computer the interface is connected to. In effect, everything can become a Computing Surface. “Time reversal is a beautiful technology,” he says. “Unlike TDOA, it works with any object and it does not require special materials. Because it needs only a single sensor and a normal computer, it is very simple and cost-effective.

and .. "With ordinary interface devices (e.g. keyboard, mouse, touch screen and ultrasonic pen), the interaction of humans with computers is restricted to a particular device at a certain location within a small movement area. A challenge in human computer interaction research is to create tangible interfaces that will make the interaction possible via augmented physical surfaces, graspable objects and ambient media (e.g. wall, tabletop and air), as well as making the interaction natural without the need for a hand held device."

Tangible Acoustic Interfaces for Computer Human Interaction”, an EU founded project, intends to leverage this tech big time. To get an extended view on the sonic connection, click on the TAI-CHI image above.

"A Nodis a good as a Wink to a blind horse." - Faces

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PicLens +

Minority Report anyone? Enter PicLens, the first of a plethora of cool tools that mimic, in a way, how Tom Cruise moved images in Spielberg's SF adventure. In the NY Times article titled Coming Soon: Nothing Between You and Your Machine, the concept of moving past windows to work with systems has been around for a long time, the difference now is compute power and new software languages.

"The idea of directly manipulating information on a computer screen is almost as old computer graphics terminals, going back at least to 1963, to Ivan Sutherland’s Sketchpad drawing system he created at M.I.T. for his Ph.D. thesis. Since then, a thriving scientific and engineering discipline has sprung up around systems that bridge what was originally called the man-machine interface. There has been a broad exploration of pointing devices, alternatives to keyboards for entering information, voice-recognition technologies, and even sensors that capture and interact with human brain waves.

What is new is a convergence of more powerful and less expensive computer hardware and an inspired set of mostly younger software designers who came of age well past the advent of the original graphical user interface paradigm of the 1970s and ’80s."

The part of the Times article that really impresses is what Sun Computer is doing with Processing, an open source java based language able to ramp up visualizations of complex data in ways that will amaze. One such stunning example is Flight 404, an environment that defies description in terms of how data is imaged in ways that makes intuitive sense to anyone who views it.

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." - Wizard of Oz

For another take on interface design, click here.

Blinded by the Light...

Blinding speed combined with fierce intensity, the femtosecond laser promises to change disciplines like dentistry, medicine and metallurgy in ways just beginning to be understood.

"What makes the femtosecond laser different from other lasers is its unique capacity to interact with its target without transferring heat to the area surrounding its mark. The intensity of the power gets the job done while the speed ensures heat does not spread. Results are clean cuts, strong welds and precision destruction of very small targets, such as cancer cells, with no injury to surrounding materials."

"If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run - and often in the short one - the most daring prophecies seem laughably conservative."
Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration of Space, 1951

Postscript. Arthur C. Clarke died today. To see just how big an influence he has had on society, click here.

Addendum: Blinded by the Light - Intro lyric of a terrific Bruce Springsteen composition

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Out of Control

Great article from The Economist discussing the fact Formula 1 drivers will no longer have digital tech to help them do Nintendo type driving...

"Because of the extraordinary amount of downforce created by the inverted wings at the front and back of an F1 car, cornering forces of 4g (ie, four times the car’s own weight) are common. On really fast circuits like Suzuka in Japan, drivers have to fight lateral forces of up to 6g. To survive, most drivers have huge neck muscles to prevent their heads from lolling over.

But what happens if a driver miscalculates and enters a bend too fast, or has to make a sudden manoeuvre to avoid hitting another car? With the tyres strained to the limit by the crushing downwards and sideways forces, the molecular film of rubber clinging to the road at a tyre’s contact point can suddenly snap and send the car spinning violently off the circuit.

In recent years, that rarely happened for two reasons. First, a nifty electronic device sensed when the tyre on any particular wheel was beginning to lose traction, whether because the driver went into a bend too quickly or he tramped too heavily on the gas coming out. Either way, the traction-control system automatically applied the brakes on the spinning wheels for a fraction of a second, slowing things down enough for the tyres to regain traction.

Second, another electronic gubbins automatically stepped in when the driver started braking hard to let the engine’s compression strokes mop up much of the car’s kinetic energy and so scrub off speed rapidly. With these two electronic aids working in tandem, drivers could literally stand on their brakes when entering a bend and then nail the throttle on the way out—without having to worry about wheelspin or skidding out of control."

If this doesn't hold one's attention, the following examples of computer controlled systems will as none of them can be run without tech due to horrible handling characteristics.

F117 Nighthawk fly by wire fighter, due to be retired this year, would drop like a stone without computer assist.
B2 Bomber another fly by wire number, would follow the same trajectory as the F117.
Space Shuttle Without digital, "Astronauts say it flies like a “brick sh--house”, but a surprisingly controllable one for all that. With no engines to aid its approach on re-entry, the spacecraft must be stable enough to glide down through the atmosphere and yet controllable enough to precisely follow a trajectory to make a perfect landing, with no chance of ever going round again should the pilot mess up.

Many years ago, your correspondent tried in vain to land the Shuttle manually (albeit using a simulator rather than the real thing) at Cape Canaveral, only to crash each time in the Atlantic near the Azores. He was convinced the vehicle had nowhere near enough rudder power to prevent it from rolling out of control.

Then the NASA technicians switched on the control system and simulated a hurricane in the flight path for good measure. Needless to say, the Shuttle made a perfect landing, with only the minimum of input from its chastened pilot. On Sunday, those F1 drivers are in for quite a surprise."

When viewed in this light, could Michael Schumacher beat Juan Fangio in a race if both were at their prime running cars without digital assist?

Good question eh?

Legos Writ Large

Infrastructure, the most difficult thing to achieve when promising basic research has to be scaled to work in the real world in order to solve real world problems (hydrogen/fuel cell cars anyone?), may finally be tamed (at least in medicine) according to an excellent article posted in Science Daily "The new ‘Modular Process Automation Laboratory m:Pal’ platform makes it possible to plan complex laboratory equipment faster and more efficiently. It comes as a construction kit in which pumps, incubators, dosing devices and camera modules can be slotted together in any way desired and tried out immediately – in much the same way as Lego bricks."

Design for manufacture is the mantra voiced by all who build complex things. With the emergence of nanotech combined with robotics and ai, this vision may come to fruition in ways impossible to achieve by conventional means.

To read an absolutely prescient book on how the emergence of radical tech can change everything, check out The Deus Machine by Pierre Ouellette as this work will blow your mind. Written in 1993, the predictions made, including economic collapse in the 'aughts, will astound you.


Friday, March 07, 2008

Great Minds...

Great ideas never happen in isolation. When Charles Darwin wrote The Origin of the Species in 1859, Alfred Russel Wallace came up with the same concept at the same time. Problem was, he published his work after Darwin. When Newton created calculus, Gottfried Leibniz did the same thing but Newton got the credit as his work came out before Leibniz's. (Leibniz did Newton one better, he invented the Binary System.)

When looking at this data, I see similar concepts underlying the Physorg Article titled Quantum Dots May Lead to Rainbow Solar Cell and what Carver Mead, the inventor of VLSI, is doing with his Foveon X3 Image Sensor because both deal with capturing differing wavelengths of light in enabling their respective technologies to execute a given task with the first generating electricity from the sun while the second generates state-of-the art images from the sun.

When this is taken into account, maybe the solar cell researchers should talk to Mead as he has elegant hardware that may shortcut development time on tech that's needed by the world.

Hey, it's worth a shot, isn't it?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


COntinuous VAriable Quantum Information with Atoms and Light

"Unlike qubits, where one atom or particle carries the information, continuous variables (CV) use an ensemble of atoms or photons to carry the information – the first with matter and the second with light.

"Both digital and analogue approaches to quantum information science use the peculiar properties of quantum particles as the ‘signifier’ of the information carried, such as the spin of a single electron or the polarisation of a photon for qubits, or the analogue properties of a group of electrons or photons for CV.

It is the collective property of this group of electrons, or photons, that becomes the information carrier in CV. When you have this many particles you can call it continuous even though there are many very small steps in the information-encoding variable,”

The reason for the shift from digital to analog in processing quantum information is size as handling individual quibits (single photons, electrons etc., etc.) is really hard while handling millions of photons or atoms to spread out and manipulate the data is easy. Maybe this is why Carver Mead, the inventor of VLSI, loves analog (digital counts/analog measures) because it is "soft/energy efficient" and can be used in elegant ways with digital as seen in his Foveon X3 Image Sensor, exquisite hardware that "uses three layers of pixels embedded in silicon. The layers are positioned to take advantage of the fact that silicon absorbs different wavelengths of light to different depths. The bottom layer records red, the middle layer records green, and the top layer records blue. Each stack of pixels directly records all of the light at each point in the image."

By using analog techniques to process quantum information, the European researchers ..."created an optical ‘Schroedinger’s cat’. Schrödinger’s cat was a thought experiment that illustrated how objects can have two distinct states at the same time, in this case a dead cat and a live cat.

Covaqial created a light pulse – an ensemble of photons – simultaneously in two states."

and "interspecies quantum teleportation. Teleportation occurs where the state of one particle is moved onto another particle. “It had been done before with photons or atoms, but this is the first time it worked from photons to atoms.

The implications of this tech regarding quantum computing knows no bounds. At this point in time, this may be the best way to build practical QCs of unimaginable power.

Reality is digital with analog override - RM

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Write Stuff

Cool gadgets, the bane of keeping a tight budget, has struck again according to Physorg's article describing IOGEAR's Digital Scribe, the first electronic pen able to upload handwriting and images from a plain piece of paper.

"The Mobile Digital Scribe comes with a USB cable which is used to connect the receiver to a PC. IOGEAR´s handwriting recognition software translates notes into text and sketches into JPEGs, which can be saved and edited. Text can be shared via JPEG format through e-mail or instant messaging. "

As Will Smith says in Independence Day, "I've got to get me one of these!"

Addendum: Logitech has the same thing.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Maybe a Silver Bullet

Although the graphic shows what a Depleted Uranium Round looks like (ramifications of the use of same on the battlefield goes beyond, beyond), the gist of this article Maybe a Silver Bullet is anything but. It looks like Yale University has discovered a possible Silver Bullet against cancer if the article in Biology News. Net is accurate. To whit: "Using artificial cell-like particles, Yale biomedical engineers have devised a rapid and efficient way to produce a 45-fold enhancement of T cell activation and expansion, an immune response important for a patient’s ability to fight cancer and infectious diseases, according to an advance on line report in Molecular Therapy."

If this tech works, a real revolution in terms of dealing with cancer and other deadly diseases may be at hand. Who knows, maybe chemo, surgery and radiation may be relegated to the dustbin of history, something that Bones McCoy could relate to in dealing with the shortcomings of the 20th century emergency room in the entertaining Star Trek flick, The Voyage Home.

One can only hope.