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IIIT Hyderabad successfully conducts Quantum Talks 2020, the first of its kind webinar on quantum information and computation in India – IBG NEWS

IIIT Hyderabad successfully conducts Quantum Talks 2020, the first of its kind webinar on quantum information and computation in India

21 lectures by distinguished professors from across the country over 5 days

Hyderabad, July 9, 2020..:International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIITH) successfully conducted Quantum Talks 2020, the first of its kind webinar on quantum information and computation in India.

IIITHs robust quantum computing group with experts from the field and allied areas created an online platform that brought together the best minds from across the country and offered students a holistic view of the entire spectrum of modern research in quantum physics. Quantum computation, information processing and communication have emerged at the forefront of science and technology research in the last two decades. Quantum computers can fundamentally change what we do.

The 5-day symposium included 21lectures by distinguished professors from various institutions across the country (University of Hyderabad, IIIT Hyderabad, IIT Kanpur, IIT Jodhpur, IISER Thiruvananthapuram, IISER Kolkata, IISER Mohali, Harish Chandra Research Institute, University of Calcutta, Indian Statistical Institute, Bangalore University, IISER Bhopal, National Institute of Technology Patna, Delhi Technical University, S N Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences, Institute of Physics, Raman Research Institute and Institute of Mathematical Science) and covered the areas of quantum foundation, non-locality, cryptography, entanglement theory, quantum correlations, quantum thermodynamics and many body physics and of experimental research in quantum information.

Prof Indranil Chakrabarty and ProfSamyadeb Bhattacharya, co-organizers of the event fromCenter for Security, Theory & Algorithmic Research (CSTAR) at IIITH said, We are heartened by the encouraging response to such an initiative. Going forward, IIITH hopes to enable more of such platforms to stimulate discussions on quantum computing.

Website:www.iiit.ac.in

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IIIT Hyderabad successfully conducts Quantum Talks 2020, the first of its kind webinar on quantum information and computation in India - IBG NEWS

Quantum Brakes to Learn About the Forces Within Molecules – SciTechDaily

An ultrashort x-ray laser pulse (in violet) removes an inner-shell electron from the iodine atom in ethyl iodide. The experiment times the propagation of the electron with attosecond precision, and measures how much the released electron is decelerated or accelerated by intramolecular forces. Credit: Philipp Rosenberger / LMU

Physicists have measured the flight times of electrons emitted from a specific atom in a molecule upon excitation with laser light. This has enabled them to measure the influence of the molecule itself on the kinetics of emission.

Photoemission the release of electrons in response to excitation by light is one of the most fundamental processes in the microcosm. The kinetic energy of the emitted electron is characteristic for the atom concerned, and depends on the wavelength of the light employed. But how long does the process take? And does it always take the same amount of time, irrespective of whether the electron is emitted from an individual atom or from an atom that is part of a molecule? An international team of researchers led by laser physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (LAP) at LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) in Garching has now probed the influence of the molecule on photoemission time.

The theoretical description of photoemission in 1905 by Albert Einstein marked a breakthrough in quantum physics, and the details of the process are of continuing interest in the world of science and beyond. How the motions of an elementary quantum particle such as the electron are affected within a molecular environment has a significant bearing on our understanding of the process of photoemission and the forces that hold molecules together.

In close collaboration with researchers from the King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), and additional international partners, the team at LAP has now determined how long it takes electrons to be photo-emitted from a specific atom within a molecule (in this case, the iodine in ethyl iodide). The measured times were in the range of tens of attoseconds. One attosecond is a billionth of a billionth of a second.

The researchers used a range of pulses in the x-ray region to excite the targeted electron. The use of machine learning helped to improve the precision of the analysis of the experimental data, and resulted in more accurate comparisons with theoretical predictions. The comparison of the experimental data with theoretical simulations finally revealed the influence of the molecule on the time that electrons need for the photoemission process, explains Professor Matthias Kling, who heads the Ultrafast Imaging and Nanophotonics group within the LAP team. The researchers found that the delay attributable to the molecular environment became larger as the energy of the light pulses and hence the initial kinetic energy imparted to the electrons was reduced.

The observations may be compared with exploring a landscape. When flying over it, many details on the ground remain unnoticed. At ground level, every single bump makes itself felt. The same is true for excited electrons. If the initial impulse is just enough to enable them to leave the molecule, the retarding effect of the forces that hold the molecule together is greater than when the kick is sufficiently energetic to eject them more promptly.

Our observations indicate that experiments tracing photoemission time permit us to learn about the forces within molecules, explains Professor Abdallah Azzeer, Head of the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics at KSU in Riyadh. These studies could improve our understanding of quantum effects in molecules and chemical reactions, adds Prof. Alexandra Landsman from Ohio State University in the US, who leads the group that conducted the majority of the theoretical work.

Reference: Probing molecular environment through photoemission delays by Shubhadeep Biswas, Benjamin Frg, Lisa Ortmann, Johannes Schtz, Wolfgang Schweinberger, Tom Zimmermann, Liangwen Pi, Denitsa Baykusheva, Hafiz A. Masood, Ioannis Liontos, Amgad M. Kamal, Nora G. Kling, Abdullah F. Alharbi, Meshaal Alharbi, Abdallah M. Azzeer, Gregor Hartmann, Hans J. Wrner, Alexandra S. Landsman and Matthias F. Kling, 11 May 2020, Nature Physics.DOI: 10.1038/s41567-020-0887-8

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Quantum Brakes to Learn About the Forces Within Molecules - SciTechDaily

Exploring the quantum field, from the sun’s core to the Big Bang – MIT News

How do protons fuse to power the sun? What happens to neutrinos inside a collapsing star after a supernova? How did atomic nuclei form from protons and neutrons in the first few minutes after the Big Bang?

Simulating these mysterious processes requires some extremely complex calculations, sophisticated algorithms, and a vast amount of supercomputing power.

Theoretical physicist William Detmold marshals these tools to look into the quantum realm. Improved calculations of these processes enable us to learn about fundamental properties of the universe, he says. Of the visible universe, most mass is made of protons. Understanding the structure of the proton and its properties seems pretty important to me.

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the worlds largest particle accelerator, investigate those properties by smashing particles together and poring over the subatomic wreckage for clues to what makes up and binds together matter.

Detmold, an associate professor in the Department of Physics and a member of the Center for Theoretical Physics and the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, starts instead from first principles namely, the theory of the Standard Model of particle physics.

The Standard Model describes three of the four fundamental forces of particle physics (with the exception of gravity) and all of the known subatomic particles.

The theory has succeeded in predicting the results of experiments time and time again, including, perhaps most famously, the 2011 confirmation by LHC researchers of the existence of the Higgs boson.

A core focus of Detmolds research is on confronting experimental data from experiments such as the LHC. After devising calculations, running them on multiple supercomputers, and sifting through the enormous quantity of statistics they crank out a process that can take from six months to several years Detmold and his team then take all that data and do a lot of analysis to extract key physics quantities for example, the mass of the proton, as a numerical value with an uncertainty range.

My driving concern in this regard is how will this analysis impact experimental results, Detmold says. In some cases, we do these calculations in order to interpret experiments done at the LHC, and ask: Is the Standard Model describing whats going on there?

Detmold has made important advances in solving the complex equations of quantum chromodynamics (QCD), a quantum field theory that describes the strong interactions inside of a proton, between quarks (the smallest known constituent of matter) and gluons (the forces that bind them together).

He has performed some of the first QCD calculations of certain particle decays reactions. They have, for the most part, aligned very closely with results from the LHC.

There are no really stark discrepancies between the Standard Model and LHC results, but there are some interesting tensions, he says. My work has been looking at some of those tensions.

Inspired to ask questions

Detmolds interest in quantum physics dates to his schoolboy days, growing up in Adelaide, Australia. I remember reading a bunch of popular science books as a young kid, he recalls, and being very intrigued about quarks, gluons, and other fundamental particles, and wanting to get into the mathematical tools to work with them.

He would go on to earn both his bachelors degree and PhD from the University of Adelaide. As an undergraduate studying mathematics, he encountered a professor who opened his eyes to the mysteries of quantum mechanics. It was probably the most exciting class Ive had. And I get to teach that now.

Hes been teaching that introductory course on quantum mechanics at MIT for a few years now, and he has become adept at spotting those students who are similarly seized by the subject. In every class there are students you can see the enthusiasm dripping off the page as they write their problem sets. Its exciting to interact with them.

While he cant always bring the full complexity of his research into those conversations, he tries to infuse them with the spirit of his enterprise: how to ask the questions that might yield new insights into the deep structures of the universe.

You can frame things in ways to inspire students to go into research and push themselves to learn more, he says. A lot of teaching is about motivating students to go and find out more themselves, not just information transmission. And hopefully I inspire my students the way my professor inspired me.

He adds: With all of us stuck at home or in remote locations, Im not sure that anyone is feeling particularly inspired right now, but this pandemic will eventually end, and sometimes getting lost in the intricacies of Maxwells equations gives a nice break from what is going on in the world.

Enhancing experiments

When he isnt teaching or analyzing supercomputer data, Detmold is often helping to plan better experiments.

The Electron-Ion Collider, a facility planned for construction over the next decade at Brookhaven National Lab on Long Island, aims to advance understanding of the internal structure of the proton. Some of Detmolds calculations are aimed at providing a qualitative picture of the structure of gluons inside the proton, to help the projects designers know what to look for, in terms of orders of magnitude for detecting certain quantities.

We can make predictions for what well be seeing if you design it in a certain way, he says.

Detmold has also become something of an expert at orchestrating complex supercomputing projects. That entails figuring out how to run a huge number of calculations in an efficient way, given the limited availability of supercomputing power and time.

He and his lab members have developed algorithms and software infrastructure to run these calculations on massive supercomputers, some of which have different types of processing units that make data management complicated. Its a research project in its own right, how to perform those calculations in a way thats efficient.

Indeed, Detmold spends time working on how improve methods for getting to the answer. New algorithms, he says, are a key to advancing computation to tackle new problems, calculating nuclear structures and reactions in the context of the Standard Model.

Lets say theres a quantity we want to compute, but with the tools we have at the moment it takes 10,000 years of running a massive supercomputer, he says. Coming up with a new way to calculate something that actually makes it possible to do thats exciting.

Inspiring interest in the unknown

But fundamental mysteries are still at the center of Detmolds work. As quarks and gluons get farther apart from each other, the strength of their interactions increases. To understand whats happening in these low-energy states, he has advanced the use of a computational technique known as lattice quantum chromodynamics (LQCD), which places the quantum fields of the quarks and gluons on a discretized grid of points to represent space-time.

In 2017, Detmold and colleagues made the first-ever LQCD calculations of the rate of proton-proton fusion the process by which two protons fuse together to form a deuteron.

This process kicks off the nuclear reactions that power the sun. Its also exceedingly difficult to study through experiments. If you try to smash together two protons, their electric charges mean they dont want to be near each other, says Detmold.

It shows where this field can go, he says of his teams breakthrough. Its one of the simplest nuclear reactions, but it opens the doorway to saying we can address these directly from the Standard Model. Were trying to build upon this work and calculate related reactions.

Another recent project involved using LQCD to study the formation of nuclei in the universe its earliest moments. As well as looking at these processes for the actual universe, hes performed computations that change certain parameters the masses of quarks and how strongly they interact in order to predict how the reactions of Big Bang nucleosynthesis might have happened and how much they might have affected the evolution of the universe.

These calculations can tell you how likely it is to end up producing universes like the one we see, Detmold says.

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Exploring the quantum field, from the sun's core to the Big Bang - MIT News

Physicists Just Built The First Working Prototype Of A ‘Quantum Radar’ – ScienceAlert

Quantum entanglement that strange but potentially hugely useful quantum phenomenon where two particles are inextricably linked across space and time could play a major role in future radar technology.

In 2008, an engineer from MIT devised a way to use the features of entanglement to illuminate objects while using barely any photons. In certain scenarios, such technology promises to outperform conventional radar, according to its makers, particularly in noisy thermal environments.

Now, researchers have taken the idea much further, demonstrating its potential with a working prototype.

The technology might eventually find a variety of applications in security and biomedical fields: building better MRI scanners, for example, or giving doctors an alternative way of looking for particular types of cancer.

"What we have demonstrated is a proof of concept for microwave quantum radar," says quantum physicist Shabir Barzanjeh, who conducted the work at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria.

"Using entanglement generated at a few thousandths of a degree above absolute zero, we have been able to detect low reflectivity objects at room temperature."

The device works along the same principles as a normal radar, except instead of sending out radio waves to scan an area, it uses pairs of entangled photons.

Entangled particles are distinguished by having properties that correlate with one another more than you'd expect by chance. In the case of the radar, one photon from each entangled pair, described as a signal photon, is sent towards an object. The remaining photon, described as an idler, is kept in isolation, waiting for a report back.

If the signal photon reflects from an object and is caught, it can be combined with the idler to create a signature pattern of interference, setting the signal apart from other random noise.

As the signal photons reflect from an object, this actually breaks the quantum entanglement in the truest sense. This latest research verifies that even when entanglement is broken, enough information can survive to identify it as a reflected signal.

It doesn't use much power, and the radar itself is difficult to detect, which has benefits for security applications. The biggest advantage this has over conventional radar, however, is that it's less troubled by background radiation noise, which affects the sensitivity and the accuracy of standard radar hardware.

"The main message behind our research is that quantum radar or quantum microwave illumination is not only possible in theory but also in practice," says Barzanjeh.

"When benchmarked against classical low-power detectors in the same conditions we already see, at very low-signal photon numbers, that quantum-enhanced detection can be superior."

There's plenty of exciting potential here, though we shouldn't get ahead of ourselves just yet. Quantum entanglement remains an incredibly delicate process to manage, and entangling the photons initially requires a very precise and ultra-cold environment.

Barzanjeh and his colleagues are continuing their development of the quantum radar idea, yet another sign of how quantum physics is likely to transform our technologies in the near future in everything from communications to supercomputing.

"Throughout history, proof of concepts such as the one we have demonstrated here have often served as prominent milestones towards future technological advancements," says Barzanjeh.

"It will be interesting to see the future implications of this research, particularly for short-range microwave sensors."

The research has been published in Science Advances.

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Physicists Just Built The First Working Prototype Of A 'Quantum Radar' - ScienceAlert

Devs: Here’s the real science behind the quantum computing TV show – New Scientist News

In TV series Devs, a tech company has built an extremely powerful quantum computer. The show is both beautiful and captivating, says Rowan Hooper

By Rowan Hooper

BBC/FX Networks

Devs

BBC iPlayer and FX on Hulu

Halfway through episode two of Devs, there is a scene that caused me first to gasp, and then to swear out loud. A genuine WTF moment. If this is what I think it is, I thought, it is breathtakingly audacious. And so it turns out. The show is intelligent, beautiful and ambitious, and to aid in your viewing pleasure, this spoiler-free review introduces some of the cool science it explores.

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Alex Garlands eight-part seriesopens with protagonists Lilyand Sergei, who live in a gorgeous apartment in San Francisco. Like their real-world counterparts, people who work atFacebook orGoogle, the pair take the shuttle bus to work.

They work at Amaya, a powerful but secretive technology company hidden among the redwoods. Looming over the trees is a massive, creepy statue of a girl: the Amaya the company is named for.

We see the company tag line asLily and Sergei get off the bus: Your quantum future. Is it just athrow-away tag, or should we think about what that line means more precisely?

Sergei, we learn, works on artificial intelligence algorithms. At the start of the show, he gets some time with the boss, Forest, todemonstrate the project he has been working on. He has managed to model the behaviour of a nematode worm. His team has simulated the worm by recreating all 302 of its neurons and digitally wiring them up. This is basically the WormBot project, an attempt to recreate a life form completely in digital code. The complete map of the connections between the 302 neurons of the nematode waspublished in 2019.

We dont yet have the processing power to recreate theseconnections dynamically in a computer, but when we do, it will be interesting to consider if the resulting digital worm, a complete replica of an organic creature, should be considered alive.

We dont know if Sergeis simulation is alive, but it is so good, he can accurately predict the behaviour of the organic original, a real worm it is apparently simulating, up to 10 seconds in thefuture. This is what I like about Garlands stuff: the show has only just started and we have already got some really deep questions about scientific research that is actually happening.

Sergei then invokes the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics conceived by Hugh Everett. Although Forest dismisses this idea, it is worth getting yourhead around it because the show comes back to it. Adherents say that the maths of quantum physics means the universe isrepeatedly splitting into different versions, creating a vast multiverse of possible outcomes.

At the core of Amaya is the ultrasecretive section where thedevelopers work. No one outside the devs team knows what it is developing, but we suspect it must be something with quantum computers. I wondered whether the devssection is trying to do with the 86 billion neurons of thehuman brain what Sergei has been doing with the 302 neurons of the nematode.

We start to find out when Sergei is selected for a role in devs. He must first pass a vetting process (he is asked if he is religious, a question that makes sense later) and then he is granted access to the devs compound sealed by alead Faraday cage, gold mesh andan unbroken vacuum.

Inside is a quantum computer more powerful than any currently in existence. How many qubits does it run, asks Sergei, looking inawe at the thing (it is beautiful, abit like the machines being developed by Google and IBM). Anumber that it is meaningless to state, says Forest. As a reference point, the best quantum computers currently manage around 50 qubits, or quantum bits. We can only assume that Forest has solved the problem ofdecoherence when external interference such as heat or electromagnetic fields cause qubits to lose their quantum properties and created a quantum computer with fantasticprocessing power.

So what are the devs using it for? Sergei is asked to guess, and then left to work it out for himself from gazing at the code. He figures it out before we do. Then comes that WTF moment. To say any more will give away the surprise. Yet as someone remarks, the world is deterministic, but with this machine we are gaining magical powers. Devs has its flaws, but it is energising and exciting to see TV this thoughtful: it cast a spell on me.

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Devs: Here's the real science behind the quantum computing TV show - New Scientist News

How To Choose The Best Toaster – Forbes

Silver colored toaster with single slice of toast.

We're living in unprecedented times. Sure, there's a pandemic changing the world and retail shopping as we know it, but there are people making toast in their air fryers. Listen, air fryers are great and all, but leave the toasting to the toasters.

So what do we look for in a toaster? A fancy touchscreen? The ability to cook hot dogs? How about a combination toaster oven that bakes and toasts; or toasts, broils and bakes; or toasts, bakes, broils and is also an air fryer? How do you choose the best toaster for your kitchen?

When we think of a toaster we generally take the device itself for granted. A toaster is simply a device that turns electricity into heat to lightly burn the bread product that has been placed inside (or against the coils, as it was with the first toasters). It's not a complex process. Considering how old toaster technology is, thinking retro is completely aesthetic. Like this retro toaster that has a 50s look.

If you want something a bit more mid-century modern, then this group of toasters is your butter. While we cannot escape the crushing doom of time continuously moving forward, ignoring our minuscule and meaningless interactions, we can at least control the appearance of the devices we use to pass that time with bread products.

"It takes me back to a time when toast was really toast," said someone who likes retro toasters.

There are a lot of toasters that claim to be able to toast bagels, but those toasters are liars. If bagels are your main source of toasted carbs, then you are going to want to get an actual bagel toaster with extra wide slots and a croissant heating rack. This toaster says perception is a hot, buttered croissant.

The argument against wide slot toasters is that they are not as effective with slim white bread, but isn't the basic nature of your interaction with the passage of time just a metaphor for choosing what kind of bread to eat? The thickness of bagels speak to your inherent need to fill your time with as many new experiences as possible, while basic bread represents the monotony of life; a repeating cycle of mundane activities that separate us only slightly from ants because sometimes we wear hats.

"The only good bagel is an everything bagel", said my uncle at oneg between mouthfuls of white fish.

If you need more than just toast, then clearly you have risen to a plane of self awareness that demands multiple sources of stimulation in both the physical and mental realms. A combination toaster and oven might just help you ascend to undiscovered plateaus of existence with some crispy leftover chicky nugs.

There are some extremely complex toaster ovens out there, let's call them the quantum mechanics of toasters. There is a relatable confusion to all the buttons, settings and dials but like overall quantum physics, they are still relatable. But they aren't very easy to clean.

Which is why you should look for a toaster with a roll-top door. These toasters, unlike your never-ending struggle with the mental clutter that permeates your waking hours, are easy to clean. The roll-top prevents crumbs from getting stuck in between the door and the toaster, but like everything in existence, they are still touching in some sense. There are no spaces between the spaces. It's all connected. But with a roll-top, it's so much easier to clean the spaces that don't exist.

"It's really hard to cook leftover pizza in a regular toaster," said a guy hanging out at the vape shop.

We wake up every day, only slightly aware that it's a different day from the day before it, but a new day begins every moment, even in the fractional moments between the moments that we can just barely perceive thanks to the light from our sun and the whittling chucks falling from whatever we can grasp as our souls. Simplicity is often the best option.

You want toast? Get a basic toaster. It toasts, costs less than a fancy latte with whipped cream and an eye-rolling tip in the change jar and performs the primary function of a toaster it toasts bread.

Isn't that all we really want in life? To find our bread, in whatever form, and toast it when desired? To change the physical properties of something we generally take for granted in order to heighten our mental awareness of it for a myriad of pleasurable effects? That's what toast is. It's our sense of everything changing, while giving us some semblance of control.

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How To Choose The Best Toaster - Forbes

Exploring new tools in string theory – Space.com

String theorists are shifting focus to solve some rather sticky problems in physics.

Over the past few years, string theory has been less about trying to find a unifying description of all forces and matter in the universe, and more about exploring the AdS/CFT correspondence, a potential link between the tools and methods developed in the string community and some strange physics problems.

While it doesn't have a particularly catchy name, the AdS/CFT correspondence, it is a potentially powerful (but so for unproven) tool to solve complex riddles.

Related:Putting string theory to the test

The "AdS" in the AdS/CFT correspondence stands for "anti-de Sitter," which doesn't explain much at first glance. The name was inspired by Willem de Sitter, a physicist and mathematician who played around with Einstein's theory of general relativity shortly after it was published in 1917. De Sitter experimented with the idea of different kinds of theoretical universes, filling them up with various substances and figuring out how they would evolve.

His namesake, the "de Sitter universe," represents a theoretical cosmos completely devoid of matter but filled with a positive cosmological constant. While this isn't how our universe actually is, as the universe continues to age it will look more and more like de Sitter's vision.

The anti-de Sitter universe is the exact opposite: a completely empty cosmos with a negative cosmological constant, which is quite unlike what we see in our real universe.

But, while this strange theoretical "anti" universe isn't real, it's still a handy mathematical playground for string theory.

String theory itself requires 10 dimensions to be complete (6 of which are tiny and curled up to microscopic proportions), but versions of it can be cast into only 5 dimensions in an anti-de Sitter spacetime, and, while useful for our universe, can still function.

The other side of the AdS/CFT correspondence, CFT, stands for conformal field theory. Field theories are the bread and butter of our modern understanding of the quantum world; they are what happens when you marry quantum mechanics with special relativity and are used to explain three of the four forces of nature. For example, electromagnetism is described by the field theory called quantum electrodynamics (QED), and the strong nuclear force by the field theory called quantum chromodynamics (QCD).

But there's an extra word there: conformal. But before we get to conformal, I want to quickly talk about something else: scale invariance (trust me, this will make sense in a minute). A field theory is said to be scale invariant if the results don't change if the strength of interactions are varied. For example, you would have a scale invariant engine if you got the same efficiency no matter what kind of fuel you put in.

In strict mathematical terms, a conformal field theory is just a certain special case of scale invariant field theory, but almost all the time when physicists say conformal, they really mean scale invariant. So in your head every time you read or hear conformal field theory you can just replace it with scale invariant field theory.

Our universe is, by and large, decidedly not scale invariant. The forces of nature do change their character with different energy scales and interaction strengths some forces even merge together at high energies. Scale invariance, as beautiful as it is mathematically, simply doesn't seem to be preferred by nature.

Related:The history and structure of the universe (infographic)

So, on one side of the AdS/CFT correspondence, you have a universe that doesn't look like ours, and on the other, you have mathematical theory that doesn't apply to most situations. So what's the big deal?

The big deal is that over twenty years ago, physicists and mathematicians found a surprising link between string theories written in a five-dimensional anti-de Sitter spacetime and conformal field theories written on the four-dimensional boundary of that spacetime. This correspondence so far unproven, but if there is a connection, it could have far-reaching consequences.

There are a lot of tools and tricks in the language of string theory, so if you're facing a thorny physics problem that can be written in terms of a conformal field theory (it's not common, but it does happen occasionally), you can cast it in terms of the 5d string theory and apply those tools to try to crack it.

Additionally, if you're trying to solve string theory problems (like, for example, the unification of gravity with other forces of nature), you can translate your problem into terms of a conformal field theory and use the tried-and-true techniques in that language to try to crack it.

Most work in this arena has been with trying to use the methods of string theory to solve real-world problems, like what happens to the information that's fallen into a black hole and the nature of high-energy states of matter.

Paul M. Sutteris an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of Your Place in the Universe.

Learn more by listening to the episode "Is String Theory Worth It? (Part 7: A Correspondence from a Dear Friend)" on the Ask A Spaceman podcast, available oniTunesand on the Web athttp://www.askaspaceman.com. Thanks to John C., Zachary H., @edit_room, Matthew Y., Christopher L., Krizna W., Sayan P., Neha S., Zachary H., Joyce S., Mauricio M., @shrenicshah, Panos T., Dhruv R., Maria A., Ter B., oiSnowy, Evan T., Dan M., Jon T., @twblanchard, Aurie, Christopher M., @unplugged_wire, Giacomo S., Gully F. for the questions that led to this piece! Ask your own question on Twitter using #AskASpaceman or by following Paul @PaulMattSutter and facebook.com/PaulMattSutter.

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Exploring new tools in string theory - Space.com

Quantum computing will (eventually) help us discover vaccines in days – VentureBeat

The coronavirus is proving that we have to move faster in identifying and mitigating epidemics before they become pandemics because, in todays global world, viruses spread much faster, further, and more frequently than ever before.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, its that while our ability to identify and treat pandemics has improved greatly since the outbreak of the Spanish Flu in 1918, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Over the past few decades, weve taken huge strides to improve quick detection capabilities. It took a mere 12 days to map the outer spike protein of the COVID-19 virus using new techniques. In the 1980s, a similar structural analysis for HIV took four years.

But developing a cure or vaccine still takes a long time and involves such high costs that big pharma doesnt always have incentive to try.

Drug discovery entrepreneur Prof. Noor Shaker posited that Whenever a disease is identified, a new journey into the chemical space starts seeking a medicine that could become useful in contending diseases. The journey takes approximately 15 years and costs $2.6 billion, and starts with a process to filter millions of molecules to identify the promising hundreds with high potential to become medicines. Around 99% of selected leads fail later in the process due to inaccurate prediction of behavior and the limited pool from which they were sampled.

Prof. Shaker highlights one of the main problems with our current drug discovery process: The development of pharmaceuticals is highly empirical. Molecules are made and then tested, without being able to accurately predict performance beforehand. The testing process itself is long, tedious, cumbersome, and may not predict future complications that will surface only when the molecule is deployed at scale, further eroding the cost/benefit ratio of the field. And while AI/ML tools are already being developed and implemented to optimize certain processes, theres a limit to their efficiency at key tasks in the process.

Ideally, a great way to cut down the time and cost would be to transfer the discovery and testing from the expensive and time-inefficient laboratory process (in-vitro) we utilize today, to computer simulations (in-silico). Databases of molecules are already available to us today. If we had infinite computing power we could simply scan these databases and calculate whether each molecule could serve as a cure or vaccine to the COVID-19 virus. We would simply input our factors into the simulation and screen the chemical space for a solution to our problem.

In principle, this is possible. After all, chemical structures can be measured, and the laws of physics governing chemistry are well known. However, as the great British physicist Paul Dirac observed: The underlying physical laws necessary for the mathematical theory of a large part of physics and the whole of chemistry are thus completely known, and the difficulty is only that the exact application of these laws leads to equations much too complicated to be soluble.

In other words, we simply dont have the computing power to solve the equations, and if we stick to classical computers we never will.

This is a bit of a simplification, but the fundamental problem of chemistry is to figure out where electrons sit inside a molecule and calculate the total energy of such a configuration. With this data, one could calculate the properties of a molecule and predict its behavior. Accurate calculations of these properties will allow the screening of molecular databases for compounds that exhibit particular functions, such as a drug molecule that is able to attach to the coronavirus spike and attack it. Essentially, if we could use a computer to accurately calculate the properties of a molecule and predict its behavior in a given situation, it would speed up the process of identifying a cure and improve its efficiency.

Why are quantum computers much better than classical computers at simulating molecules?

Electrons spread out over the molecule in a strongly correlated fashion, and the characteristics of each electron depend greatly on those of its neighbors. These quantum correlations (or entanglement) are at the heart of the quantum theory and make simulating electrons with a classical computer very tricky.

The electrons of the COVID-19 virus, for example, must be treated in general as being part of a single entity having many degrees of freedom, and the description of this ensemble cannot be divided into the sum of its individual, distinguishable electrons. The electrons, due to their strong correlations, have lost their individuality and must be treated as a whole. So to solve the equations, you need to take into account all of the electrons simultaneously. Although classical computers can in principle simulate such molecules, every multi-electron configuration must be stored in memory separately.

Lets say you have a molecule with only 10 electrons (forget the rest of the atom for now), and each electron can be in two different positions within the molecule. Essentially, you have 2^10=1024 different configurations to keep track of rather just 10 electrons which would have been the case if the electrons were individual, distinguishable entities. Youd need 1024 classical bits to store the state of this molecule. Quantum computers, on the other hand, have quantum bits (qubits), which can be made to strongly correlate with one another in the same way electrons within molecules do. So in principle, you would need only about 10 such qubits to represent the strongly correlated electrons in this model system.

The exponentially large parameter space of electron configurations in molecules is exactly the space qubits naturally occupy. Thus, qubits are much more adapted to the simulation of quantum phenomena. This scaling difference between classical and quantum computation gets very big very quickly. For instance, simulating penicillin, a molecule with 41 atoms (and many more electrons) will require 10^86 classical bits, or more bits than the number of atoms in the universe. With a quantum computer, you would only need about 286 qubits. This is still far more qubits than we have today, but certainly a more reasonable and achievable number.The COVID-19 virus outer spike protein, for comparison, contains many thousands of atoms and is thus completely intractable for classical computation. The size of proteins makes them intractable to classical simulation with any degree of accuracy even on todays most powerful supercomputers. Chemists and pharma companies do simulate molecules with supercomputers (albeit not as large as the proteins), but they must resort to making very rough molecule models that dont capture the details a full simulation would, leading to large errors in estimation.

It might take several decades until a sufficiently large quantum computer capable of simulating molecules as large as proteins will emerge. But when such a computer is available, it will mean a complete revolution in the way the pharma and the chemical industries operate.

The holy grail end-to-end in-silico drug discovery involves evaluating and breaking down the entire chemical structures of the virus and the cure.

The continued development of quantum computers, if successful, will allow for end-to-end in-silico drug discovery and the discovery of procedures to fabricate the drug. Several decades from now, with the right technology in place, we could move the entire process into a computer simulation, allowing us to reach results with amazing speed. Computer simulations could eliminate 99.9% of false leads in a fraction of the time it now takes with in-vitro methods. With the appearance of a new epidemic, scientists could identify and develop a potential vaccine/drug in a matter of days.

The bottleneck for drug development would then move from drug discovery to the human testing phases including toxicity and other safety tests. Eventually, even these last stage tests could potentially be expedited with the help of a large scale quantum computer, but that would require an even greater level of quantum computing than described here. Tests at this level would require a quantum computer with enough power to contain a simulation of the human body (or part thereof) that will screen candidate compounds and simulate their impact on the human body.

Achieving all of these dreams will demand a continuous investment into the development of quantum computing as a technology. As Prof. Shohini Ghose said in her 2018 Ted Talk: You cannot build a light bulb by building better and better candles. A light bulb is a different technology based on a deeper scientific understanding. Todays computers are marvels of modern technology and will continue to improve as we move forward. However, we will not be able to solve this task with a more powerful classical computer. It requires new technology, more suited for the task.

(Special thanks Dr. Ilan Richter, MD MPH for assuring the accuracy of the medical details in this article.)

Ramon Szmuk is a Quantum Hardware Engineer at Quantum Machines.

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Quantum computing will (eventually) help us discover vaccines in days - VentureBeat

An observed thing never doesnt change – Lowell Sun

One of my favorite things to talk about is attention. Its a highly underrated life practice, paying attention. Its mindfulness by another word. Being aware of ones own experience.

It doesnt end with that because the things that get our notice have a tendency to change once weve noticed them. Realize there is a hopeful thought in that fact alone. Add it to the math that there is more love in the world than hate, and what is revealed is an obvious trajectory that humanity steadily improves itself over time through the act of attention. Even if two steps forward usually means suffering through one step back, the overall movement is forward.

As far as the math goes, love is prevailing. It just doesnt make as big a show of itself as fear does. Love doesnt pique our sense of outrage. Dont be mistaken about how much love and attention and compassion and creativity and collaboration it takes to endure a pandemic. With so many of us on the planet, love is the reason our species even still exists. Take comfort in that if you can.

So here it must be pointed out that we are paying very special attention to a number of things right now that will undoubtedly reap the benefits of our heightened notice. There are systems on our planet that are in need of change. And it is not for me to conclude what systems need to change or in what ways. I have my opinions, however, that health care and the pharmaceutical industry will probably get the special attention they deserve. I think systems of government are under a very particular kind of scrutiny right now. I think we are noticing all of the fear that has been percolating beneath the surface of our society for so many decades. These things need our attention. And theyre getting it.

Humanity at large is getting a little bit of a reboot right now. The pandemic has focused our attention on things that have been neglected. That is a good thing. The positive aftershocks of this tragic time will be felt for decades to come.

Thats largely due to the physics of attention. The physics of attention are themselves an even more fascinating aspect of the entire mindful practice of simply noticing things. Because on the atomic level, we are able to prove that particles behave differently when we are looking at them. But heres the real shocker our linear brains cant seem to comprehend: Even when we record them using an electronic device with no one actually watching, they still behave differently. Just as if theyre being watched live. Like they know theyre being recorded.

It makes me deeply curious about what effect our attention has on our lives, and our obstacles. Especially when considered through the lens of future historians. Quantum physics explains it very technically that our heightened attention collapses a waveform from a series of potentials into specific outcomes that align with the observers expectations. Does that mean we have more power to effect positive change than we recognize, simply through our act of chosen observation?

When we are paying special attention to an issue, it typically gains wider attention when there is something about it that inspires us to feel better, or to want to feel better. Attention is an emotional experience. We gravitate toward the online content designed to ease our fears, or assuage our anger over injustice. Or alert us to it.

This is why fear is rampant on the internet. Conspiracy theories abound out of a desire to feel better, to feel safer, by being in the know. By being ready. By not having been made a fool of. No one wants to feel like that. Its easy to see how excessive fear or anxiety can drive us to tend to things that are in alignment with them. Our anxieties continuously seek validation. Pay attention to something different. And pray for those who are afraid.

We share loving stories for the same reason, though to feel better. We share them to feel safer by fostering a sense of belonging. All we all want is just to feel better. Fortunately, good thoughts are more powerful than negative ones. It takes fewer of them to create balance.

So if our attention goes where our emotional state drives us, and follows a predictable path, what is our role in the creation of our future not just that of the world, but our own individual lives? How about just getting through a day? Notice what youre noticing. Notice your emotions. Notice the emotions of other people. Send hope and love to others. Collapse their waveforms from a series of unknown potentials into something safe and concrete.

Thats what quantum physics is literally telling us occurs on the atomic level. What impact might that have on our consciousness? What impact might it have on the field that surrounds us?

Theres a beautiful line in Proverbs that invites us to make our ears attentive to wisdom and incline our hearts toward understanding. It teaches that if we call out for insight and raise our voice for understanding, if we seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, we will understand and find the knowledge of God.

I love the beauty and poetry of the way the advice and encouragement is given. It counsels us on what to notice most. It is teaching us to choose deliberately the things to which we attend, and defines their category: love. It leads us to believe that there is something to be gained by tending to wisdom and love. It is not instructing us toward any action other than to notice and seek.

For now, take some comfort if you can in the category of things that are getting our attention right now. Think of whats occurring in your own home at this moment and how your particular attention could transform your experience. Are you properly attending to things that deserve your gratitude?

What is being noticed by the world right now? Look for where the attention is going, for thats what will change next. Quite possibly for the better.

Wil Darcangelo, M.Div., is the minister at First Parish UU Church of Fitchburg and of First Church of Christ, Unitarian, in Lancaster and producer of The UU Virtual Church of Fitchburg and Lancaster on YouTube. Email wildarcangelo@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at http://www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.

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An observed thing never doesnt change - Lowell Sun

Develop inner peace, compassion to overcome COVID stress: Dalai Lama – The Tribune India

Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, May 16

The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, after a three-month-long break from all engagements since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, on Saturday, began two-day live teaching on tackling negative emotions of fear and anxiety precipitated by the global health crisis.

Drawing from the teachings of Buddhist scholar, Nagarjuna, in his text Precious Garland, the Dalai Lama stated that the analytical and scientific approach of the Nalanda tradition, forming the base for Tibetan Buddhism, was precise in the study of the workings of the human mind.

He compared it to quantum physics that made a distinction between appearance and reality.

Appearance can be misleading. An object can be dissected into the tiniest molecule. While inherently the object holds no fixed meaning, we as observers ascribe meaning to the object. Therefore, we should instead seek an objective reality, the Dalai Lama said.

The Dalai Lama observed how materialistic development with its comfort and ease has brought along the human ignorance towards inner peace, so much that even materially successful people feel discontent.

The antidote to this discontent was the understanding that mental and emotional well-being is central to self-confidence and happiness. Tibetan Buddhist philosophy espouses the transformation of mind as the key to achieving peace and happiness within oneself and in the world at large, Dalai Lama added.

Especially relevant in the present circumstances, the Dalai Lama spoke on the interdependence of all living beings.

An individual is reliant on the community to survive which teaches us to strive for kindness and compassion towards one another, qualities intrinsic to human nature, he said.

Similarly, in the COVID-19 crisis that we are facing today, the Dalai Lama stressed global cooperation and focus on what unites us as members of one human family.

In this vein, the Dalai Lama called upon all citizens of the world to also pay attention to the long-term issue of global climate change that had been set in motion and is expected to have far-reaching consequences within the next two decades.

Earlier whenever the Dalai Lama used to hold his teachings in Mcleodganj, it was a boom time for the local tourism industry. However, now with virtual online teachings, Mcleodganj wore a deserted look.

The general secretary of the Smart City Hotel Association, Dharamsala, Sanjeev Gandhi, said we hoped with the blessings of the Dalai Lama, the good days would return to the area and normalcy would return.

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Develop inner peace, compassion to overcome COVID stress: Dalai Lama - The Tribune India

OK, WTF Are Virtual Particles and Do They Actually Exist? – VICE

Last June, Boston University professor Gregg Jaeger travelled to Vxj, Sweden for a conference. It was the twentieth time that philosophers had gathered there to discuss questions that strike at the foundations of physics. Jaeger had been invited to give the opening talk, to speak about mysterious and sometimes controversial entities called virtual particles."

Whereas matter had long since been recognized to be made up of particles, the existence of virtual particles had been debated by philosophers of physics for at least thirty years. Mostly, they leaned towards their dismissal, but Jaeger is a believer.

Like ordinary particles, virtual particles come up incessantly in physicists work, in their theories, papers, and talks. But as their name suggests, they are far stranger than ordinary particles, which are already notoriously odd. Particles are the chief representatives of the world of the small, the quantum world. If you scaled everything up so that a particle was the size of a sand grain, you would be as tall as the distance from Earth to the Sun.

Physicists know from experience that particles are undoubtedly there, beyond sight. Virtual particles are much more elusive, to the point that the non-believers say they only exist in abstract math formulas. What does it even mean for virtual particles to be real?

Jaeger is a physicist-turned-philosopher, who published important quantitative results early in his career before spending the last ten years focused on the philosophy and interpretation of physics. He arrived at virtual particles as only the latest stop in a long journey of making sense of the quantum world.

There are two distinct narratives for virtual particles, and Jaeger subscribes to what philosophers call the realist position. Believers or realists argue that virtual particles are real entities that definitively exist.

In the realist narrative, virtual particles pop up when observable particles get close together. They are emitted from one particle and absorbed by another, but they disappear before they can be measured. They transfer force between ordinary particles, giving them motion and life. For every different type of elementary particle (quark, photon, electron, etc.), there are also virtual quarks, virtual photons, and so on.

Jaeger in his office. Image: Author

A useful analogy to the realist narrative of virtual particles is to imagine going to a big family reunion, full of cousins, parents, grandparents, and others. Each group of relatives represents some different type of particle, so for example, you and your siblings might all represent electrons, and your cousins might all represent photons. At this reunion, everyone happens to be a little stand-offish, mostly tucked away out of sight. When you see your sister, you walk up to shake hands, but when you look at her hand and go to grasp it, you find that your cousin has stuck his hairy hand in. He quickly shakes your hand and then your sisters. But when you look up, hes somehow disappeared, and your sister is walking away. Your cousin, the virtual photon, has just mediated the interaction between the two electrons of you and your sister.

Other philosophers have mainly upheld an opposing narrative, where virtual particles are not real and show up only in the mathematical theories and equations of quantum physics, which describe the particle world. The equations are correct, the doubters recognize, predicting all sorts of things like the peculiar magnetic properties of electrons and muons, for example.

But the entities called virtual particles are just parts of the math, these experts claim. Virtual particles have never been and cannot be directly observed, by their mathematical definition. They supposedly pop up only during fleeting particle interactions. And if they are real then they would possess seemingly unacceptable properties, like masses with values that can be squared (multiplied by themselves) to give negative numbers. They would be entirely out of the ordinary.

That physicists still claim these things to be real has haunted philosophers. Philosophers of physics, often highly trained physicists themselves, demand a story of reality that makes senseat least, as much as possible. Can the realist narrative really be true? Do bizarre things called virtual particles pop up and mediate all the interactions between observable particles?

As Jaeger explains, there are at least four different overarching mathematical theories of the quantum world. The most basic of these is called quantum mechanics. Virtual particles originate from a more advanced mathematical apparatus known as quantum field theory (QFT). If quantum mechanics is like the childrens book Clifford the Big Red Dog, then QFT is the Necronomicon, bound in skinfar more arcane and complex.

Physicists use quantum mechanics to explain the most fundamental quantum phenomena, like the simultaneous wave and particle nature of light. QFT on the other hand is used for predicting the results of extreme experiments at places like the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). QFT does the heavy lifting, in other words.

The LHC is famous for its scattering experiments, where two or more particles are collided together and scatter off one another. During the collision, old particles are destroyed and new ones created. Physicists perform collisions over and over again in highly controlled circumstances and try to predict what particles come out and how. Recalling the metaphor of a family reunion, scattering experiments tell the story of how likely it is that your sister walks out from the handshake, and not some other relativean odd and yet distinct possibility.

In QFT, the probability of what particle comes out is decided by a complicated equation. Physicists solve it with a clever trick. They write out the solution as a sum of much simpler terms (summands), which is then squared. Technically, the sum contains infinitely many terms, but for many scenarios only the first few terms matter. Each of the terms in the sum contains physical quantities related to the incoming and outgoing particles, like their momentum, mass, and charge, all of which can be directly observed. However, each term can also contain physical quantities (like mass or charge) that correspond to entirely different particles, which are never observed. These are what are known as the virtual particles.

Before the LHC existed, in the 1940s, the renowned physicist Richard Feynman introduced a diagrammatic technique that made the role of the virtual particles clear. For each term in the sum for the QFT calculation, a so-called Feynman diagram can be drawn that depicts the incoming and outgoing particles. Virtual particles are drawn popping up in the center. These diagrams greatly aid in doing the complicated calculations. For every line in a diagram, for example, a physicist simply sticks another variable in their solution.

Feynman diagrams can seem to provide a temptingly accurate picture of what goes on in an experiment. However, for any experiment, there are actually infinitely many different Feynman diagrams, one for each term in the sum. This poses an interpretive problem because it seems incoherent. The theory suggests that anytime particle relatives shake hands at the family reunion, every other relative (an infinite number of them!) also stick theirs hands in.

One of Feynmans well-known contemporaries, Freeman Dyson, addressed this problem by making it clear that Feynman diagrams did not show a literal picture of reality. They were only supposed to be used as an aid to doing the math. On the other hand, Feynman sometimes suggested that the pictures actually were representative of reality.

But regardless of their interpretation, the diagrammatic technique caught on. And the virtual particles in the diagrams and the mathematics became objects of constant reference for physicistseven though the math was only meant to predict the outcomes of scattering experiments. The process of particles colliding into each other, which one would naively expect to be about forces and energy, turned out to be about virtual particles.

Image: Wikipedia/Krishnavedala

The fundamental thing that makes you know that the physical world is there is forces. Like you bang into things, right? Jaeger said, hitting his hand on the desk in his office. Ow! So thats something there. There's a world out there that's transmitted by a force. But when you try to [mathematically] understand this process of transmission, from the point of view of whats out there, and whats its structure, you end up with these virtual particles.

Many physicists who focus on quantitative results believe in a reality filled with virtual particles because QFT performs astoundingly well, predicting the outcomes of countless experiments. And QFT is rampant with virtual particles.

I have no problem at all with the fact that these virtual particles are real things that determine the forces in nature (except for gravity), said Lee Roberts, an experimental physicist and professor at Boston University, located only two blocks down from Gregg Jaegers office.

Roberts helps lead current efforts to measure the magnetic properties of muon particles with greater precision than ever before at Fermilabs Muon g-2 experiment. And whatever the questions may be around the existence of virtual particles, physicists like Roberts can hardly interpret the properties of muons without them.

Muons are like heavy electrons, carrying negative electric charge and a quantum property called spin. Roughly speaking, the muons spin can be thought of like the actual spin of a tiny rotating top. The rotation of the muons intrinsic charge produces a small magnetic field, called its magnetic moment.

Because it acts like a tiny magnet, the muon interacts with other electromagnetic fields, which are represented in the particle world by photons. To calculate the interaction, physicists use a similar process as for scattering experiments, writing the solution as an infinite sum. The terms in the sum are represented by nothing other than Feynman diagrams, where one muon particle and one photon flies in, and one single muon flies out. Virtual particles are drawn in the center hairy relatives, sticking their hands in.

All these interactions sum up to give the muon an anomalous magnetic moment, anomalous compared to the results of theories that came before QFT. But with QFT, physicists have predicted the magnetic moment almost exactly, like marking off the lines on a football pitch blindfolded and getting them accurate to the width of a hair. The accuracy of these calculations relies indispensably on the virtual particles.

With QFT being so accurate, it is clear that there must be some kind of reality to it. Perhaps the question then is not so much whether virtual particles are real, but what exactly the general picture of reality is, according to QFT.

Oliver Passon is one of the physicist-philosophers who object to the notion that virtual particles are real. He earned his Ph.D. in particle physics and is a highly experienced physicist, but now focuses on education research at the University of Wuppertal in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. He studies how particle physics should be taught to high-school students, for whom it has become part of the standard curriculum.

Virtual particles are a mess, Passon summarized for Motherboard.

For Passon, the realist view arises from a sloppy interpretation of the math, and it has led physicists to make other interpretive mistakes, for example, in explaining the discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC. He wrote about his views in a paper last year.

Passons objections can be explained in the context of the famous quantum mechanics test-case known as the double-slit or two-slit experiment. In a two-slit experiment, physicists fire particles such as photons one at a time at a wall with two tiny slits. The probability of where exactly a particle lands on the other side of the wall is related to the square of a sum, similarly as in a scattering calculation from QFT. But in this case there are only two terms in the sum, each reflecting the narrative of the particle passing through only one of the slits. Which slit does the particle pass through? Quantum mechanics cannot say, because the mathematics requires the term that represents each possibility to be summed with the other and squared.

The question whether one or the other thing happens makes no sense. Its not a tough questionits not even reasonable to ask, Passon said. This is what I take to be the key message of all of quantum mechanics.

The two-slit experiment seems to show that individual mathematical terms by themselves have no realism, and only their superposition (summation and squaring) have meaning. Thus, in Passons view, virtual particles that show up in individual QFT terms should not be considered real. This argument against virtual particles is known to philosophers as the superposition argument, and it can seem like a strong one.

But Jaeger thinks the argument is besides the point. Ironically, he sees this critique as being stuck in mathematical abstractions itself. He agrees that the individual terms cannot tell the whole story, "but it doesnt mean the particle didnt go through space, he said.

The mathematics may not tell which slit the particle passes through, but it doesnt mean that the mathematics is wrong. The mathematics still correctly predicts the passage of a particle through intervening space, and the probability of where it eventually lands. And in QFT, the mathematics indisputably relies on the presence of virtual particles.

Interestingly, quantum field theory actually says matter is fundamentally made up of fields rather than particles, let alone virtual particles. For every elementary particle, such as a photon, QFT says there is a fundamental field (such as a photon field) existing in space, overlapping with all of the other particle fields. Most of these fields are invisible to our eyes, with notable exceptions like the photon field.

Ask any physicist on the planet, whats our current best theory of physics, and theyre going to give you a theory of fields, said David Tong, a theoretical physicist and professor at the University of Cambridge. It doesnt include one particle in those equations [for fields]. Still, physicists more commonly refer to particles than their underlying fields, as particles can provide a more convenient and intuitive concept.

To question the existence of ordinary (non-virtual) particles would be counterproductive, according to Brigitte Falkenburg, a professor at the Technical University of Munich who wrote a comprehensive book on the subject, Particle Metaphysics.

The evidence against their existence is that they cannot be directly observed, but then, this was the argument of Galileos enemies, who refused to look through the telescope to observe Jupiters moons, Falkenburg said.

Particles and fields might instead be looked at as two different interpretations of the same thing. The physicist Matt Strassler has blogged extensively to try and clarify the interpretation of virtual particles based on an understanding of fields.

As he writes on his blog, particles can be thought of like permanent ripples in the underlying particle fields, like ripples fixed on the surface of water. Virtual particles on the other hand are more like fleeting waves.

As Jaeger points out, under this interpretation, the narrative of infinitely many virtual particles popping up makes more sense. There are only a finite number of particle fields, since only a finite number of elementary particles have been discovered. An infinitude of virtual particles popping up would be just like the infinitude of small changes that we can feel in a single gusting wind.

Jaeger is currently refining his own picture of virtual particles as fluctuations in the underlying quantum fields. The key part about these fluctuations for Jaeger is that they must conserve overall quantities like energy, charge and momentum, the key principles of modern physics.

In the end, there seems to be good reason not to think of virtual particles as ordinary, observable particles, but that whatever they are, they are real. The difficulty of interpreting their existence points at the complexity of the quantum field theory from which they originate.

As of now, no one knows how to replace QFT with a theory that is more straightforward to explain and interpret. But if they did, then they would have to settle the question of the true nature of the virtual particle, perhaps the most enigmatic inhabitant of the smallest of scales.

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OK, WTF Are Virtual Particles and Do They Actually Exist? - VICE

Is the Big Bang in crisis? | Astronomy.com – Astronomy Magazine

Similar to the situation cosmologists confront today, however, the physicists of 1904 had not yet been able to address a few challenges. The medium through which they believed light traveled the luminiferous ether should have induced variations in the speed of light, and yet light always moves through space at the same rate. Astronomers observed the orbit of Mercury to be slightly different from what Newtonian physics predicted, leading some to suggest that an unknown planet, dubbed Vulcan, might be perturbing Mercurys trajectory.

Physicists in 1904 had no idea what powered the Sun no known chemical or mechanical process could possibly generate so much energy over such a long time. Lastly, scientists knew various chemical elements emitted and absorbed light with specific patterns, none of which physicists had the slightest idea how to explain. In other words, the inner workings of the atom remained a total and utter mystery.

Although few saw it coming, in hindsight, its clear that these problems were heralds of a revolution in physics. And in 1905, the revolution arrived, ushered in by a young Albert Einstein and his new theory of relativity. We now know that the luminiferous ether does not exist and that there is no planet Vulcan. Instead, these fictions were symptoms of the underlying failure of Newtonian physics. Relativity beautifully solved and explained each of these mysteries without any need for new substances or planets.

Furthermore, when scientists combined relativity with the new theory of quantum physics, it became possible to explain the Suns longevity, as well as the inner workings of atoms. These new theories even opened doors to new and previously unimagined lines of inquiry, including that of cosmology itself.

Scientific revolutions can profoundly transform how we see and understand our world. But radical change is never easy to see coming. There is probably no way to tell whether the mysteries faced by cosmologists today are the signs of an imminent scientific revolution or merely the last few loose ends of an incredibly successful scientific endeavor.

There is no question that we have made incredible progress in understanding our universe, its history, and its origin. But it is also undeniable that we are profoundly puzzled, especially when it comes to the earliest moments of cosmic history. I have no doubt that these moments hold incredible secrets, and perhaps the keys to a new scientific revolution. But our universe holds its secrets closely. It is up to us to coax those secrets from its grip, transforming them from mystery into discovery.

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Is the Big Bang in crisis? | Astronomy.com - Astronomy Magazine

New Tool Could Pave the Way for Future Insights in Quantum Chemistry – AZoQuantum

Written by AZoQuantumMay 13 2020

The amount of energy needed to make or disintegrate a molecule can now be calculated more accurately than traditional methods using a new machine learning tool. Although the new tool can only deal with simple molecules at present, it opens the door to gain future insights into quantum chemistry.

Using machine learning to solve the fundamental equations governing quantum chemistry has been an open problem for several years, and theres a lot of excitement around it right now.

Giuseppe Carleo, Research Scientist, Center for Computational Quantum Physics, Flatiron Institute

Carleo, who is the co-creator of the tool, added that better insights into the formation and degradation of molecules could expose the inner workings of the chemical reactions crucial to life.

Carleo and his colleagues Kenny Choo from the University of Zurich and Antonio Mezzacapo from the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York, published their study in Nature Communications on May 12th, 2020.

The tool developed by the researchers predicts the energy required to put together or break apart a molecule, for example, ammonia or water. For this calculation, it is necessary to determine the electronic structure of the molecule, which comprises the collective behavior of the electrons binding the molecule together.

The electronic structure of a molecule is complex to find and requires determining all the possible states the electrons in the molecule could be in, along with the probability of each state.

Electrons interact and entangle quantum mechanically with each other. Therefore, researchers cannot treat them individually. More electrons lead to more entanglements, and thus the problem turns exponentially more challenging.

There are no exact solutions for molecules that are more complex compared to the two electrons found in a pair of hydrogen atoms. Even approximations are not so accurate when more than a few electrons are involved.

One of the difficulties is that the electronic structure of a molecule includes states for an infinite number of orbitals that move further away from the atoms. Moreover, it is not easy to differentiate one electron from another, and the same state cannot be occupied by two electrons. The latter rule is the result of exchange symmetry, which governs the consequences when identical particles change states.

Mezzacapo and the team at IBM Quantum devised a technique for reducing the number of orbitals considered and enforcing exchange symmetry. This technique is based on approaches developed for quantum computing applications and renders the problem more analogous to scenarios in which electrons are restricted to predefined locations, for example, in a rigid lattice.

The problem was made more manageable by the similarity to rigid lattices. Earlier, Carleo trained neural networks to remodel the behavior of electrons restricted to the sites of a lattice.

The researchers could propose solutions to Mezzacapos compacted problems by extending those techniques. The neural network developed by the team calculates the probability for each state. This probability can be used to predict the energy of a specific state. The molecule is the most stable in the lowest energy level, also called the equilibrium energy.

Thanks to the innovations of the researchers, the electronic structure of a basic molecule can be calculated quickly and easily. To demonstrate the accuracy of their approaches, the researchers estimated the amount of energy required to break a real-world molecule and its bonds.

The researchers performed calculations for lithium hydride (LiH), dihydrogen (H2), water (H2O), ammonia (NH3), dinitrogen (N2), and diatomic carbon (C2). The researchers estimates for all the molecules were found to be highly accurate even in ranges where current methods struggle.

The aim of the researchers is to handle larger and more complex molecules by employing more advanced neural networks. One objective is to tackle chemicals such as those found in the nitrogen cycle, where nitrogen-based molecules are made and broken by biological processes to render them usable for life.

We want this to be a tool that could be used by chemists to process these problems.

Giuseppe Carleo, Research Scientist, Center for Computational Quantum Physics, Flatiron Institute

Carleo, Choo, and Mezzacapo are not the only researchers seeking to use machine learning to handle problems in quantum chemistry. In September 2019, they first presented their study on arXiv.org. In the same month, a research group in Germany and another one at Googles DeepMind in London reported their studies that involved using machine learning to reconstruct the electronic structure of molecules.

The other two groups made use of a similar method that does not constrain the number of orbitals considered. However, this inclusiveness is more computationally laborious, a disadvantage that will only worsen when more complex molecules are involved.

Using the same computational resources, the method employed by Carleo, Choo, and Mezzacapo produces higher accuracy; however, the simplifications performed to achieve this accuracy could lead to biases.

Overall, its a trade-off between bias and accuracy, and its unclear which of the two approaches has more potential for the future. Only time will tell us which of these approaches can be scaled up to the challenging open problems in chemistry.

Giuseppe Carleo, Research Scientist, Center for Computational Quantum Physics, Flatiron Institute

Choo, K., et al. (2020) Fermionic neural-network states for ab-initio electronic structure. Nature Communications. doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15724-9.

Source: https://www.simonsfoundation.org/

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New Tool Could Pave the Way for Future Insights in Quantum Chemistry - AZoQuantum

Registration Open for Inaugural IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering (QCE20) – thepress.net

LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., May 14, 2020 /PRNewswire/ --Registration is now open for the inaugural IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering (QCE20), a multidisciplinary event focusing on quantum technology, research, development, and training. QCE20, also known as IEEE Quantum Week, will deliver a series of world-class keynotes, workforce-building tutorials, community-building workshops, and technical paper presentations and posters on October 12-16 in Denver, Colorado.

"We're thrilled to open registration for the inaugural IEEE Quantum Week, founded by the IEEE Future Directions Initiative and supported by multiple IEEE Societies and organizational units," said Hausi Mller, QCE20 general chair and co-chair of the IEEE Quantum Initiative."Our initial goal is to address the current landscape of quantum technologies, identify challenges and opportunities, and engage the quantum community. With our current Quantum Week program, we're well on track to deliver a first-rate quantum computing and engineering event."

QCE20's keynote speakersinclude the following quantum groundbreakers and leaders:

The week-long QCE20 tutorials program features 15 tutorials by leading experts aimed squarely at workforce development and training considerations. The tutorials are ideally suited to develop quantum champions for industry, academia, and government and to build expertise for emerging quantum ecosystems.

Throughout the week, 19 QCE20 workshopsprovide forums for group discussions on topics in quantum research, practice, education, and applications. The exciting workshops provide unique opportunities to share and discuss quantum computing and engineering ideas, research agendas, roadmaps, and applications.

The deadline for submitting technical papers to the eight technical paper tracks is May 22. Papers accepted by QCE20 will be submitted to the IEEE Xplore Digital Library. The best papers will be invited to the journalsIEEE Transactions on Quantum Engineering(TQE)andACM Transactions on Quantum Computing(TQC).

QCE20 provides attendees a unique opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities with quantum researchers, scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, developers, students, practitioners, educators, programmers, and newcomers. QCE20 is co-sponsored by the IEEE Computer Society, IEEE Communications Society, IEEE Council on Superconductivity,IEEE Electronics Packaging Society (EPS), IEEE Future Directions Quantum Initiative, IEEE Photonics Society, and IEEETechnology and Engineering Management Society (TEMS).

Register to be a part of the highly anticipated inaugural IEEE Quantum Week 2020. Visit qce.quantum.ieee.org for event news and all program details, including sponsorship and exhibitor opportunities.

About the IEEE Computer SocietyThe IEEE Computer Society is the world's home for computer science, engineering, and technology. A global leader in providing access to computer science research, analysis, and information, the IEEE Computer Society offers a comprehensive array of unmatched products, services, and opportunities for individuals at all stages of their professional career. Known as the premier organization that empowers the people who drive technology, the IEEE Computer Society offers international conferences, peer-reviewed publications, a unique digital library, and training programs. Visit http://www.computer.orgfor more information.

About the IEEE Communications Society The IEEE Communications Societypromotes technological innovation and fosters creation and sharing of information among the global technical community. The Society provides services to members for their technical and professional advancement and forums for technical exchanges among professionals in academia, industry, and public institutions.

About the IEEE Council on SuperconductivityThe IEEE Council on Superconductivityand its activities and programs cover the science and technology of superconductors and their applications, including materials and their applications for electronics, magnetics, and power systems, where the superconductor properties are central to the application.

About the IEEE Electronics Packaging SocietyThe IEEE Electronics Packaging Societyis the leading international forum for scientists and engineers engaged in the research, design, and development of revolutionary advances in microsystems packaging and manufacturing.

About the IEEE Future Directions Quantum InitiativeIEEE Quantumis an IEEE Future Directions initiative launched in 2019 that serves as IEEE's leading community for all projects and activities on quantum technologies. IEEE Quantum is supported by leadership and representation across IEEE Societies and OUs. The initiative addresses the current landscape of quantum technologies, identifies challenges and opportunities, leverages and collaborates with existing initiatives, and engages the quantum community at large.

About the IEEE Photonics SocietyTheIEEE Photonics Societyforms the hub of a vibrant technical community of more than 100,000 professionals dedicated to transforming breakthroughs in quantum physics into the devices, systems, and products to revolutionize our daily lives. From ubiquitous and inexpensive global communications via fiber optics, to lasers for medical and other applications, to flat-screen displays, to photovoltaic devices for solar energy, to LEDs for energy-efficient illumination, there are myriad examples of the Society's impact on the world around us.

About the IEEE Technology and Engineering Management SocietyIEEE TEMSencompasses the management sciences and practices required for defining, implementing, and managing engineering and technology.

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Registration Open for Inaugural IEEE International Conference on Quantum Computing and Engineering (QCE20) - thepress.net

What part of ‘public’ does PSC not get? – The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Several state news organizations have asked for what are clearly public documents from the state Public Service Commission. The commissions response? It has filed a lawsuit against those news organizations.

This represents a troubling pattern of behavior on the part of public agencies. The agencies claim they sue in order to get the courts to tell them what documents they are required to turn over. But this action forces anyone who makes a request for public documents not just media organizations to retain legal counsel, often at considerable expense.

The case in point involves emails sent and received by one commissioner, Roger Koopman. Koopman has been embroiled in internal disputes within the all-Republican commission. And some of the emails in question were leaked to a right-wing media website that posted them online. That prompted other news organizations the Billings Gazette, Yellowstone Public Radio and the Great Falls Tribune to request all the emails associated with the controversy.

This isnt quantum physics. The courts have long established that emails sent and received by public officials using government computers and email services are public documents and must be turned over on request from the public. State open government law requires public officials to balance the right to privacy with their obligations to hand over public documents. And Koopman maintains that three of the emails leaked to NorthWest Liberty News were personal in nature and should be exempted from public disclosure. These are simple determinations to make and the commission does not need a district court judge to make those determinations.

Lets call this what it is. The net effect of dragging these requests into court is to discourage requests for public documents. Any member of the public has a right to see public documents. But not everyone has the resources to hire a lawyer to get those documents nor should they have to.

The Montana Constitution and the statutes that emanate from it are clear. Government is to be transparent in all its actions. All meetings are to be open to the public and what are clearly public documents must be produced when requested.

Lets put the public back into the Public Service Commission: rescind the court action and hand over the emails in question.

To see what else is happening in Gallatin County subscribe to the online paper.

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What part of 'public' does PSC not get? - The Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Ninja Sex Party’s Brian Wecht ’97 talks rings, physics and musical comedy The Williams Record – The Williams record

When Brian Wecht 97 lost his high school class ring while living in Gladden his junior year, he didnt think much of it. The ring was bulky and ornately carved, with a hefty green gemstone embedded in the center definitely not my vibe, Wecht said and he was content to forget about it.

That was until a little over two months ago, when he received an email from Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Juan Baena 07 with the subject line: Your high school ring?

A forgotten class ring had been recovered from Room 46 in Gladden, Baena explained, back in May of 1996. The ring spent the following 24 years in a custodians drawer, forgotten again, until it ended up on Baenas desk just days before campus closed this March. Tracking down the owner was a matter of a simple search in the records database, as Wechts initials and the name of his high school are engraved on the ring.

Wecht shared the exchange on Twitter, and the post quickly gained traction, receiving more than 40,000 likes. He was nonchalant about the response.

Im kind of a public figure because of this band Im in, he said. I dont mean this to come across in a jerk-y way, but its not the strangest thing in the world for my tweets to get a couple thousand likes.

Actually, Wecht was being modest: His Twitter account has almost half a million followers, and as a founding member of the musical comedy duo Ninja Sex Party, hes no stranger to public attention. In the band, Wechts stage persona is Ninja Brian, a supernatural psychopath whose silent demeanor and shadowy image contrast sharply with the colorful spandex of his flamboyant bandmate Dan Avidan, known on stage as Danny Sexbang.

Their work ranges from raucous comedy-rock, with lyrics that are raunchy but good-natured, to cover albums that display their affinity for 70s and 80s hair metal and prog rock. Avidan performs the vocals, and Wecht focuses on keyboards; for their first few albums, Wecht handled all of the instruments, but the duo now works with a backing band.

On Ninja Sex Partys first international trip, to a sketch comedy festival in Toronto, Wecht almost lost the only other ring hes ever owned: his wedding ring.

I try to stay in character in the sense that I take my wedding ring off when Im in costume, and when I got back to the green room to put back on my normal clothes, it was gone, Wecht said. A group of other performers helped him scour the green room (luckily, comedians are generally good people, he said) and Avidan eventually retrieved the ring. Ive had some close calls a couple of other times with it, Wecht said, but I havent lost it yet.

But before hed donned Ninja Brians black balaclava and perfected his steely glare before hed dreamed of starring opposite Danny Sexbang in over-the-top music videos that regularly get millions of views Wecht was a theoretical physicist.

And before that, he was a long-haired, spectacled kid from northern New Jersey who was trying to figure out what courses to take. His first-year advisor, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Edward Burger, persuaded Wecht to try an advanced math class, and Wecht ended up carving out a path at the College as a music and math double major.

In his free time, Wecht participated in almost every instrumental ensemble in the music department: He conducted the student symphony, was in the jazz ensemble and Symphonic Winds and occasionally played saxophone in the Berkshire Symphony or joined small jazz groups. He was also in the band for Frosh Revue the only comedy group he was at all involved with and conducted and played in the pit for several Cap & Bells musicals.

Math and music were Wechts passions in the classroom, but he also found space for the first two years of the core physics curriculum, leading him to take quantum mechanics as an elective in his senior year. That class, with Professor of Physics Tiku Majumder, inspired Wecht to consider pursuing physics after graduation, setting him down what he described as a very curvy path to graduate school.

Though he was initially set to enroll in a doctoral program in music composition at Duke, Wecht canceled his plans, got a short-term job teaching in Connecticut and spent the summer studying for the physics GREs. After getting essentially a zero on his first try, he managed to eke out an adequate score, and he soon began working toward his doctorate at the University of California, San Diego, which he completed in 2004.

Following graduate school, where he concentrated on theoretical particle physics, Wecht took a series of postdoctoral positions at Harvard, MIT, the Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Michigan. While he was at MIT, he indulged his passions for music and comedy as the musical director for the Boston sketch club Improv Asylum.

My main improv gig for a while was coaching Create an hour-long musical from a title suggestion kind of stuff, he said. Its like all improv: When its done well, youre like, Oh my god, this is literal magic. And when its bad, youre like, Oh, kill me.

When he was at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., Wecht took advantage of the relatively close proximity to New York City to get involved with the musical comedy scene there. He was introduced to Avidan by a mutual friend at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in 2009.

We met because Dan sent me an email and was like, I have this idea for a band. Its called Ninja Sex Party. Thats everything I know about this idea so far. So, like, lets talk about it, Wecht recalled. I was like, Thats a cool name. Lets discuss.

And so Ninja Brian was born. While Wecht differs from his character in that he is not a homicidal maniac, his natural deadpan and knack for intense stares complement Danny Sexbangs rakish exuberance.

Not long after the pair began collaborating, Wecht secured a position at the Centre for Research in String Theory at Queen Mary University in London. He and his wife, Rachel Wecht, hoped it would be their final move after years of traveling for work. Around the same time, Avidan moved to Los Angeles, on the opposite end of the globe, and ended up joining the YouTube channel Game Grumps, a popular comedic gaming web series.

Suddenly, Ninja Sex Party had a soapbox YouTube provided an ideal platform for connecting with the kind of audience who would appreciate what they were trying to do, and a video-game-oriented side project, Starbomb, soon cropped up.

After a year, a baby, and a lot of soul searching, the groups popularity continued to grow, and Wecht began to sense that the band was on a trajectory where maybe it wouldnt be the dumbest idea to do this full-time.

He was faced with an agonizing decision choosing between a stable job in physics after years of drifting through academia, and the unpredictable life of a full-time comedy musician and having recently turned 40, Wecht said he was aware that the situation carried the whiff of midlife crisis.

But when he received a formal job offer from Game Grumps, he knew that he would never have such a chance again. I thought, If I dont do this now, this is going to be the thing I regret forever, he said.

When it came to quitting his job at the university, Wecht said he made one huge tactical mistake he broke the news to his colleagues on April Fools Day. After explaining to some of the older faculty what a YouTube channel was, and making clear that he was serious, he still had to admit, On paper, thats pretty damning. It really doesnt look good.

With his wifes reluctant approval, Wecht and his family moved to Los Angeles in the summer of 2015, and Ninja Sex Partys third album came out a few weeks later, peaking at No. 1 on Billboards U.S. Comedy Albums chart.

Ninja Sex Party has since released eight albums and toured around the world. In addition to live shows in which Ninja Brian often acts on stage as an agent of chaos and an arrogant jerk in order to rile up the audience the band maintains a massive YouTube presence, with 1.32 million subscribers.

Every song we write, we think about what the video is going to be, Wecht said, noting that the music videos, which have starred guests such as Stranger Things actor Finn Wolfhard, are a major way that their work gets attention.

Last summer, Wecht teamed up with songwriter and producer Jim Roach to form a childrens music group called Go Banana Go! The band was profiled last week on NPR and released their debut album, Hi-YA!, earlier this month.

Its going well, and Im grateful every day that I get to actually do this, Wecht said. Its an unusual, fun career thats easy to explain, even to little kids. I can explain to my five-year-old that I get to play music for a living and it even seems cool to her.

His daughter (known by fans as Ninja Audrey) contributed lyrics and conceptual inspiration for Pizza Feet, which is accompanied by an animated music video, and Rachel Wecht is featured on Queen of No Share.

Although he tries to stay up to date on the world of physics through contact with friends and former colleagues on social media (half of my Facebook feed is theoretical physicists) and attends the occasional lecture, Wecht said the fast-paced nature of physics research means it would be very difficult for him to jump back in. I remember taking time off when my wife had a baby and after just a few months, I was like, Wait, I dont understand whats happening in physics, he said.

Though he doesnt plan to return to the world of academia, physics will always be a part of Wechts identity. I say Im a musician and YouTuber sometimes throw comedian in there because thats a big part of it and then also a former theoretical physicist, he said. Some people will say retired theoretical physicist, which is accurate, but also makes me sound like Im 70.

He said he would be open to the idea of teaching in a more relaxed capacity, either on comedic songwriting or topics in science. In 2010, he co-founded The Story Collider, a nonprofit podcast organization aimed at blending science and storytelling, which hosted an event at the College in 2016. I would absolutely love to do something else academic, he said, but I think it would probably be a one-off, one semester, weird-topic class.

What about a Winter Study course, on comedy songwriting or storytelling in science?

I would love to come teach something at Williams, he said. The idea of spending January in Williamstown is very appealing to me.

Whether or not hell ever return to the College in a professional role, Wechts enduring appreciation for his time here shone through in his reaction to receiving the class ring, which arrived in the mail last week.

To me, its a testament to what kind of people Williams associates with, more than the actual object itself, he said, adding to his original tweet about the incident, where he wrote, What a wonderful, considerate gesture, and so typical of the kind of people I knew at @WilliamsCollege.

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Ninja Sex Party's Brian Wecht '97 talks rings, physics and musical comedy The Williams Record - The Williams record

Physicists Criticize Stephen Wolfram’s ‘Theory of Everything’ – Scientific American

Stephen Wolfram blames himself for not changing the face of physics sooner.

I do fault myself for not having done this 20 years ago, the physicist turned software entrepreneur says. To be fair, I also fault some people in the physics community for trying to prevent it happening 20 years ago. They were successful. Back in 2002, after years of labor, Wolfram self-published A New Kind of Science, a 1,200-page magnum opus detailing the general idea that nature runs on ultrasimple computational rules. The book was an instant best seller and received glowing reviews: the New York Times called it a first-class intellectual thrill. But Wolframs arguments found few converts among scientists. Their work carried on, and he went back to running his software company Wolfram Research. And that is where things remaineduntil last month, when, accompanied by breathless press coverage (and a 448-page preprint paper), Wolfram announced a possible path to the fundamental theory of physics based on his unconventional ideas. Once again, physicists are unconvincedin no small part, they say, because existing theories do a better job than his model.

At its heart, Wolframs new approach is a computational picture of the cosmosone where the fundamental rules that the universe obeys resemble lines of computer code. This code acts on a graph, a network of points with connections between them, that grows and changes as the digital logic of the code clicks forward, one step at a time. According to Wolfram, this graph is the fundamental stuff of the universe. From the humble beginning of a small graph and a short set of rules, fabulously complex structures can rapidly appear. Even when the underlying rules for a system are extremely simple, the behavior of the system as a whole can be essentially arbitrarily rich and complex, he wrote in a blog post summarizing the idea. And this got me thinking: Could the universe work this way? Wolfram and his collaborator Jonathan Gorard, a physics Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cambridge and a consultant at Wolfram Research, found that this kind of model could reproduce some of the aspects of quantum theory and Einsteins general theory of relativity, the two fundamental pillars of modern physics.

But Wolframs models ability to incorporate currently accepted physics is not necessarily that impressive. Its this sort of infinitely flexible philosophy where, regardless of what anyone said was true about physics, they could then assert, Oh, yeah, you could graft something like that onto our model, says Scott Aaronson, a quantum computer scientist at the University of Texas at Austin.

When asked about such criticisms, Gorard agreesto a point. Were just kind of fitting things, he says. But we're only doing that so we can actually go and do a systematized search for specific rules that fit those of our universe.

Wolfram and Gorard have not yet found any computational rules meeting those requirements, however. And without those rules, they cannot make any definite, concrete new predictions that could be experimentally tested. Indeed, according to critics, Wolframs model has yet to even reproduce the most basic quantitative predictions of conventional physics. The experimental predictions of [quantum physics and general relativity] have been confirmed to many decimal placesin some cases, to a precision of one part in [10 billion], says Daniel Harlow, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. So far I see no indication that this could be done using the simple kinds of [computational rules] advocated by Wolfram. The successes he claims are, at best, qualitative. Further, even that qualitative success is limited: There are crucial features of modern physics missing from the model. And the parts of physics that it can qualitatively reproduce are mostly there because Wolfram and his colleagues put them in to begin with. This arrangement is akin to announcing, If we suppose that a rabbit was coming out of the hat, then remarkably, this rabbit would be coming out of the hat, Aaronson says. And then [going] on and on about how remarkable it is.

Unsurprisingly, Wolfram disagrees. He claims that his model has replicated most of fundamental physics already. From an extremely simple model, were able to reproduce special relativity, general relativity and the core results of quantum mechanics, he says, which, of course, are what have led to so many precise quantitative predictions of physics over the past century.

Even Wolframs critics acknowledge he is right about at least one thing: it is genuinely interesting that simple computational rules can lead to such complex phenomena. But, they hasten to add, that is hardly an original discovery. The idea goes back long before Wolfram, Harlow says. He cites the work of computing pioneers Alan Turing in the 1930s and John von Neumann in the 1950s, as well as that of mathematician John Conway in the early 1970s. (Conway, a professor at Princeton University, died of COVID-19 last month.) To the contrary, Wolfram insists that he was the first to discover that virtually boundless complexity could arise from simple rules in the 1980s. John von Neumann, he absolutely didnt see this, Wolfram says. John Conway, same thing.

Born in London in 1959, Wolfram was a child prodigy who studied at Eton College and the University of Oxford before earning a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1979at the age of 20. After his Ph.D., Caltech promptly hired Wolfram to work alongside his mentors, including physicist Richard Feynman. I dont know of any others in this field that have the wide range of understanding of Dr. Wolfram, Feynman wrote in a letter recommending him for the first ever round of MacArthur genius grants in 1981. He seems to have worked on everything and has some original or careful judgement on any topic. Wolfram won the grantat age 21, making him among the youngest ever to receive the awardand became a faculty member at Caltech and then a long-term member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J. While at the latter, he became interested in simple computational systems and then moved to the University of Illinois in 1986 to start a research center to study the emergence of complex phenomena. In 1987 he founded Wolfram Research, and shortly after he left academia altogether. The software companys flagship product, Mathematica, is a powerful and impressive piece of mathematics software that has sold millions of copies and is today nearly ubiquitous in physics and mathematics departments worldwide.

Then, in the 1990s, Wolfram decided to go back to scientific researchbut without the support and input provided by a traditional research environment. By his own account, he sequestered himself for about a decade, putting together what would eventually become A New Kind of Science with the assistance of a small army of his employees.

Upon the release of the book, the media was ensorcelled by the romantic image of the heroic outsider returning from the wilderness to single-handedly change all of science. Wired dubbed Wolfram the man who cracked the code to everything on its cover. Wolfram has earned some bragging rights, the New York Times proclaimed. No one has contributed more seminally to this new way of thinking about the world. Yet then, as now, researchers largely ignored and derided his work. Theres a tradition of scientists approaching senility to come up with grand, improbable theories, the late physicist Freeman Dyson told Newsweek back in 2002. Wolfram is unusual in that hes doing this in his 40s.

Wolframs story is exactly the sort that many people want to hear, because it matches the familiar beats of dramatic tales from science history that they already know: the lone genius (usually white and male), laboring in obscurity and rejected by the establishment, emerges from isolation, triumphantly grasping a piece of the Truth. But that is rarelyif everhow scientific discovery actually unfolds. There are examples from the history of science that superficially fit this image: Think of Albert Einstein toiling away on relativity as an obscure Swiss patent clerk at the turn of the 20th century. Or, for a more recent example, consider mathematician Andrew Wiles working in his attic for years to prove Fermats last theorem before finally announcing his success in 1995. But portraying those discoveries as the work of a solo genius, romantic as it is, belies the real working process of science. Science is a group effort. Einstein was in close contact with researchers of his day, and Wiless work followed a path laid out by other mathematicians just a few years before he got started. Both of them were active, regular participants in the wider scientific community. And even so, they remain exceptions to the rule. Most major scientific breakthroughs are far more collaborativequantum physics, for example, was developed slowly over a quarter-century by dozens of physicists around the world.

I think the popular notion that physicists are all in search of the eureka moment in which they will discover the theory of everything is an unfortunate one, says Katie Mack, a cosmologist at North Carolina State University. We do want to find better, more complete theories. But the way we go about that is to test and refine our models, look for inconsistencies and incrementally work our way toward better, more complete models.

Most scientists would readily tell you that their discipline isand always has beena collaborative, communal process. Nobody can revolutionize a scientific field without first getting the critical appraisal and eventual validation of their peers. Today this requirement is performed through peer reviewa process Wolframs critics say he has circumvented with his announcement. Certainly theres no reason that Wolfram and his colleagues should be able to bypass formal peer review, Mack says. And they definitely have a much better chance of getting useful feedback from the physics community if they publish their results in a format we actually have the tools to deal with.

Mack is not alone in her concerns. Its hard to expect physicists to comb through hundreds of pages of a new theory out of the blue, with no buildup in the form of papers, seminars and conference presentations, says Sean Carroll, a physicist at Caltech. Personally, I feel it would be more effective to write short papers addressing specific problems with this kind of approach rather than proclaiming a breakthrough without much vetting.

So why did Wolfram announce his ideas this way? Why not go the traditional route? I don't really believe in anonymous peer review, he says. I think its corrupt. Its all a giant story of somewhat corrupt gaming, I would say. I think its sort of inevitable that happens with these very large systems. Its a pity.

So what are Wolframs goals? He says he wants the attention and feedback of the physics community. But his unconventional approachsoliciting public comments on an exceedingly long paperalmost ensures it shall remain obscure. Wolfram says he wants physicists respect. The ones consulted for this story said gaining it would require him to recognize and engage with the prior work of others in the scientific community.

And when provided with some of the responses from other physicists regarding his work, Wolfram is singularly unenthused. Im disappointed by the naivete of the questions that youre communicating, he grumbles. I deserve better.

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Physicists Criticize Stephen Wolfram's 'Theory of Everything' - Scientific American

Recent Research Answers the Future of Quantum Machine Learning on COVID-19 – Analytics Insight

We have all seen movies or read books about an apocalyptic world where humankind is fighting against a deadly pathogen, and researchers are in a race against time to find a cure for the same. But COVID-19 is not a fictional chapter, it is real, and scientists all over the world are frantically looking for patterns in data by employing powerful supercomputers with the hopes of finding a speedier breakthrough in vaccine discovery for the COVID-19.

A team of researchers from Penn State University has recently unearthed a solution that has the potential to expedite the process of discovering a novel coronavirus treatment that is by employing an innovative hybrid branch of research known as quantum machine learning. Quantum Machine Learning is the latest field that combines both machine learning and quantum physics. The team is led by Swaroop Ghosh, Joseph R., and Janice M. Monkowski Career Development Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Engineering.

In cases where a computer science-driven approach is implemented to identify a cure, most methodologies leverage machine learning to focus on screening different compounds one at a time to see if they can find a bond with the virus main protease, or protein. And the quantum machine learning method could yield quicker results and is more economical than any current methods used for drug discovery.

According to Prof. Ghosh, discovering any new drug that can cure a disease is like finding a needle in a haystack. Further, it is an incredibly expensive, laborious, and time-consuming solution. Using the current conventional pipeline for discovering new drugs can take between five and ten years from the concept stage to being released to the market and could cost billions in the process.

He further adds, High-performance computing such as supercomputers and artificial intelligence canhelp accelerate this process by screeningbillions of chemical compounds quicklyto findrelevant drugcandidates.

This approach works when enough chemical compounds are available in the pipeline, but unfortunately, this is not true for COVID-19. This project will explorequantum machine learning to unlock new capabilities in drug discovery by generating complex compounds quickly, he explains.

The funding from the Penn State Institute for Computational and Data Sciences, coordinated through the Penn State Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences as part of their rapid-response seed funding for research across the University to address COVID-19, is supporting this work.

Ghosh and his electrical engineering doctoral students Mahabubul Alam and Abdullah Ash Saki and computer science and engineering postgraduate students Junde Li and Ling Qiu have earlier worked on developing a toolset for solving particular types of problems known as combinatorial optimization problems, using quantum computing. Drug discovery too comes under a similar category. And hence their experience in this sector has made it possible for the researchers to explore in the search for a COVID-19 treatment while using the same toolset that they had already developed.

Ghosh considers the usage of Artificial intelligence fordrug discovery to be a very new area. The biggest challenge is finding an unknown solution to the problem by using technologies thatare still evolving that is, quantum computing and quantum machine learning.Weare excited about the prospects of quantum computing in addressinga current critical issue and contributing our bit in resolving this grave challenge. he elaborates.

Based on a report by McKinsey & Partner, the field of quantum computing technology is expected to have a global market value of US$1 trillion by 2035. This exciting scope of quantum machine learning can further boost the economic value while helping the healthcare industry in defeating the COVID-19.

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Recent Research Answers the Future of Quantum Machine Learning on COVID-19 - Analytics Insight

Is string theory worth it? – Space.com

Paul M. Sutter is an astrophysicist at SUNY Stony Brook and the Flatiron Institute, host of Ask a Spaceman and Space Radio, and author of "Your Place in the Universe." Sutter contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

String theory has had a long and venerable career. Starting in the 1960s as an attempt to explain the strong nuclear force, it has now grown to become a candidate theory of everything: a single unifying framework for understanding just about all the things in and about the universe. Quantum gravity? String theory. Electron mass? String theory. Strength of the forces? String theory. Dark energy? String theory. Speed of light? String theory.

It's such a tempting, beautiful idea. But it's also been 60 years without a result, without a final theory and without predictions to test against experiment in the real universe. Should we keep hanging on to the idea?

Related: Putting string theory to the test

There's a reason that string theory has held onto the hearts and minds of so many physicists and mathematicians over the decades, and that has to do with gravity. Folding gravity into our understanding of quantum mechanics has proven fiendishly difficult not even Albert Einstein himself could figure it out. But despite all our attempts, we have not been able to craft a successful quantum description of gravity. Every time we try, the mathematics just gets tangled in knots of infinities, rending predictions impossible.

But in the 1970s, theorists discovered something remarkable. Buried inside the mathematics of string theory was a generic prediction for something called a graviton, which is the force carrier of gravity. And since string theory is, by its very construction, a quantum theory, it means that it automatically provides a quantum theory of gravity.

This is indeed quite tantalizing. It's the only theory of fundamental physics that simply includes gravity and the original string theory wasn't even trying!

And yet, decades later, nobody has been able to come up with a complete description of string theory. All we have are various approximations that we hope describe the ultimate theory (and hints of an overarching framework known as "M-theory"), but none of these approximations are capable of delivering actual predictions for what we might see in our collider experiments or out there in the universe.

Even after all these decades, and the lure of a unified theory of all of physics, string theory isn't "done."

One of the many challenges of string theory is that it predicts the existence of extra dimensions in our universe that are all knotted and curled up on themselves at extremely small scales. Suffice it to say, there are a lot of ways that these dimensions can interfold somewhere in the ballpark of 10100,000. And since the particular arrangement of the extra dimensions determines how the strings of string theory vibrate, and the way that the strings vibrate determines how they behave (leading to the variety of forces and particles in the world), only one of those almost uncountable arrangements of extra dimensions can correspond to our universe.

But which one?

Right now it's impossible to say through string theory itself we lack the sophistication and understanding to pick one of the arrangements, determine how the strings vibrate and hence the flavor of the universe corresponding to that arrangement.

Since it looks like string theory can't tell us which universe it prefers, lately some theorists have argued that maybe string theory prefers all universes, appealing to something called the landscape.

The landscape is a multiverse, representing all the 10100,000 possible arrangements of microscopic dimensions, and hence all the 10100,000 arrangements of physical reality. This is to say, universes. And we're just one amongst that almost-countless number.

So how did we end up with this one, and not one of the others? The argument from here follows something called the Anthropic Principle, reasoning that our universe is the way it is because if it were any different (with, say, a different speed of light or more mass on the electron) then life at least as we understand it would be impossible, and we wouldn't be here to be asking these big important questions.

If that seems to you as filling but unsatisfying as eating an entire bag of chips, you're not alone. An appeal to a philosophical argument as the ultimate, hard-won result of decades of work into string theory leaves many physicists feeling hollow.

Related: The history and structure of the universe (infographic)

The truth is, by and large most string theorists aren't working on the whole unification thing anymore. Instead, what's captured the interest of the community is an intriguing connection called the AdS/CFT correspondence. No, it's not a new accounting technique, but a proposed relationship between a version of string theory living in a 5-dimensional universe with a negative cosmological constant, and a 4-dimensional conformal field theory on the boundary of that universe.

The end result of all that mass of jargon is that some thorny problems in physics can be treated with the mathematics developed in the decades of investigating string theory. So while this doesn't solve any string theory problems itself, it does at least put all that machinery to useful work, lending a helping hand to investigate many problems from the riddle of black hole information to the exotic physics of quark-gluon plasmas.

And that's certainly something, assuming that the correspondence can be proven and the results based on string theory bear fruit.

But if that's all we get approximations to what we hope is out there, a landscape of universes, and a toolset to solve a few problems after decades of work on string theory, is it time to work on something else?

Learn more by listening to the episode "Is String Theory Worth It? (Part 6: We Should Probably Test This)" on the Ask A Spaceman podcast, available on iTunes and on the Web at http://www.askaspaceman.com. Thanks to John C., Zachary H., @edit_room, Matthew Y., Christopher L., Krizna W., Sayan P., Neha S., Zachary H., Joyce S., Mauricio M., @shrenicshah, Panos T., Dhruv R., Maria A., Ter B., oiSnowy, Evan T., Dan M., Jon T., @twblanchard, Aurie, Christopher M., @unplugged_wire, Giacomo S., Gully F. for the questions that led to this piece! Ask your own question on Twitter using #AskASpaceman or by following Paul @PaulMattSutter and facebook.com/PaulMattSutter.

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Is string theory worth it? - Space.com

Physicist Brian Greene on learning to focus on the here and now – KCRW

The coronavirus pandemic is a reminder that things can change fast and unexpectedly. As much as we look for stability, things come and go, and we live and die. Theoretical physicist and mathematician Brian Greene explains why understanding the science behind the impermanence in our world can lead to a more fulfilling life.

He explains his theories with KCRWs Jonathan Bastian. This interview has been abbreviated and edited for clarity.

In your most recent book, you write about the concept of impermanence. When did that idea become apparent to you?

Brian Greene: I think at various levels of conscious awareness, we know that we are impermanent. And it hits us in different ways at different times, depending upon where we are mentally, spiritually and what's happening in the world around us.

When I was in college and seriously thinking about what I wanted to do, I had a conversation with a mentor of mine who told me he does mathematics because once you prove a theorem in mathematics, it's true forever, it will never not be true.

That just hit me. It was a powerful moment when I recognized that you can't say that about many things in the world. And that's when I started to really think about whats available in this life that does transcend our own impermanence.

How do you then arrive at the concept of impermanence?

There is this sensibility that if you can uncover the deep laws of the universe, you are touching something that was always true. One of the things I do in the book is explore the degree to which that is actually true. Does a law of physics, does quantum mechanics have any meaning or value or purpose in the absence of human beings, or in the absence of another life form that can contemplate it? What does a deep equation mean if there isn't any conscious awareness to contemplate it?

In the far future, as I argue in the book, it's quite likely there won't be any life forms. And without lifeforms to contemplate Einsteins equations, his theory of relativity, it's hard for me to see that they have any standing in terms of the permanence that we as living creatures aspire to.

How did you come to grips with this? Did you have some kind of existential awakening?

I definitely went through a dark stance from immersing myself in the idea that you are transcending human impermanence, whether it's quantum mechanics or relativity or what have you. That was how I lived my life for many decades. And then to recognize that that perspective is probably not right, that was a shift.

But then I had this other moment in, of all places, a Starbucks. A shift that happened inside of me, where I felt like a change in perspective from grasping for an ephemeral future to just focusing on the here and now.

...Do what we've heard from mindfulness teachers and sages and philosophers across the ages to focus on the here and now, as that is the only place in which value and meaning can actually have an anchor.

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Physicist Brian Greene on learning to focus on the here and now - KCRW


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