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posted by janrinok on Thursday April 09, @02:28PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the long-path-to-recovery dept.

Boeing making new 737 MAX software updates to address computer issue:

Boeing Co (BA.N) said late on Tuesday it will make two new software updates to the 737 MAX's flight control computer as it works to win regulatory approval to resume flights after the jet was grounded following two fatal crashes in five months.

The planemaker confirmed to Reuters that one issue involves hypothetical faults in the flight control computer microprocessor, which could potentially lead to a loss of control known as a runaway stabilizer, while the other issue could potentially lead to disengagement of the autopilot feature during final approach. Boeing said the software updates will address both issues.

The Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday it is in contact with Boeing as it "continues its work on the automated flight control system on the 737 MAX. The manufacturer must demonstrate compliance with all certification standards."

The largest U.S. planemaker has been dealing with a number of software issues involving the plane that has been grounded since March 2019. Boeing halted production in January. Boeing said it does not expect the issues to impact its current forecast of a mid-year return to service for the plane. Boeing said the new software issues are not tied to a key anti-software system known as MCAS faulted in both fatal crashes.


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Thursday April 09, @12:34PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the not-safe-at-home dept.

NASA sees an "exponential" jump in malware attacks as personnel work from home:

NASA has experienced an exponential increase in malware attacks and a doubling of agency devices trying to access malicious sites in the past few days as personnel work from home, the space agency's Office of the Chief Information Officer said on Monday.

"A new wave of cyber-attacks is targeting Federal Agency Personnel, required to telework from home, during the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak," officials wrote in a memo. The wave over the past few days includes a(n):

  • Doubling of email phishing attempts
  • Exponential increase in malware attacks on NASA systems
  • Double the number of mitigation-blocking of NASA systems trying to access malicious sites (often unknowingly) due to users accessing the Internet

The last item is particularly concerning because it suggests that NASA employees and contractors are clicking on malicious links sent in email and text messages at twice the rate as normal. Tricking people into clicking on malicious links or opening malicious email attachments remains one of the easiest ways to gain entry into enterprise networks and individual computers users alike.

[...] The risk to all types of attacks is only heightened by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has sent millions of people working from home almost overnight, with little time for IT departments to formalize procedures for maintaining the security of organization networks.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @10:43AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the in-the-blink-of-an-eye dept.

It's now or never: Visual events have 100 milliseconds to hit brain target or go unnoticed: Mouse study reveals key details about visual processing:

Researchers at the National Eye Institute (NEI) have defined a crucial window of time that mice need to key in on visual events. As the brain processes visual information, an evolutionarily conserved region known as the superior colliculus notifies other regions of the brain that an event has occurred. Inhibiting this brain region during a specific 100-millisecond window inhibited event perception in mice. Understanding these early visual processing steps could have implications for conditions that affect perception and visual attention, like schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The study was published online in the Journal of Neuroscience. NEI is part of the National Institutes of Health.

"One of the most important aspects of vision is fast detection of important events, like detecting threats or the opportunity for a reward. Our result shows this depends on visual processing in the midbrain, not only the visual cortex," said Richard Krauzlis, Ph.D., chief of the Section on Eye Movements and Visual Selection at NEI and senior author of the study.

Visual perception -- one's ability to know that one has seen something -- depends on the eye and the brain working together. Signals generated in the retina travel via retinal ganglion cell nerve fibers to the brain. In mice, 85% of retinal ganglion cells connect to the superior colliculus. The superior colliculus provides the majority of early visual processing in these animals. In primates, a highly complex visual cortex takes over more of this visual processing load, but 10% of retinal ganglion cells still connect to the superior colliculus, which manages basic but necessary perceptual tasks.

One of these tasks is detecting that a visual event has occurred. The superior colliculus takes in information from the retina and cortex, and when there is sufficient evidence that an event has taken place in the visual field, neurons in the superior colliculus fire. Classical experiments into perceptual decision-making involve having a subject, like a person or a monkey, look at an image of vertical grating (a series of blurry vertical black and white lines) and decide if or when the grating rotates slightly. In 2018, Krauzlis and Wang adapted these classic experiments for mice, opening up new avenues for research.

[...] In this study, Wang and colleagues used a technique called optogenetics to tightly control the activity of the superior colliculus over time. They used genetically modified mice so that they could turn neurons in the superior colliculus on or off using a beam of light. This on-off switch could be timed precisely, enabling the researchers to determine exactly when the neurons of the superior colliculus were required for detecting visual events. The researchers trained their mice to lick a spout when they'd seen a visual event (a rotation in the vertical grating), and to avoid licking the spout otherwise.

Inhibiting the cells of the superior colliculus made the mice less likely to report that they'd seen an event, and when they did, their decision took longer. The inhibition had to occur within a 100 millisecond (one-tenth of a second) interval after the visual event. If the inhibition was outside that 100-millisecond timeframe, the mouse's decisions were mostly unaffected. The inhibition was side-specific: because the retinal cells cross over and connect to the superior colliculus on the opposite side of the head (the left eye is connected to the right superior colliculus and vice versa), inhibiting the right side of the superior colliculus depressed responses to stimuli on the left side, but not on the right.

"The ability to temporarily block the transmission of neural signals with such precise timing is one of the great advantages of using optogenetics in mice and reveals exactly when the crucial signals pass through the circuit," said Wang.

Lupeng Wang, Kerry McAlonan, Sheridan Goldstein, Charles R. Gerfen, Richard J. Krauzlis. A causal role for mouse superior colliculus in visual perceptual decision-making. The Journal of Neuroscience, 2020; JN-RM-2642-19 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2642-19.2020


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @08:54AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the I-speak-for-the-trees dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Viruses that jump from animals to people, like the one responsible for COVID-19, will likely become more common as people continue to transform natural habitats into agricultural land, according to a new Stanford study.

The analysis, published in Landscape Ecology, reveals how the loss of tropical forests in Uganda puts people at greater risk of physical interactions with wild primates and the viruses they carry. The findings have implications for the emergence and spread of infectious animal-to-human diseases in other parts of the world, and suggest potential solutions for curbing the trend.

[...] Unlike previous studies that examined the issue from primarily an ecological standpoint, the Stanford study is the first to integrate landscape-level ecological factors with individual-level behavioral factors and weigh risks to human health.

[...] The researchers were surprised to find some of their assumptions turned upside down. For example, small fragments of residual forest—not larger expanses of habitat—were most likely to be the site of human-wild primate contacts due to their shared borders with agricultural landscapes.

Similarly, the researchers speculate that increasing intrusion of agriculture into forests and resulting human activities in these areas could lead to more spillover of infections from wild primates to humans worldwide.

The researchers suggest that relatively small buffer zones, such as tree farms or reforestation projects, around biodiversity-rich forests could dramatically lessen the likelihood of human-wild primate interaction. Using external resources, such as national or international aid, to provide fuel and construction material or monetary supplements could also reduce pressure on people to seek out wood in forested areas.

"At the end of the day, land conservation and the reduction of forest fragmentation is our best bet to reduce human-wild animal interactions," said study coauthor Tyler McIntosh, a former graduate student in the Stanford Earth Systems Program now working at the Center for Western Priorities.

More information: Laura S. P. Bloomfield et al, Habitat fragmentation, livelihood behaviors, and contact between people and nonhuman primates in Africa, Landscape Ecology (2020). DOI: 10.1007/s10980-020-00995-w


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @07:02AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the moving-on dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Research led by scientists at the University of Southampton has found settlers arrived in East Polynesia around 200 years earlier than previously thought.

Colonisation of the vast eastern Pacific with its few and far-flung island archipelagos was a remarkable achievement in human history. Yet the timing, character, and drivers of this accomplishment remain poorly understood.

However, this new study has found a major change in the climate of the region, which resulted in a dry period, coinciding with the arrival of people on the tiny island of Atiu, in the southern group of the Cook Islands, around 900AD.

Findings are published in the paper, 'Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought' in the journal PNAS.

"The ancestors of the Polynesians, the Lapita people, migrated east into the Pacific Ocean as far as Fiji, Tonga and Samoa, reaching them around 2800 years ago. But for almost 1500 years humans failed to migrate any further into the pacific," explains lead researcher, Professor David Sear of the University of Southampton. "Our research gives us a much more accurate timescale of when people first arrived in the region and helps answer some key questions about why they made their hazardous journey east."

[...] Professor Sear adds: "Today, changing climate is again putting pressures on Pacific island communities, only this time the option to migrate is not so simple. Within two centuries of first arrival those first settlers changed the landscape and the ecology, but were able to make a home. Pacific islanders now live with modified ecologies, permanent national boundaries and islands already occupied by people. The ability to migrate in response to changing climate is no longer the option it once was."

Journal Reference:

David A. Sear, et. al. Human settlement of East Polynesia earlier, incremental, and coincident with prolonged South Pacific drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2020; 201920975 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1920975117


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @05:10AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the glug-glug dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Bottle emptying is a phenomenon most of us have observed while pouring a beverage. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee discovered how to make bottles empty faster, which has wide-ranging implications for many areas beyond the beverage industry.

Bubbles have been studied extensively for centuries, including early efforts by Leonardo da Vinci who famously noted the sinusoidal rise of bubbles within a pool. The growth dynamics of bubbles at the mouth of a bottle depend on the thermophysical properties of the fluid, the bottle geometry and its angle of inclination. These inextricably intertwined parameters have made bottle-emptying dynamics the next frontier for bubble physicists.

In this week's Physics of Fluids, Lokesh Rohilla and Arup Kumar Das explore this bottle-emptying phenomenon from the perspective of bubble dynamics on a commercial bottle by using high-speed photography. Image analysis allowed them to conceptualize various parameters, such as liquid film thickness, bubble aspect ratio, rise velocity and bottle emptying modes.

[...] "Our experiments suggest there is a critical angle of inclination, after which any further increase in the inclination of the bottle won't lead to further reduction in the bottle emptying time," said Rohilla. "This occurs due to the saturation of the voidage, space occupied by air within liquid surrounding, at the bottle's mouth with the angle of inclination."

-- submitted from IRC

More information: "Fluidics in an emptying bottle during breaking and making of interacting interfaces," Physics of Fluids (2020). DOI: 10.1063/5.0002249


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @03:19AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the where's-Z'-Boson? dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

The Belle II experiment has been collecting data from physical measurements for about one year. After several years of rebuilding work, both the SuperKEKB electron–positron accelerator and the Belle II detector have been improved compared with their predecessors in order to achieve a 40-fold higher data rate.

Scientists at 12 institutes in Germany are involved in constructing and operating the detector, developing evaluation algorithms, and analyzing the data.

The Max Planck Institute for Physics, the Semiconductor Laboratory of the Max Planck Society, the Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universität and the Technical University of Munich made leading contributions to the new development of the highly sensitive innermost detector, the Pixel Vertex Detector and the software for analyzing the data.

With the help of Belle II, scientists are looking for traces of new physics that can be used to explain the unequal occurrence of matter and anti-matter and the mysterious dark matter.

One of the so far undiscovered particles that the Belle II detector is looking for is the Z′ boson – a variant of the Z boson, which acts as an exchange particle for the weak interaction.

As far as we know, about 25 percent of the universe consists of dark matter, whereas visible matter accounts for just under 5 percent of the energy budget. Both forms of matter attract each other through gravity.

Dark matter thus forms a kind of template for the distribution of visible matter. This can be seen, for example, in the arrangement of galaxies in the universe.

DOI: DOI:10.1103/PhysRevLett.124.141801


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Thursday April 09, @01:28AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the can't-count-the-empty-liquor-bottles dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Fatty liver disease not associated with alcohol consumption, which is called Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease or NAFLD, affects more than one billion people worldwide. Even in children the numbers are overwhelming, with up to 80 percent of pediatric patients who are considered obese affected worldwide. People with NAFLD can progress to a severe form known as nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which puts patients at higher risk for cirrhosis or liver cancer.

With no definitive treatment options or early detection methods yet discovered, researchers have been hard at work to identify early biomarkers of this disease. "This becomes also especially important in the context of diabetes because individuals with Type 2 diabetes are much more susceptible to this disease," says Rohit N. Kulkarni, MD, PhD, Section Head, Senior Investigator, Islet Cell and Regenerative Biology, Joslin Diabetes Center, and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School.

But recent research from Dr. Kulkarni's lab at Joslin has uncovered a biomarker in humans tied to the development of NAFLD that might help doctors detect early stages of the disease. The researchers also determined that this biomarker, a protein known as "neuronal regeneration related protein" (or NREP), plays a significant role in the regulation of a pathway that is currently being reviewed in clinical trials as a treatment option for the disease. The study was published today in Journal of Clinical Investigation.

"We identified NREP as a new biomarker for NAFLD that is involved in the regulation of liver fat metabolism and in a process called fibrosis that occurs during the progression of the fatty liver disease that may lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer" says Dario F. De Jesus, MSc, PhD, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Kulkarni Lab at Joslin and lead author on the study.

Journal Reference:

Dario F. De Jesus, Kazuki Orime, Dorota Kaminska, Tomohiko Kimura, Giorgio Basile, Chih-Hao Wang, Larissa Haertle, Renzo Riemens, Natalie K. Brown, Jiang Hu, Ville Männistö, Amélia M. Silva, Ercument Dirice, Yu-Hua Tseng, Thomas Haaf, Jussi Pihlajamäki, Rohit N. Kulkarni. Parental metabolic syndrome epigenetically reprograms offspring hepatic lipid metabolism in mice. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 2020; DOI: 10.1172/JCI127502


Original Submission

posted by janrinok on Wednesday April 08, @11:37PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the no,-not-the-railway dept.

Blocking the Iron Transport Could Stop Tuberculosis:

"The transport protein, which is located in the bacterial membrane, is essential for the survival of the pathogens. If IrtAB is absent or not functioning, M. tuberculosis can no longer reproduce inside the human cell", says Seeger.

Using a combination of cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, the researchers solved for the first time a high-resolution structure of the transport protein IrtAB. This analysis was done in collaboration with Ohad Medalia, professor at the Department of Biochemistry of UZH. According to its spatial structure, IrtAB belongs to the so-called ABC exporters, which are typically involved in the efflux of molecules out of the bacterial cell. "However, we were able to show that IrtAB in fact imports mycobactins into M. tuberculosis. It therefore transports molecules in the opposite direction than expected," says Markus Seeger.

[...] "IrtAB is a potential drug target, because its deletion renders M. tuberculosis inactive and incapable of infection. With our structural and functional elucidation of IrtAB, we opened avenues to develop novel tuberculosis drugs that inhibit the iron transport into the bacteria", Seeger concludes. "In view of Covid-19, a disease that also affects the lungs, tuberculosis will likely play a more important role again in the future. It is quite conceivable that patients weakened by Covid-19 will show increased infection rates with tuberculosis," he adds.

More information: Fabian M. Arnold et al, The ABC exporter IrtAB imports and reduces mycobacterial siderophores, Nature (2020). DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2136-9

Journal information: Nature


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 08, @09:48PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the carnivores++ dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Asthma patients react even to low concentrations of some allergens with severe inflammation of the bronchi. This is also accompanied by increased mucus production, which makes breathing even more difficult. A central role here is played by cells of the innate immune system, which were only discovered a few years ago and are called Innate Lymphoid Cells (ILC). They perform an important protective function in the lungs by regenerating damaged mucous membranes. For this purpose they produce inflammatory messengers from the group of cytokines, which stimulate division of the mucosal cells and promote mucus production.

This mechanism is normally very useful: It allows the body to quickly repair damage caused by pathogens or harmful substances. The mucus then transports the pathogens out of the bronchial tubes and protects the respiratory tract against re-infection. "With asthma, however, the inflammatory reaction is much stronger and longer than normal," emphasizes Prof. Dr. Christoph Wilhelm from the Institute for Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology, who is a member of the Cluster of Excellence ImmunoSensation at the University of Bonn.

[...] The ILCs multiply rapidly during this process and produce large amounts of proinflammatory cytokines. [...] "We have investigated which metabolic processes are active in the ILCs when they switch to reproduction mode," explains Wilhelm's colleague Dr. Fotios Karagiannis. "Then we tried to block these metabolic pathways and thereby reduce the speed at which the cells divide."

[...] the researchers put asthmatic mice on a diet that contained mainly fats, but hardly any carbohydrates or proteins. With this diet, also known as a ketogenic diet, the cell metabolism changes: The cells now get the energy they need from burning fat. However, this means that they lack fatty acids, which they need for the formation of new membranes during cell division.

As a consequence, the division activity of the ILCs in the rodents fed a special diet decreased -- dramatically: "Normally, contact with allergens increases the number of ILCs in the bronchi fourfold," says Prof. Wilhelm. "In our experimental animals, however, it remained almost unchanged. Both mucus production and other asthma symptoms decreased accordingly."

[...] The scientists now want to investigate on patients whether a ketogenic diet can prevent asthma attacks. However, this is not completely without long-term risks and should only be carried out in consultation with a doctor. "We are therefore trying to determine which components of the dietary change are responsible for the effect," explains Wilhelm. "Maybe this will open the door to the development of new drugs."

Journal Reference:
Fotios Karagiannis, et al. Lipid-Droplet Formation Drives Pathogenic Group 2 Innate Lymphoid Cells in Airway Inflammation. Immunity, 2020; DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2020.03.003

-- submitted from IRC


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 08, @07:57PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the rooted-in-your-phone dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

An Android malware package likened to a Russian matryoshka nesting doll has security researchers raising the alarm, since it appears it's almost impossible to get rid of.

Known as xHelper, the malware has been spreading mainly in Russia, Europe, and Southwest Asia on Android 6 and 7 devices (which while old and out of date, make up around 15 per cent of the current user base) for the past year from unofficial app stores. Once on a gizmo, it opens a backdoor, allowing miscreants to spy on owners, steal their data, and cause mischief.

It has only recently been picked apart by Kaspersky Lab bods, and what makes the malware particularly nasty, the researchers say, is how it operates on multiple layers on the tablets and handsets it infects.

"The main feature of xHelper is entrenchment," explained Igor Golovin on Tuesday. "Once it gets into the phone, it somehow remains there even after the user deletes it and restores the factory settings."

[...] The best thing to do, though, is go a step further than a factory reset, and erase the flash memory completely, including the system partition, and put in a fresh clean copy. "If you have Recovery mode set up on your Android smartphone," said Golovin, "you can try to extract the libc.so file from the original firmware and replace the infected one with it, before removing all malware from the system partition. However, it’s simpler and more reliable to completely reflash the phone."

Even better advice is to avoid downloading any suspicious apps from the Google Play Store, just to be safe, and definitely don't use unauthorized third-party stores at all.


Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday April 08, @06:06PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the to-space-and-back dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

On March 9, 2020, a Dragon cargo spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station carrying dozens of scientific experiments as a part of SpaceX's 20th cargo resupply mission. Now, Dragon heads home. On April 7, it is scheduled to undock from station, bringing samples, hardware and data from completed investigations back to Earth on its return trip.

Here are details on some of the investigations returning to the ground for further analysis and reporting of results.


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 08, @04:14PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the dry-research dept.

NASA expands groundwater maps globally to help reveal remote droughts:

The global maps are made possible by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) satellites from NASA and the German Research Center for Geoscience. The data from these satellites, which took over for the original GRACE satellite mission that ended in 2017, is combined with other data and computer models to show simulations of energy and water cycles around the world.

The results of this are three layers of ground moisture data: surface soil moisture, root zone moisture, and shallow groundwater. With these, experts can monitor groundwater conditions around the world, identify areas that are likely to be hit hard by droughts, and more. This is particularly important for countries that do not possess any of their own infrastructure for monitoring groundwater.

NASA Grace website hosted by UNL


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 08, @02:19PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the who-has-the-power? dept.

Stealth Quantum Computing Company raises $215M to Build 1M Qbit Computer

https://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2020/04/06/palo-alto-quantum-computing-startup-scores-215m-to.html

PsiQuantum Corp. on Monday said it raised $215 million to help it develop a commercial quantum computer more powerful than machines being developed by Google, IBM, Honeywell, and a host of startups and university labs.

Jeremy O'Brien, co-founder and CEO of the 5-year-old Palo Alto startup, told Bloomberg that the company expects to build a computer with 1 million qubits, or quantum bits, within "a handful of years."

[...] "If they are really able to pull this off, it immediately distinguishes them and puts them in a completely different field so far ahead of the competition," Peter Rohde, a Future Fellow at the Centre for Quantum Software and Information at the University of Technology Sydney, told Bloomberg.

CEO O'Brien and co-founders [...] formed PsiQuantum in Silicon Valley to develop a computer that essentially runs on light.

They have assembled a team of more than 100 to build what is known as a silicon photonic quantum computer.

Samir Kumar, general manager of Microsoft Corp.'s venture capital unit who has invested in PsiQuantum, put in perspective what the company says its machine will be able to do: "By the time you get to 80 qubits, you are in a place where the qubits are storing more information than the total number of atoms in the entire universe."

Quantum Computing Startup Raises $215 Million for Faster Device

PsiQuantum's photon-based model is still years away, but the company says it'll be more powerful than Google's or IBM's.

PsiQuantum, a 5-year-old startup based in Palo Alto, Calif., says it's well on its way to creating a commercial quantum machine, the boldest claim to date among a legion of hopefuls in the field. It has raised $215 million to build a computer with 1 million qubits, or quantum bits, within "a handful of years," co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeremy O'Brien tells Bloomberg Businessweek. While the qubit figure will mean little to people outside the industry, it's considered the breakthrough point for making a true, general-purpose quantum computer that would be broadly useful to businesses. As such, PsiQuantum's machine would mark a major leap forward and deal a devastating blow to rival projects by the likes of Google, Honeywell, IBM, and a sea of startups and university labs. "If they are really able to pull this off, it immediately distinguishes them and puts them in a completely different field so far ahead of the competition," says Peter Rohde, a Future Fellow at the Centre for Quantum Software & Information at the University of Technology Sydney. "This strikes me as incredibly exciting."

The "if" from Rohde reflects the challenges of quantum computing and, partly, the secrecy that has surrounded PsiQuantum's work. O'Brien's interview with Bloomberg Businessweek is his first detailed discussion of the company's technology since its founding in 2015. The CEO and his co-founders (Terry Rudolph, Mark Thompson, and Pete Shadbolt) are Australian and British academics turned industrialists. Over the past five years, they've hired more than 100 people to help them try to develop what's known as a silicon photonic quantum computer—essentially, a computer that runs on light.

[...] These properties, in theory, allow quantum computers to achieve a quantum speedup, which grows exponentially as more qubits are added to the system. The ramifications are mind-blowing. "By the time you get to 80 qubits, you are in a place where the qubits are storing more information than the total number of atoms in the entire universe," says Samir Kumar, general manager of Microsoft Corp.'s venture capital arm, which has invested in PsiQuantum. Practically speaking, this means large calculations that would take decades or centuries to complete using even modern supercomputers can be performed in minutes on a quantum machine. The belief is this will lead to stunning breakthroughs in chemistry, biology, and other scientific fields.

[...] The techniques PsiQuantum is pursuing were considered virtually impossible to pull off for a time. Among other obstacles, scientists thought a machine based on photonics would have to be incredibly large. "As we began working on this architecture, it appeared that our machine would have to be the size of the Sierra Nevada mountain range," O'Brien says. After a series of research advances, however, his team has set to work building its first computer, which it expects will be the size of an office conference room. GlobalFoundries, one of the world's top chipmakers, has already started producing early versions of PsiQuantum's chips using its standard manufacturing facilities. (This marks a significant contrast with other quantum experiments, which rely on exotic materials and custom manufacturing.) Now it's up to O'Brien's engineers to create quantum variants of the networking, software, and the other components needed to make a functioning computer. "We're going to be building them as fast as you can," O'Brien says.

[...] PsiQuantum's big claim is that its technology will be able to string together 1 million qubits and distill out 100 to 300 error-corrected or "useful" qubits from that total. O'Brien and PsiQuantum's backers question whether Google can ever reach similar qubit totals with its technology. "It is like climbing a tree to get to the moon," says Peter Barrett, a general partner at Playground Global, which invested in PsiQuantum. A Google spokesperson says the company typically does not comment on rivals' work.


Original Submission #1Original Submission #2

posted by martyb on Wednesday April 08, @11:20AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the So-they-feed-off-Jumpin'-Jack-Flash? dept.

Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:

Scientists at Caltech and Occidental College have discovered a methane-fueled symbiosis between worms and bacteria at the bottom of the sea, shedding new light on the ecology of deep-sea environments.

They found that bacteria belonging to the Methylococcaceae family have been hitching a ride on the feathery plumes that act as the respiratory organs of Laminatubus and Bispira worms. Methylococcaceae are methanotrophs, meaning that they harvest carbon and energy from methane, a molecule composed of carbon and hydrogen.

The worms, which are a few inches long, have been found in great numbers near deep-sea methane seeps, vents in the ocean floor where hydrocarbon-rich fluids ooze out into the ocean, although it was unclear why the worms favored the vents. As it turns out, the worms slowly digest the hitchhiking bacteria and thus absorb the carbon and energy that the bacteria harvest from the methane.

[...] "These worms have long been associated with seeps, but everyone just assumed they were filter-feeding on bacteria. Instead, we find that they are teaming up with a microbe to use chemical energy to feed in a way we hadn't considered," says Victoria Orphan, James Irvine Professor of Environmental Science and Geobiology and co-corresponding author of a paper on the worms that was published by Science Advances on April 3.

Orphan and her colleagues made the discovery during research cruises to study methane vents off the coast of Southern California and Costa Rica.

Journal Reference: Shana K. Goffredi et al. Methanotrophic bacterial symbionts fuel dense populations of deep-sea feather duster worms (Sabellida, Annelida) and extend the spatial influence of methane seepage, Science Advances (2020). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aay8562


Original Submission