Archive for the ‘science’ Category

D-Wave releases its next-generation quantum annealing chip

September 29th, 2020
Image of a chip surrounded by complicated support hardware.

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Today, quantum computing company D-Wave is announcing the availability of its next-generation quantum annealer, a specialized processor that uses quantum effects to solve optimization and minimization problems. The hardware itself isn't much of a surprise—D-Wave was discussing its details months ago—but D-Wave talked with Ars about the challenges of building a chip with over a million individual quantum devices. And the company is coupling the hardware's release to the availability of a new software stack that functions a bit like middleware between the quantum hardware and classical computers.

Quantum annealing

Quantum computers being built by companies like Google and IBM are general-purpose, gate-based machines. They can solve any problem and should show a vast acceleration for specific classes of problems—or they will, as soon as the gate count gets high enough. Right now, these quantum computers are limited to a few-dozen gates and have no error correction. Bringing them up to the scale needed presents a series of difficult technical challenges.

D-Wave's machine is not general-purpose; it's technically a quantum annealer, not a quantum computer. It performs calculations that find low-energy states for different configurations of the hardware's quantum devices. As such, it will only work if a computing problem can be translated into an energy-minimization problem in one of the chip's possible configurations. That's not as limiting as it might sound, since many forms of optimization can be translated to an energy minimization problem, including things like complicated scheduling issues and protein structures.

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Posted in algorithms, Computer science, D-Wave, quantum annealer, quantum mechanics, science | Comments (0)

Fish Form Social Networks—and They’re Actually Good

September 29th, 2020
New models of coral reefs show how fish species communicate with one another. The findings may well help save these threatened ecosystems.

Posted in in it to fin it, science, Science / Environment | Comments (0)

During Covid, Eating Disorder Patients Turn to Apps

September 29th, 2020
Anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating patients are facing novel challenges as in-person care is on hold. Can tech tools fill in the treatment gaps?

Posted in Health Tech, science, Science / Health | Comments (0)

Another look at possible under-ice lakes on Mars: They’re still there

September 28th, 2020
Red and blue color-coded contour lines depict under-ice lakes.

Enlarge (credit: ESA)

In recent decades, we've become aware of lots of water on Earth that's deep under ice. In some cases, we've watched this nervously, as it's deep underneath ice sheets, where it could lubricate the sheets' slide into the sea. But we've also discovered lakes that have been trapped under ice near the poles, possibly for millions of years, raising the prospect that they could harbor ancient ecosystems.

Now, researchers are applying some of the same techniques that we've used to find those under-ice lakes to data from Mars. And the results support an earlier claim that there are bodies of water trapped under the polar ice of the red planet.

Spotting liquids from orbit

Mars clearly has extensive water locked away in the forum of ice, and some of it cycles through the atmosphere as orbital cycles make one pole or the other a bit warmer. But there's not going to be pure liquid water on Mars—the temperatures just aren't high enough for very long, and the atmospheric pressures are far too low to keep any liquid water from boiling off into the atmosphere.

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Posted in Mars, Mars Express, planetary science, science, water | Comments (0)

New data on a volcanic eruption that scattered ash across Mayan lands

September 28th, 2020
New data on a volcanic eruption that scattered ash across Mayan lands

(credit: Gerardo Aguirre-Díaz)

Maya civilization was blossoming into its golden age when a volcano erupted at the southern edge of the Maya region, in what is now El Salvador. Tens of meters of ash and debris buried the densely populated, fertile farming valleys around the Ilopango caldera. Aerosols blasted into the stratosphere by the eruption settled as far away as Greenland and Antarctica. While the wider Maya civilization was mostly unaffected, it took a century and a half for life to resume in the shadow of Ilopango.

In a recent study, Oxford University archaeologist Victoria Smith and her colleagues used tree rings from a stump caught in a pyroclastic flow, along with data from polar ice cores obtained more than 7,000km (4,300 miles) away. These dated the eruption to 431 CE, the early part of the Maya Classic Period. The date may help future archaeologists and climate researchers better understand the impacts of the eruption on Central America and the rest of the world.

Buried by Tierra Blanca Joven

Volcanoes make dangerous neighbors, but they have ways of drawing people close despite the risks. Fertile volcanic soils in the valleys of El Salvador supported dense populations in Maya villages and urban centers like Chalchuapa. By the beginning of the Maya Classic Period, around 250 BCE, the rulers at Chalchuapa had built temples and a ball court at the site. Artifacts found among the ruins reveal trade connections as far away as central Mexico.

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Posted in ancient central america, ancient disasters, Archaeology, Maya, Pre-Columbian civilizations, science, volcanic eruptions, volcanoes | Comments (0)

Air Force signals interest in Starlink as SpaceX set for another launch

September 28th, 2020
A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission in January 2020.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches a Starlink mission in January 2020. (credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX returns to its launch pad at Kennedy Space Center on Monday for its twelfth launch of operational Starlink satellites. The mission is scheduled to lift off from Launch Complex-39A at 10:22am ET (14:22 UTC). Weather conditions are 70-percent favorable for liftoff.

The Starlink-12 mission will fly atop a Falcon 9 rocket first stage that previously launched the company's first crewed Dragon mission in May, and subsequently the Anasis-II mission in July. SpaceX will attempt to recover the booster on its Of Course I Still Love You drone ship.

The mission, the company's 11th Starlink launch in this calendar year, brings SpaceX closer to offering a public beta of its service.

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Posted in Air Force, Internet, science, spacex, starlink | Comments (0)

Could the National HIV Strategy Help Guide the Covid Fight?

September 28th, 2020
The Trump administration hasn't created a comprehensive plan for battling the pandemic. Some researchers propose borrowing one from the past.

Posted in public health, science, Science / Health | Comments (0)

A School Ran a Simulation of the Pandemic—Before the Pandemic

September 28th, 2020
A Florida middle school has staged mock outbreaks for years to teach science and civics. Last December’s lesson was an uncanny harbinger of Covid-19.

Posted in science, Science / Health, Sick Day | Comments (0)

Scientists May Have Found a Material for Building on Mars

September 27th, 2020
Using simple chemistry, the organic polymer chitin can be transformed into a viable substance for creating tools and habitats on the Red Planet.

Posted in science, Science / Space, Space travel | Comments (0)

Is Dark Matter Just Black Holes Made During the Big Bang?

September 27th, 2020
Stephen Hawking once proposed that unseen “primordial” black holes might be the hidden dark matter. A series of new studies shows how it can work.

Posted in science, Science / Physics and Math, Under Our Noses | Comments (0)