Quantum Computing Needs a Lot of Power. This Machine Could be the Answer.

With 17-qubit chips and IBM’s 50-qubit computer, quantum computing is coming — that much is undeniable. But if quantum computers are ever going to be used for more complex tasks, they’re going to need thousands — if not millions — of qubits. And we’re not quite there yet.

Whether the machines are primarily tasked with performing calculations or correcting incorrect information caused by external forces (which qubits are very sensitive to) practical quantum computers are going to require a lot of qubits. Therefore, we’ll need to manufacture processors capable of handling all the qubits needed for these machines to run. That’s the challenge a team of scientists from the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands hopes they’ve found a solution to, by using silicon to make a programmable quantum processor.

In their research, published in the journal Nature, the team describes how they controlled the spin of a single electron using microwave energy. In silicon, the electron would spin up and down simultaneously, effectively keeping it in place. Once this was achieved, the team linked two electrons together and programmed them to perform quantum algorithms. The data from the new processor matched the data from a traditional computer running the same algorithms.

What’s most notable about the team’s research is that they successfully created a 2-qubit silicon-based quantum processor. It’s not all that surprising that it worked: silicon is a material the computer industry is already familiar with, as it’s readily used to manufacture computer chips currently in use.

“As we’ve seen in the computer industry, silicon works quite well in terms of scaling up using the fabrication methods used,” Dr. Tom Watson, one of the authors of the research, explained to the BBC.
If Watson and his team can manage to link even more electrons successfully, it could lead to qubit processors that could be mass-produced, which would bring us one step closer to the quantum computers of the future.

Professor Lieven Vandersypen, another author of the research, is already looking ahead to such developments. He told the BBC that next up, the team plans to “develop silicon quantum chips with more qubits, both in the Delft cleanrooms and in industrial cleanrooms with our partner Intel.”

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Apple’s HomePod Could Leave a Lasting Mark With Customers

Apple’s new $ 350 HomePod could make an impact in several ways. In addition to providing listeners with highly praised sound quality, the smart speaker literally could make an impression on some of the wood surfaces it touches — in the form of white rings. The HomePod, which is compatible only with other Apple products, can stream music to those who have an Apple Music subscription. It has a few other capabilities too — including the dubious ability to mar certain types of wood surfaces.

Brain-Zapping Pacemaker Implant Could Be a New Treatment for Opioid Addiction

Desperate Times

The opioid epidemic continues to sweep across the U.S. as manufacturers flood towns with millions of opioid pills. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that an average of 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Researchers and medical professionals are scrambling to find treatment options for opioid addiction. In November 2017, the FDA approved a device that transmits electrical pulses to the cranial nerves associated with pain processing, to alleviate opioid withdrawal symptoms in patients. Now, another  treatment — set to begin clinical trials later this year — will take that approach even further, implanting electrodes directly onto the brain.

Image credit: Brandon Giesbrecht/Flickr
Image credit: Brandon Giesbrecht/Flickr.

The implant — controlled by a pacemaker-like device — will send electrical signals to target the reward center of the brain, hopefully minimizing the over-activity that is responsible for the addictive behavior. Known as deep brain stimulation (DBS), this type of therapy is currently used to treat tremors associated with Parkinson’s disease, and is undergoing testing for use in Alzheimer’s and other brain disorders.

The one drawback? Inserting the implant requires major invasive surgery. Neurosurgeons must make an inch-long incision in the scalp, drill a dime-sized hole in the skull, and add the implant.

Call For Desperate Measures

There are some major risks associated with the therapy. According to a study conducted by addiction researchers Wayne Hall and Adrian Carter in 2011, “Insertion of stimulating electrodes can cause serious infections and produce cognitive, behavioral, and emotional disturbances.”

Even the neurosurgeon hired by West Virginia University to conduct the trial, Ali Rezai, makes sure to tell patients receiving the implants that there’s a one percent chance of severe complications. Due to these risks, the treatment may have to be a last resort effort for addicts who have exhausted all other options and still failed to kick the addiction.

Rezai has a steep uphill battle ahead of him, even in terms of patient recruitment. Past studies hoping to investigate the effectiveness of the therapy ran into snags at this first crucial stage. A 2010 study conducted at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center by Judy Luigjes was only able to recruit two of eight participants. “We had a long screening procedure, hoping people weren’t deciding impulsively. Few wanted to go through with it. A lot of it has to do with fear of the procedure,” Luigjes told STAT.

Rezai predicts that his study could lead to DBS becoming a widespread option for opioid addiction treatment by 2025. But eight years is a long time to wait when the current epidemic is costing the U.S. nearly $ 80 billion annually in increased healthcare costs and addiction treatment.

In the meantime, its critical that researchers continue working towards discovering new addiction treatments, and lawmakers continue to hold drug manufacturers financially accountable for their role in the nation’s devastating opioid epidemic.

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Now a Person’s Genes Could Reveal Their Time of Death

Every single piece of information about us  is contained in our genes. It turns out, our genes can also provide clues about when, precisely, we die.

A study from the Center for Genomic Regulation (CRG) in Barcelona, Spain surveyed the gene activity that occurs in human tissue after death, and found distinct patterns that could be traced back to a person’s time of death.

The results, published in the journal Nature Communications, came from a combination of extensive sample analysis and machine learning. In order to determine the changes in gene activity that took place after death, CRG computational biologist Roderic Guigó and his colleagues took 39 tissue samples from 9,000 donors. These came with information about a donor’s time of death and when the samples were preserved.

“The response to the death of the organism is quite tissue specific,” Guigó told Science. After death, over 600 muscle genes either quickly increased or decreased activity. Meanwhile, there was minimal change in gene activity in the brain or spleen.

Gene Detectives

Guigó and his team used the unique patterns of change in each tissue to backtrack to a person’s time of death. In order to measure how accurate such a prediction could be, they developed a machine learning model that analyzed the gene activity patterns of 399 people.

The software, which they tested to predict the time of death of 129 other people, showed that the majority of increases and decreases in gene activity happen between 7 and 14 hours after death. One example is in blood, where decreased gene activity involved in DNA production, immune response, and metabolism indicated a time of death around six hours before samples were preserved.

Guigó and his team’s study was possible thanks to recent advances in genetic analysis facilitated by recent studies of the human genome. In any case, this work is only the beginning of what can the researchers can accomplish by harnessing genomic clues.

“At this point, our program is an academic exercise,” Guigó told Science, adding that it might even be possible for changes in gene expression to provide signatures indicating cause of death.

The ability to pinpoint an exact time of death would undoubtedly prove quite useful in forensic analysis. But being able to pinpoint cause of death using a deceased person’s genes would eliminate much of the uncertainty surrounding criminal investigations, and possibly even expedite them.

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Renders imagine what AR-powered ‘Apple Glasses’ could look like [Gallery]

Several reports have indicated that Apple is working on a pair of augmented reality glasses, potentially slated for a release sometime in the next two years. While little is known about the glasses, iDrop News today has published a set of renders that imagine what “Apple Glasses” could look like…