|As reported in
April 7, 2003
Developments to Watch
Edited by Adam Aston
Connections That Leave Broadband in the Dust
NOTE: While this new technological discovery reported below (FAST) doesn't
relate directly to the concept of qubits, it is a development that will most assuredly contribute to the
further development of the qubits concept. Read on and consider the possibilities.
By changing the rules, or "protocols," that govern data transmission over the Internet,
scientists have more than tripled the highest speed at which large blocks of information can be transported.
In a recent test, the new protocol sustained transfer rates of 8,609 megabits per second of uncompressed
data -- about 6,000 times faster than a typical home broadband link.
Researchers who created the protocol at California Institute of Technology have dubbed it
FAST transmission control protocol. (FAST is an acronym, but you don't want to know.) It uses complex
algorithms to make more efficient use of existing bandwidth. Over a given Internet link, the current protocol
tops out at 25% of maximum throughput. FAST is 95% efficient, says Steven Low, a computer scientist who
leads the Caltech project. And it offers the same boost over any connection, be it a home DSL line or a T3
at the office.
FAST is being developed to help distribute scientific data and enhance "GRID" computing,
in which big problems are parceled out to many computers running concurrently. The protocol is now being
tested at several high-energy physics labs. These are home to the world's largest databases, measured in
petabytes, or millions of gigabytes. In the latest tests, 21,000 gigabytes of data were shipped over shared
networks in just six hours -- a third the time it takes without FAST.
Hollywood could benefit next. Because FAST excels at sending big files over large
distances, it's a natural for helping Tinseltown distribute its vast trove, says Low. Using FAST, it would take
under five seconds to download a DVD-quality movie.
|As reported in
March 24, 2003
NEC: Closing In on a Quantum Cruncher
These are heady times in the world of quantum physics. A team of scientists at Japan's
NEC (NIPNY) reported a breakthrough that could hasten the arrival of lightning-fast quantum computers.
Such devices would have the power to make complex calculations in just a fraction of a second, solving
mathematical problems that would require millions of years to solve on today's supercomputers.
The NEC team, led by principal researcher Jaw-Shen Tsai, produced a circuit out of two
quantum bits, or qubits. Using microelectronics technology, the team connected a pair of qubits so that
they acted as one entity, making it possible to hold the pair in a state known as quantum entanglement for
one-billionth of a second. Soon, Tsai expects to increase the duration of entanglement, a key to quantum
computing, by 1,000 times. "We just used our old method this time, but we have ideas on how to improve
performance," he says. The next goal is to create a "universal gate," or logic gate, a building block of
quantum computers, later this year.
One of the many confounding qualities of qubits is that they can exist, like atomic
particles, in more than one state at a time. As a result, a single qubit is capable of processing more than
one bit of data at once. The two-qubit circuit developed by the NEC team managed four states
concurrently. In theory, a 100-qubit system could carry out a number of operations equal to 10 followed by
30 zeros simultaneously.
By Irene M. Kunii
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