This week in science – Nov. 18

Mark Hendricks, Science & Technology Editor Ω

Quantum computing milestone reached

A team of scientists at Simon Fraser University have just shattered a time record for preserving a fragile quantum state, a key barrier to quantum computing.

Quantum states don’t exist for very long at room temperature. The previous record was a mere two seconds, but researchers at SFU have recently managed to preserve a quantum state for 39 minutes. Preserving a quantum state at room temperature is much more practical for future quantum computing than supercooled environments.

Quantum bits of information, known as qubits, have an advantage over traditional computer storage systems which store data as a series of ones and zeroes. Because qubits are capable of existing in superposition, which enables them to be both one and zero at the same time, quantum computers are able to perform multiple calculations simultaneously.

Find out more: http://www.sfu.ca/sfunews.html

 

Potential breakthrough in quantum networks discovered

Traditional methods of measuring photons destroy the photon in the process, but a new method allows scientists to observe the photon without affecting its state. NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr Commons

Traditional methods of measuring photons destroy the photon in the process, but a new method allows scientists to observe the photon without affecting its state. NASA Goddard Photo and Video/Flickr Commons

Scientists have discovered a way to observe the passing of a photon without disturbing its quantum state, a significant discovery in the development of quantum networks.

Quantum networks promise the ability to transmit information with unbreakable encryptions by storing information in qubits. However, one of the key principles of quantum theory is that it is impossible to measure something without affecting the object being measured.

Traditionally, when a photon is observed and measured it is destroyed in the process. Photons can be transformed into qubits by polarization, causing them to exist in superposition. However as soon as they are measured they pick a single state and the extra information that it is possible to contain in the extra states is lost.

This new technique is a milestone in being able to observe this photon in superposition without destroying the extra information.

Find out more: http://www.nature.com/news/

 

Possible new origin for the domestication of dogs

A new study suggests that domestic dogs around the globe may trace their lineage to grey wolves in Europe. Todd Ryburn/Flickr Commons

A new study suggests that domestic dogs around the globe may trace their lineage to grey wolves in Europe. Todd Ryburn/Flickr Commons

A group of evolutionary biologists have come up with a new theory for the origin of canine domestication using mitochondrial DNA that suggests dogs may have first been domesticated in Europe.

The currently accepted theory points to a middle-eastern origin for canine domestication. However the new study found that the DNA sequences of dogs from around the world are more closely related to European wolves than East Asian wolves. This suggests that the origins for domestication lie there.

The team based their conclusion on observing 48,000 different genetic markers from dog and wolf species across the world and comparing them to fossilized remains.

The theory is still disputed however. Critics of the new theory say that the fossilized remains were primarily from Europe and that could have skewed the results of the study.

Find out more: http://www.sciencemag.org