SciTech Briefs

Google to make its own quantum processors

Google recently announced its plan to make quantum processors using superconductors. Google is already involved in quantum computer research through the Quantum Artificial Intelligence Lab, whose members now run their experiments on a D-Wave Two device, the successor of D-Wave One and the world’s only commercially available quantum computer.

Compared to traditional computers, quantum computers are believed to be helpful for optimization problems. In digital computers, data are encoded into binary digits (bits), which has two definite states (0 and 1), whereas quantum computation uses qubits that can be in superpositions of states. However, quantum computers haven’t yet proven to be faster than classical computers, partly because they are currently only in prototype stages. Thus, Google is still working with the lab researchers, including scientists from NASA and universities, to seek further improvement.

Source: Popular Science

Scientists say ozone layer is on way to recovery

UN scientists claim that Earth’s protective but fragile ozone layer is gradually recovering, partly due to the reduction of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) use and international collaborations to wean away from CFCs. Since 1974, there have been warnings about ozone depletion, which can be devastating because of the ozone’s ability to shield damaging ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun. Excessive exposure to UV may lead to skin cancer. Interestingly, carbon dioxide, commonly known as a major greenhouse gas, is believed to cool the upper stratosphere, and the cooled air increases the amount of ozone. While this news is encouraging, scientists still warn that the ozone layer is far from being healed.

The long-lasting, ozone-eating chemicals are still damaging the ozone levels while it is recovering. According to NASA scientist Paul A. Newman, the ozone layer is still approximately 6 percent thinner than it was in 1980.

Source: MSN News

NASA to give International Space Station 3-D printer

According to a recent plan, NASA will send a 3-D printer to the International Space Station (ISS), which, according to some engineers and researchers at NASA, is a “design revolution.”

Traditionally, astronauts had to bring tools and parts in order to replace broken parts; but now with this 3-D printer, “if you have 300 different things that could break on your spacecraft, you may not need to carry replacement parts for all 300 of them,” said Dwayne Day, a senior program officer at the National Research Council. Having a 3-D printer may even allow astronauts to invent useful new tools while in space.

The 3-D printer was made to be resistant to drastic temperature change. However, the fact that heat flows differently in microgravity could mean that some parts of the plastic will become too hot or too cool for the printing to work properly. The printer was designed by Made In Space, a Silicon Valley venture.

Source: Scientific American

Research reveals giant dinosaur lived in the water

Scientific detective work spanning 100 years and three continents has revealed the first swimming dinosaur: Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, an African monster that breaks the mold for how a dinosaur predator looked and behaved — it is even nine feet longer than the Tyrannosaurus rex (T. rex). Spinosaurus is known for its water-adapting lifestyle, and it was the only known quadrupedal dinosaur predator, compared to its two-legged counterparts, like T.rex.

Most of the information about Spinosaurus was lost during World War II, when fossils discovered earlier were destroyed in Germany. Recently, some partial skeletons were again found in Morroco, and an accurate reconstruction of Spinosaurus finally evolved. Spinosaurus had “powerful jaws and teeth.… It probably had outsized arms, with flashing scythe-like claws,” said Paul Sereno, one of the scientists who reported the find.

Source: USA Today

Mystery of missing lithium extends beyond Milky Way

It is universally believed that within three minutes of the Big Bang, the universe was created with mostly hydrogen and helium, with a certain amount of lithium (the first three elements in the periodic table). While the presence of the first two in our universe has been long confirmed, there seems to be only about one-third as much lithium in the old stars as there should be. For many years this problem troubled scientists, causing them to rethink whether the models of the early universe are accurate. Recently, it has been confirmed that this problem is not unique to the Milky Way. Astronomers turned the Very Large Telescope in Chile toward Messier 54 (M54), a distant start cluster that is part of a tiny galaxy. According to the observations published on Sept. 9, the problem of lithium is not just limited to the scope of the Milky Way, but some external galaxies as well. Thus, where the lithium goes remains a problem for current astronomy.

Source: ScienceNews

Apple smartwatch is Apple’s most personal device

Though not the first technology company making smartwatches and wearable technology, Apple unveiled its long-anticipated wearable smartwatch on Sept. 9. Apple CEO Tim Cook introduced the device, which is much like a wearable iPhone, but smaller. Cook hailed it as one of the most personal devices Apple has ever created: The Apple Watch can serve as a drawing pad, pulse monitor, music player, and an email receiver, among other things, that is always only an arm’s length away.

Instead of simply shrinking the iPhone screen, Cook claimed that Apple designed a new interface for the smartwatch, using what it calls a digital crown, or a knob on the side of the watch.

Apple is also working closely with app developers to increase the functionality of its product with new uses.

Source: Apple