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Quantum Computer Technology May Advance Using Rare Holmium Atoms, Scientists Say

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Quantum computers could crack codes and run more complex simulations than current machines, but actually building one is hard to do. The bits that store this complex data don’t last long, because they are made of single atoms that get knocked around by stray electrons and photons in the environment.

Enter a team of physicists at Germany’s Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. They found a way to get the bits to last long enough to do computations with, using the magnetic properties of a rare earth element called holmium and the symmetry of platinum. The experiment, detailed in tomorrow’s (Nov. 14) issue of the journal Nature, is an important step in creating quantum computers and making quantum memory useful.

What makes quantum computers powerful is the nature of the bit. Ordinary computers have bits that are 1 or 0, stored in the current in a circuit or the alignment of magnetic fields on a disk. Due to the weirdness of quantum physics, quantum bits, called qubits, can be both 0 and 1 at the same time. That means a quantum computer can do certain kinds of calculations much, much faster.

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quantum computer

Quantum computers can process information much faster than current machines. This image depicts “ion trap” technology developed for quantum computing in a similar, unrelated study at Oxford. | Jeff Sherman | Flickr
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‘Schrodinger’s Cat’ Thought Experiment Put To Test By Physicists In Canada, Switzerland

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The strangeness of the world of the very small that allows a particle to be in two states at once may extend to larger scales, two new studies reveal. If the research proves true, that would bolster the validity of a thought experiment suggesting a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time.

The idea, called Schrödinger’s Cat after the physicist,Erwin Schrödinger, who proposed it in 1935, goes like this: Put a cat in a box with a vial of poison gas. The vial opens when a tiny piece of radioactive metal emits an alpha particle (the nucleus of a helium atom) as it decays. Emitting an alpha particle is a quantum-mechanical process, which means that whether it happens in any given stretch of time is basically random.

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schrodinger's cat

Erwin Schrödinger, Austrian physicist. New research bolsters the validity of his thought experiment suggesting a cat can be both alive and dead at the same time.

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/23/schrodingers-cat-thought-experiment-physicists_n_3639077.html?ref=topbar

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String Theory Finally Does Something Useful

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~~~~Wired1

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The theory has long been touted as the best hope for a unified “theory of everything,” bringing together the physics of the vanishingly small and the mindbendingly large. But it has also been criticized and even ridiculed for failing to make any predictions that could be checked experimentally. It’s not just that we don’t have big enough particle accelerators or powerful enough computers; string theory’s most vocal critics charge that no experiment could even be imagined that would prove it right or wrong, making the whole theory effectively useless.

Now, physicists at Imperial College London and Stanford University have found a way to make string theory useful, not for a theory of everything, but for quantum entanglement.

“We can use string theory to solve problems in a different area of physics,” said theoretical physicist Michael Duff of Imperial College London. “In that context it’s actually useful: We can make statements which you could in principle check by experiment.” Duff and his colleagues describe their findings in a paper in Physical Review Letters September 2.

String theory suggests that matter can be broken down beyond electrons and quarks into tiny loops of vibrating strings. Those strings move and vibrate at different frequencies, giving particles distinctive properties like mass and charge. This strange idea could unite all the fundamental forces, explain the origins of fundamental particles and connect Einstein’s general relativity to quantum mechanics. But to do so, the theory requires six extra dimensions of space and time curled up inside the four that we’re used to.

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!!TangledString1

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http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/09/stringy-quantum/

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