SciTech Briefs

New Discoveries show Lumpy Universe

A group of cosmologists controlling the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite recently completed a long-term study that created a heat map of the universe around 370,000 years after the Big Bang.
This snapshot of the baby universe, taken using cosmic microwave analysis, largely reinforces the theory emerging over the past 20 years that the universe is expanding. This is mainly the theory of a universe dominated by the mysterious concepts of dark energy and dark matter (the map indicates the universe’s total mass make-up as 4.9 percent normal matter, 27 percent dark matter, and 68 percent dark energy).

However, like any major scientific discovery, the map also raised many questions. It seems that the universe is slightly lumpier than expected, with a large, anomalous cool spot toward the northern portion of our sky. Further, the map indicates the universe is actually 100 million years older than previously thought and that its rate of expansion is actually slower, coming in at 13.8 billion years and 67 kilometers per second per megaparsec (an astronomical unit).

The study, launched in 2009, is being well received by the cosmological community. Many cosmologists look to the discovery as a great tool for further reflection and analysis into the mysteries of the Big Bang and dark matter.

Source: The New York Times

Computing takes a quantum leap in processiing speed

The major military contractor Lockheed Martin has announced that it plans to buy an early-developmental-stage quantum computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems. If D-Wave has created a successful quantum computer, this could have huge applications for the world of computing, especially in the hands of Lockheed Martin.

Quantum computers operate on the basis of quantum mechanics, which include some principles that are pretty strange and foreign to most people. In terms of computing this means that a bit (1s and 0s of computer code) can be interpreted as either a 1 or 0 or both, all at the same time.

Scientists in this field have reformed the vocabulary here to refer to these new bits as Qubits (for quantum bits). This kind of computing can allow for computations up to a million times faster than the fastest computers today.

Many are skeptical about whether D-Wave has actually accomplished what they say they have, but if they have, the applications are endless. Lockheed Martin’s chief technical officer says they plan to test the technology’s applications in complex radar, space, and aircraft systems, but it will still be a while until quantum computing becomes commercially viable.

Source: The New York Times