Quantum physics is a field that appears to give scientists superpowers. Those who understand the world of extremely small or cold particles can perform amazing feats with them – including teleportation – that appear to bend reality.
“Demonstrating quantum effects such as teleportation outside of a lab environment involves a whole new set of challenges. This experiment shows how these challenges can all be overcome and hence it marks an important milestone towards the future quantum Internet.”
The science behind these feats is complicated, and until recently, didn’t exist outside of lab settings. But that’s changing: researchers have begun to implement quantum teleportation in real-world contexts. Being able to do so just might revolutionize modern phone and Internet communications, leading to highly secure, encrypted messaging.
Image above: This image shows crystals used for storing entangled photons, which behave as though they are part of the same whole. Scientists use crystals like these in quantum teleportation experiments. Image Credits: Félix Bussières/University of Geneva.
A paper published in Nature Photonics and co-authored by engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, details the first experiments with quantum teleportation in a metropolitan fiber cable network. For the first time, the phenomenon has been witnessed over long distances in actual city infrastructure. In Canada, University of Calgary researchers teleported the quantum state of a photon more than 3.7 miles (6 kilometers) in “dark” (unused) cables under the city of Calgary. That’s a new record for the longest distance of quantum teleportation in an actual metropolitan network.
“By using advanced superconducting detectors, we can use individual photons to efficiently communicate both classical and quantum information from space to the ground. We are planning to use more advanced versions of these detectors for demonstrations of optical communication from deep space and of quantum teleportation from the International Space Station.”
While longer distances had been recorded in the past, those were conducted in lab settings, where photons were fired through spools of cable to simulate the loss of signal caused by long distances. This latest series of experiments in Calgary tested quantum teleportation in actual infrastructure, representing a major step forward for the technology.
“Demonstrating quantum effects such as teleportation outside of a lab environment involves a whole new set of challenges. This experiment shows how these challenges can all be overcome and hence it marks an important milestone towards the future quantum Internet,” said Francesco Marsili, one of the JPL co-authors. “Quantum communication unlocks some of the unique properties of quantum mechanics to, for example, exchange information with ultimate security or link together quantum computers.”
“The superconducting detector platform, which has been pioneered by JPL and NIST researchers, makes it possible to detect single photons at telecommunications wavelengths with nearly perfect efficiency and almost no noise. This was simply not possible with earlier detector types, and so experiments such as ours, using existing fiber-infrastructure, would have been close to impossible without JPL’s detectors.”
Photon sensors for the experiment were developed by Marsili and Matt Shaw of JPL’s Microdevices Laboratory, along with colleagues at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, Colorado. Their expertise was critical to the experiments: quantum networking is done with photons, and requires some of the most sensitive sensors in the world in order to know exactly what’s happening to the particle.
“The superconducting detector platform, which has been pioneered by JPL and NIST researchers, makes it possible to detect single photons at telecommunications wavelengths with nearly perfect efficiency and almost no noise. This was simply not possible with earlier detector types, and so experiments such as ours, using existing fiber-infrastructure, would have been close to impossible without JPL’s detectors,” said Daniel Oblak of the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Science and Technology.
Safer emails using quantum physics
Shrink down to the level of a photon, and physics starts to play by bizarre rules. Scientists who understand those rules can “entangle” two particles so that their properties are linked. Entanglement is a mind-boggling concept in which particles with different characteristics, or states, can be bound together across space. That means whatever affects one particle’s state will affect the other, even if they’re located miles apart from one another.
This is where teleportation comes in. Imagine you have two entangled particles – let’s call them Photon 1 and Photon 2 – and Photon 2 is sent to a distant location. There, it meets with Photon 3, and the two interact with each other. Photon 3’s state can be transferred to Photon 2, and automatically “teleported” to the entangled twin, Photon 1. This disembodied transfer happens despite the fact that Photons 1 and 3 never interact. Read the rest of this entry »
Bryan Lufkin writes: Robots are entering the workforce. Some will work alongside you. Others, sadly, will put you out of work. The question is, which jobs are actually on the chopping block?
The answer to that has been bathed in media hype, but we talked to experts who gave us some realistic answers about which human careers might be endangered — and why.
Warehouse and factory workers
Robots are already working in distribution centres. This kind of setting is fertile ground for robot takeover, because bots are good at repetitive tasks that don’t require them to adapt to new situations on the fly. Adjusting to dynamic environments, improvising reactions, and nuancing your behaviour based on the changing situation are still very human things to do. Robot developers have a hard time perfecting those behaviours in robots, which is why we don’t see a Rosie the tidying, talking, wisecracking housemaid bot yet.
But in factories, robots can be programmed to do one thing, in one place, over and over again. It’s called “narrow AI.” A robot can be stationed in one spot on the distribution warehouse floor, lifting palettes that are all the same shape and size, and placing them on a conveyor belt whose location never changes. In fact, this is already happening in shipping centres like United Parcel Service in the US, where 7,000 packages are sorted every minute.
Chauffeurs, cab drivers, etc.
Add professional car drivers to the vulnerable list. We’re already in the midst of this transition. “I think cars, especially cars for hire, will probably be autonomous,” says Richard Alan Peters, an associate professor of electrical engineering at Vanderbilt University and CTO at Universal Robotics.
Obviously, companies like Google have some crash-related kinks to iron out of their self-driving experiments. Plus a nightmarish morass of legislation awaits this industry of automatic magic cars that cruise busy streets without a human at the helm. But it’s happening: Look at Carnegie Mellon University, where Uber has a whole lab set up solely for self-driving cars.
“Especially [security guards] that are out observing the perimeter after hours. Checking doors and halls will be automated,” Peters says. Basically, any job that’s super repetitive could be a target for robot replacement. To compound that, any repetitive job that the robot can do better than a human is especiallyvulnerable.
Robo security guards already kind of exist. Microsoft announced last year that they have toyed with Dalek-shaped sentries roaming their Silicon Valley campus. These five-foot tall, lidar-equipped bots scan intruders, recognise licence plates, and comb social media activity for any hints of danger in the area. The makers of these robots say the intention is not to replace human security guards. We’ll see about that, though, as the tech continues to advance.
Here, we’re talking about facility cleaning that doesn’t require fine motor skills. So folks who might come to your office and power blast your cafeteria floor, for example, could be replaced by robots. Polishing, vacuuming, scrubbing… that’s what robots will be doing (and already are doing in many homes with Roombas). However, not all custodians need worry (yet).
“The history of robotics shows that most tasks — e.g., tidying a room — are much harder for robots than one might think,” says Seth Lloyd, a mechanical engineering professor at MIT. Tasks like cleaning an apparatus that’s a bit more complex — say a toilet or sink — will still require humans who have articulated manipulators and nimble fingers covered with sensor-packed skin.
Lloyd is “pretty sceptical” about robots taking over jobs. He quips that based on how some people talk so grandly about robots in the workforce, that although “robots still won’t be able to tidy a room,” we will have “robotic teenagers able to mess up rooms in new and creative ways.”
“A lot of research is going into cooperative assembly by robots,” Peters explains. He says that assembly of huge objects like ships and planes will be largely automated soon. Again, the main reason is a lot of manual labour is involved: pick up that piece of drywall, hold something in place, screw something in. Read the rest of this entry »
Videos supplied by DARPA show the bullets making sharp turns in midair as they pursue their targets
(CNN) Don Melvin writes: You know the phrase “dodging a bullet”? Forget about it. Probably not going to happen anymore.
The U.S. military said this week it has made great progress in its effort to develop a self-steering bullet.
“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target.”
— Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager
In February, the “smart bullets” — .50-caliber projectiles equipped with optical sensors — passed their most successful round of live-fire tests to date, according to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.
In the tests, an experienced marksman “repeatedly hit moving and evading targets,” a DARPA statement said.
“This live-fire demonstration from a standard rifle showed that EXACTO is able to hit moving and evading targets with extreme accuracy at sniper ranges unachievable with traditional rounds.”
“Additionally,” the statement said, “a novice shooter using the system for the first time hit a moving target.” In other words, now you don’t even have to be a good shot to hit the mark.
The system has been developed by DARPA’s Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance program, known as EXACTO.
“Fitting EXACTO’s guidance capabilities into a small .50-caliber size is a major breakthrough and opens the door to what could be possible in future guided projectiles across all calibers.”
“True to DARPA’s mission, EXACTO has demonstrated what was once thought impossible: the continuous guidance of a small-caliber bullet to target,” said Jerome Dunn, DARPA program manager. Read the rest of this entry »
Designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, this “female” robot could be the precursor to robo-astronauts that will help colonize Mars.
What if NASA’s Robonaut grew legs and indulged in steroids? The result might be close to what NASA has unveiled: Valkyrie is a humanoid machine billed as a “superhero robot.” Developed at the Johnson Space Center, Valkyrie is a 6.2-foot, 275-pound hulk designed to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). It will go toe to toe with the Terminator-like Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics in what’s shaping up to be an amazing modern-day duel. In an interesting twist, Valkyrie seems to be a girl. Read the rest of this entry »
Sharon Weinberger writes: For almost two years, an unmanned space plane bearing a remarkable resemblance to NASA’s space shuttle has circled the Earth, performing a top-secret mission. It’s called the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle — but that’s pretty much all we know for certain.
“Despite the secrecy surrounding its mission, the space plane’s travels are closely watched. The Air Force announces its launches, and satellite watchers monitor its flight and orbit. What is not revealed is what’s inside the cargo bay and what it’s being used for.”
Officially, the only role the Pentagon acknowledges is that the space plane is used to conduct experiments on new technologies. Theories about its mission have ranged from an orbiting space bomber to an anti-satellite weapon.
The truth, however, is likely much more obvious: According to intelligence experts and satellite watchers who have closely monitored its orbit, the X-37B is being used to carry secret satellites and classified sensors into space — a little-known role once played by NASA’s now-retired space shuttles.
For a decade between the 1980s and early 1990s, NASA’s space shuttles were used for classified military missions, which involved ferrying military payloads into space.
“Now, with the X-37B, the Pentagon no longer has to rely on NASA — or humans.”
But the shuttles’ military role rested on an uneasy alliance between NASA and the Pentagon. Even before the 1986 Challenger disaster, which killed all seven crewmembers, the Pentagon had grown frustrated with NASA’s delays.
Now, with the X-37B, the Pentagon no longer has to rely on NASA — or humans.
The X-37B resembles a shuttle, or at least a shrunken-down version of it. Like the space shuttles, the X-37B is boosted into orbit by an external rocket, but lands like an aircraft on a conventional runway. But the X-37B is just shy of 10 feet tall and slightly less than 30 feet long.
Its cargo bay, often compared to the size of a pickup truck bed, is just big enough to carry a small satellite. Once in orbit, the X-37B deploys a foldable solar array, which is believed to power the sensors in its cargo bay.
“It’s just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space,” insisted one senior Air Force official in 2010, the year of the first launch, when rampant speculation about the secret project prompted some to question whether it was possibly a space bomber. Read the rest of this entry »
Mariella Moon reports: DARPA‘s new Ground X-Vehicle Technology project aims to design tanks with less armor, but are faster and more agile as a result. Now, in the movies, we always see these beefy military vehicles rolling along slowly to action, so faster, grenade-dodging tanks might be a bit hard to imagine.
Thankfully, the agency released a concept video that shows how exactly its advanced tanks can avoid getting shot at…(read more)
- [VIDEO] Google’s Next Frontier: Robots (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- How Technology Is Destroying Jobs (punditfromanotherplanet.com)
- Retail Robot Wars: Google Robots May Pose Challenge to Amazon drones
While many robots are controlled using what is known as “zero moment point” dynamics to balance itself, the new robot uses a combination of a high speed camera and a stabilizing motor so that it can lean forward without tipping over, enabling it to run in a dynamic form, according to Prof. Masatoshi Ishikawa. The robot can even perform a somersault. Read the rest of this entry »
This week the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, awarded two large contracts to Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of California, San Francisco, to create electrical brain implants capable of treating seven psychiatric conditions, including addiction, depression, and borderline personality disorder.
The project builds on expanding knowledge about how the brain works; the development of microlectronic systems that can fit in the body; and substantial evidence that thoughts and actions can be altered with well-placed electrical impulses to the brain.
“Imagine if I have an addiction to alcohol and I have a craving,” says Carmena, who is a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and involved in the UCSF-led project. “We could detect that feeling and then stimulate inside the brain to stop it from happening.” Read the rest of this entry »
ASIMO, an acronym for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility, exchanged bows with the president before demonstrating that it could kick a soccer ball.
“How about that, that was pretty impressive,” Obama marveled after the demonstration.
Later, during a meeting with students Obama mentioned his meeting with ASIMO.
“We saw some truly amazing robots — although I have to say the robots were a little scary. They were too lifelike. They were amazing.”
TOKYO (AP) — The voice was slightly halting, childlike. “Welcome to Miraikan, Mr. President, it is a pleasure to meet you.”
President Barack Obama bowed, looking delighted.
His greeter, after all, was a 55-inch-tall, give or take, humanoid robot with the look of a diminutive Star Wars storm trooper.
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” Obama said, pausing to watch the robot, named ASIMO, perform during a tour of the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Read the rest of this entry »
For The Washington Times, Douglas Ernst reports: The Pentagon’s research agency tasked with developing breakthrough technologies for national security has come up with a plan for dealing with shrinking budgets: robotic flight crews..
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is currently working on technology that will be able to replace up to five crew members on military aircraft, in effect making the lone human operator a “mission supervisor,” tech magazine Wired reported.
The Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System (ALIAS) would offer the military a “tailorable, drop-in, removable kit that would enable the addition of high levels of automation into existing aircraft to enable operation with reduced onboard crew,” DARPA said….(read more)
Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era, by James Barrat, St. Martin’s Press, 322 pages, $26.99.
Ronald Bailey writes: In the new Spike Jonze movie Her, an operating system called Samantha evolves into an enchanting self-directed intelligence with a will of her own. Not to spoil this visually and intellectually dazzling movie for anyone, but Samantha makes choices that do not harm humanity, though they do leave us feeling a bit sadder.
In his terrific new book, Our Final Invention, the documentarian James Barrat argues that hopes for the development of an essentially benign artificial general intelligence (AGI) like Samantha amount to a silly pipe dream. Barrat believes artificial intelligence is coming, but he thinks it will be more like Skynet. In theTerminator movies, Skynet is an automated defense system that becomes self-aware, decides that human beings are a danger to it, and seeks to destroy us with nuclear weapons and terminator robots.
Barrat doesn’t just think that Skynet is likely. He thinks it’s practically inevitable.
Barrat has talked to all the significant American players in the effort to create recursively self-improving artificial general intelligence in machines. He makes a strong case that AGI with human-level intelligence will be developed in the next couple of decades. Once an AGI comes into existence, it will seek to improve itself in order to more effectively pursue its goals. AI researcher Steve Omohundro, president of the company Self-Aware Systems, explains that goal-driven systems necessarily develop drives for increased efficiency, creativity, self-preservation, and resource acquisition. At machine computation speeds, the AGI will soon bootstrap itself into becoming millions of times more intelligent than a human being. It would thus transform itself into an artificial super-intelligence (ASI)—or, as Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies chief James Hughes calls it, “a god in a box.” And the new god will not want to stay in the box.
St. Martin’s PressThe emergence of super-intelligent machines has been dubbed the technological Singularity. Once machines take over, the argument goes, scientific and technological progress will turn exponential, thus making predictions about the shape of the future impossible. Barrat believes the Singularity will spell the end of humanity, since the ASI, like Skynet, is liable to conclude that it is vulnerable to being harmed by people. And even if the ASI feels safe, it might well decide that humans constitute a resource that could be put to better use. “The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you,” remarks the AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, “But you are made out of atoms which it can use for something else.”
Barrat analyzes various suggestions for how to avoid Skynet. The first is to try to keep the AI god in his box. The new ASI could be guarded by gatekeepers, who would make sure that it is never attached to any networks out in the real world. Barrat convincingly argues that an intelligence millions of times smarter than people would be able to persuade its gatekeepers to let it out.
Boston Dynamics’ four-legged robot named WildCat can gallop at high speeds
Google confirmed on Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Boston Dynamics, an engineering company that has designed mobile research robots for the Pentagon. The company, based in Waltham, Mass., has gained an international reputation for machines that walk with an uncanny sense of balance and even — cheetahlike — run faster than the fastest humans.
It is the eighth robotics company that Google has acquired in the last half-year. Executives at the Internet giant are circumspect about what exactly they plan to do with their robot collection. But Boston Dynamics and its animal kingdom-themed machines bring significant cachet to Google’s robotic efforts, which are being led by Andy Rubin, the Google executive who spearheaded the development of Android, the world’s most widely used smartphone software.
The deal is also the clearest indication yet that Google is intent on building a new class of autonomous systems that might do anything from warehouse work to package delivery and even elder care.
In an interesting twist, Valkyrie seems to be a girl. While officially genderless, “Valkyrie” (a nickname, since the official designation is R5) evokes the goddess-like females of Norse myth.
Its Iron Man-style glowing chest ring nestles in a pronounced bosom that contains linear actuators for waist rotation.
“We really wanted to design the appearance of this robot to be one that when you saw it (you’d say) ‘Wow. That’s awesome,'” Nicolaus Radford of the NASA JSC Dextrous Robotics Lab says in the video below by IEEE Spectrum.
BRYANT JORDAN writes: Getting the military’s cyber forces to focus more on the most serious threats to U.S. national security means getting away from a whack-a-mole-like strategy now used to find and remove malware in the system, officials from Google and Lockheed told a crowd of soldiers Wednesday.
It’s a common problem, but one that should not happen, he said at the last panel session at the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual conference in Washington D.C.
“This notion that persistent malware can stay on your machine should not happen,” he said. “The technology is out there today to erase it, or not make it an attack factor. So I encourage you … to start looking at opportunities that fundamentally change how you probe cyber security. Do not do incremental. It will not get you where you need to be.”
John Biggs writes: Welcome to our continuing series featuring videos of robots that will, when they become autonomous, hunt us down and force us to work in the graphene factories of Mars. Below we see Wild Cat, a fully untethered remote control quadrupedal robot made by Boston Dynamics, creators of the famous Big Dog. This quadruped can run up to 16 miles an hour and features a scary-sound internal gas engine that can power it across rough terrain. Wild Cat was funded by the DARPA’s M3 program aimed at introducing flexible, usable robots into natural environments AKA introducing robotic pack animals for ground troops and build flocking, heavily armed robots that can wipe out a battlefield without putting humans in jeopardy.
Next up we have ATLAS, another Boston Dynamics bot that can walk upright on rocks. Sadly ATLAS is tethered to a power source but he has perfect balance and can survive side and front hits from heavy weights – a plus if you’re built to be the shock troops of a new droid army. ATLAS can even balance on one foot while being smacked with wrecking balls, something the average human can’t do without suffering internal damage. I can’t wait for him to be able to throw cinder blocks!
NRO’s Kevin Williamson writes: Hark, unless mine eyes are cheated, it appears that the House has passed a bill — on energy and water development — that would spend less money than we spent last year. Indeed, that is the case: The $30.4 billion bill is $2.9 billion less than was appropriated for 2013. If my always-suspect English-major math is correct, that $2.9 billion represents a full 0.08 percent of 2012 federal outlays.
The White House has threated to veto these “draconian cuts.” Seriously — OMB put out a statement calling these “draconian cuts.” Does anybody over there know what “draconian” means? Read the rest of this entry »