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Jan 21, 2021

Venus may have once been habitable: Can we make it that way again?

Posted by in categories: climatology, computing, space

From planet of love to scorching Hell planet—the image of Venus has changed considerably since ancient times, because it is no longer just the third brightest natural object in Earth’s skies. The ancients equated the mysterious third light with the goddess of love; in Greece that was Aphrodite, whom the Romans conflated with the goddess Venus. That’s where our closest planetary neighbor got its name and why Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus worked as a best-selling title, as recently as 1992, and still sells. But since the mid-20th century, we’ve known in detail why a paradise Venus is not. Average temperature on the surface is a scorching 462° Celsius (864° Fahrenheit) while atmospheric pressure is 90 times that of Earth at sea level, or equivalent to being at 900 meters depth in Earth’s oceans.

A handful of Russian landing probes have survived for several minutes on the planet’s surface before being cooked and crushed, but the conditions are unquestionably inhospitable for life forms. Consequently, you do not hear about astrobiologists searching for native microorganisms on the Venusian surface the way you hear about the search for microorganisms on Mars. Nevertheless, since the late 20th century, planetary scientists have speculated that Venus could have boasted a much more hospitable environment in the distant past, perhaps 2–3 billion years ago. That’s around the time that Earth was accumulating oxygen in its oceans and atmosphere. At that point in history, Venus and Earth may have had similar climates.

What’s been in the news lately is a study involving computer climate simulations in which data from NASA’s Magellan mission to Venus were found to support the idea of a once habitable Venus. The study involved researchers from NASA, Uppsala University in Sweden, Columbia University, and the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, AZ.

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Jan 21, 2021

What It’s Like To be a Computer: An Interview with GPT-3

Posted by in category: computing

Tech featured in this video:

* Learn more about the GPT-3 API Here: https://openai.com/blog/openai-api/
* GPT-3 Paper: Language Models are Few Shot Learners — https://arxiv.org/abs/2005.14165
* Avatar for GPT-3 provided by Synthesia https://www.synthesia.io/

Continue reading “What It’s Like To be a Computer: An Interview with GPT-3” »

Jan 20, 2021

Optimizing traffic signals to reduce wait times at intersections

Posted by in category: computing

Traffic lights at intersections are managed by simple computers that assign the right of way to the nonconflicting direction. However, studies looking at travel times in urban areas have shown that delays caused by intersections make up 12–55% of daily commute travel, which could be reduced if the operation of these controllers can be made more efficient to avoid unnecessary wait times.

Jan 20, 2021

Storing information with light

Posted by in categories: computing, materials

New photo-ferroelectric materials allow storage of information in a non-volatile way using light stimulus. The idea is to create energy efficient memory devices with high performance and versatility to face current challenges. The study has been published in Nature Communications by Josep Fontcuberta and co-workers and opens a path towards further investigations on this phenomenon and to neuromorphic computing applications.

Can you imagine controlling the properties of a material by just shining on it? We are used to seeing that the temperature of materials increases when exposed to the sun. But light may also have subtler effects. Indeed, light photons can create pairs of free charge carriers in otherwise insulating materials. This is the basic principle of the photovoltaic panels we use to harvest from sun.

In a new twist, a light-induced change of materials’ properties could be used in , allowing more efficient storage of information and faster access and computing. This, in fact, is one of our society’s current challenges: being able to develop commercially available which are, at the same time, energy efficient. Smaller electronic devices having lower energy consumption and high performance and versatility are the goal.

Jan 20, 2021

Ten computer codes that transformed science

Posted by in categories: biological, climatology, computing, physics, science

Although no list like this can be definitive, we polled dozens of researchers over the past year to develop a diverse line-up of ten software tools that have had a big impact on the world of science. You can weigh in on our choices at the end of the story.


From Fortran to arXiv.org, these advances in programming and platforms sent biology, climate science and physics into warp speed.

Jan 19, 2021

Light-controlled Higgs modes found in superconductors; potential sensor, computing uses

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics

Even if you weren’t a physics major, you’ve probably heard something about the Higgs boson.

Jan 19, 2021

Rethinking spin chemistry from a quantum perspective

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, chemistry, computing, information science, quantum physics

Researchers at Osaka City University use quantum superposition states and Bayesian inference to create a quantum algorithm, easily executable on quantum computers, that accurately and directly calculates energy differences between the electronic ground and excited spin states of molecular systems in polynomial time.

Understanding how the natural world works enables us to mimic it for the benefit of humankind. Think of how much we rely on batteries. At the core is understanding molecular structures and the behavior of electrons within them. Calculating the energy differences between a molecule’s electronic ground and excited spin states helps us understand how to better use that molecule in a variety of chemical, biomedical and industrial applications. We have made much progress in molecules with closed-shell systems, in which electrons are paired up and stable. Open-shell systems, on the other hand, are less stable and their underlying electronic behavior is complex, and thus more difficult to understand. They have unpaired electrons in their ground state, which cause their energy to vary due to the intrinsic nature of electron spins, and makes measurements difficult, especially as the molecules increase in size and complexity.

Jan 19, 2021

Light-induced twisting of Weyl nodes switches on giant electron current

Posted by in categories: computing, particle physics, quantum physics

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory and collaborators at Brookhaven National Laboratory and the University of Alabama at Birmingham have discovered a new light-induced switch that twists the crystal lattice of the material, switching on a giant electron current that appears to be nearly dissipationless. The discovery was made in a category of topological materials that holds great promise for spintronics, topological effect transistors, and quantum computing.

Weyl and Dirac semimetals can host exotic, nearly dissipationless, electron conduction properties that take advantage of the unique state in the and electronic structure of the material that protects the electrons from doing so. These anomalous electron transport channels, protected by symmetry and topology, don’t normally occur in conventional metals such as copper. After decades of being described only in the context of theoretical physics, there is growing interest in fabricating, exploring, refining, and controlling their topologically protected electronic properties for device applications. For example, wide-scale adoption of quantum computing requires building devices in which fragile quantum states are protected from impurities and noisy environments. One approach to achieve this is through the development of topological quantum computation, in which qubits are based on “symmetry-protected” dissipationless electric currents that are immune to noise.

“Light-induced lattice twisting, or a phononic switch, can control the crystal inversion symmetry and photogenerate giant electric current with very small resistance,” said Jigang Wang, senior scientist at Ames Laboratory and professor of physics at Iowa State University. “This new control principle does not require static electric or magnetic fields, and has much faster speeds and lower energy cost.”

Jan 19, 2021

TSMC gears up for mass production of 3-nm chips for high-end devices

Posted by in categories: computing, mobile phones

Taiwan contract chip maker TSMC will begin ‘risk production’ of its 3-nanometre process this year, a technology advance that will deliver higher performance and longer battery life for 5G smartphones and other high-end electronics products.

Jan 18, 2021

Using drones to create local quantum networks

Posted by in categories: computing, drones, particle physics, quantum physics, satellites

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in China has used drones to create a prototype of a small airborne quantum network. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the researchers describe sending entangled particles from one drone to another and from a drone to the ground.

Computer scientists, physicists and engineers have been working over the last several years toward building a usable quantum —doing so would involve sending entangled particles between users and the result would be the most secure network ever made. As part of that effort, researchers have sent entangled particles over fiber cables, between towers and even from satellites to the ground. In this new effort, the researchers have added a new element—drones.

To build a long-range quantum network, satellites appear to be the ideal solution. But for smaller networks, such as for communications between users in the same city, another option is needed. While towers can be of some use, they are subject to weather and blockage, intentional or otherwise. To get around this problem, the researchers used drones to carry the signals.

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