Quantum Physics

Some mind-boggling research from the University of Sydney suggests that big data can predict how quantum systems will change and then prevent the system’s breakdown from occurring.  The research results are reported in a 16 January 2017 University of Sydney ScienceDaily article. “Seeing the quantum future: What if big data could help you see the future and prevent your mobile phone from breaking before it happened?

The article describes the results as “a technical quantum leap” and explains that “a significant obstacle to building reliable quantum technologies has been the randomisation of quantum systems by their environments, or decoherence, which effectively destroys the useful quantum character.” Now the research by the University of Sydney’s School of Physics has shown it is “possible to suppress decoherence in a preventive manner. The key was to develop a technique to predict how the system would disintegrate.”

Professor Biercuk, from the University of Sydney’s School of Physics and a chief investigator at the Australian Research Council’s Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, gives further details of how the technique was developed, noting that “building real quantum technologies will require major advances in our ability to control and stabilise qubits — to make them useful in applications” and that

“Our techniques apply to any qubit, built in any technology, including the special superconducting circuits being used by major corporations”.

The full article is available at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170116092943.htm, with the

Nature Communications Journal Reference  and a link to Story Source Materials. These include a  link to a TEDxSydney video in which Professor Biercuk discusses the radical change in the way we now build technology; not top down but from the bottom up. Using examples from his research laboratories in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, Professor Biercuk shows how quantum systems are now built, atom by atom, electron by electron, so that quantum computing  using 300 atoms of beryllium can now yield computing power that would have required a computer constructed out of all the matter in the known universe. See http://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/01/14/seeing-the-quantum-future.html.

As it happens, a more recent ScienceDaily article may indicate that the control and stabilising of qubits on mobile phone apps faces an unexpected challenge. A 17 February 2017 ScienceDaily article from Vanderbilt University, Alien particles from outer space are wreaking low-grade havoc on personal electronic devices,  warns that   “This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public.”  The warning came from Bharat Bhuva, professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University, in a presentation on Friday, Feb. 17 at a session titled “Cloudy with a Chance of Solar Flares: Quantifying the Risk of Space Weather” at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

Professor Bhuva explains that when cosmic rays traveling at fractions of the speed of light strike the Earth’s atmosphere they create cascades of secondary particles. Millions of these particles strike your body each second. Despite their numbers, this subatomic torrent is imperceptible and has no known harmful effects on living organisms. However, a fraction of these particles carry enough energy to interfere with the operation of microelectronic circuitry. When they interact with integrated circuits, they may alter individual bits of data stored in memory. This is called a single-event upset or SEU.”

The article gives examples of a number of incidents that illustrate how serious the SEU problem can be, ranging from a bit flip in a Belgian  electronic voting machine which added 4,096 extra votes to one candidate, to a Qantus passenger jet flying from Singapore to Perth which dove 690 feet in only 23 seconds, injuring about a third of the passengers seriously enough to cause the aircraft to divert to the nearest airstrip.

The good news is that there are ways to design computer chips to dramatically reduce their vulnerability. “For cases where reliability is absolutely critical, you can simply design the processors in triplicate and have them vote “ Professor Bhuva pointed out: “The probability that SEUs will occur in two of the circuits at the same time is vanishingly small. So if two circuits produce the same result it should be correct.” This is the approach that NASA used to maximize the reliability of spacecraft computer systems.

The full article is available at www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/02/170217100327.htm, with

a link to Story Source Materials.


  1. joebobski says:

    Interesting article!

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