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Interview with Dr Shashank Virmani – Quantum Tunnel Podcast

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You have probably heard about quantum information science – in other words, information science that depends on quantum effects. The ability to manipulate quantum information enables us to carry out tasks that in the classical contexts would not be possible. This time the Quantum Tunnel Podcast had the opportunity to talk to Dr Shashank Virmani, who is a lecturer in the University of Strathclyde in Scotland. Dr Virmani is an expert in quantum information theory and talks to us about correlated error affecting quantum information processing and spilling coffee over a book. Ah! He also explains to us some of the intricacies of the P versus NP problem.


Holographic video

We are all familiar with that famous scene in Star Wars – Episode IV A New Hope where Princess Leia records a 3D hologram appealing for Obi-wan Kenobi‘s help. R2 is then able to reproduce the holographic message and even Darth Vader himself gets to see it. You might think that it’s all science fiction, but it could be very soon that you might be able to transmit this kind of messages, independently of your alliances with the Empire.

Scientists from the University of Arizona published in the journal Nature a report for the transmission of moving 3D images. The creation of holograms is nothing new, but the generation of video has proved to be more challenging.

This new device is able to refresh a holographic image every few seconds and the scientist demonstrated the use of colour and parallax, that is, people looking at the image from different angles see different views.

Evolution of language linked to dexterity

One of the signatures of the dawn of civilisation is the ability of early humans to make tools. The development of ever more sophisticated tools is seen as a key moment in human evolution.

According to Aldo Faisal and colleagues the dexterity to make these sophisticated tools is not more intricate than that required to make simpler ones. This points out that early humans were limited by brain power rather than manual dexterity.

In the study published in the journal PLoS ONE, the scientists argue that their study reinforces the idea that toolmaking and languages evolved together as both required more complex thought.

Re-defining the Kilo

What is a kilogram? Well, you might say that it is a thousand grams, but that might not be too helpful. You might instead point to the mass of a 122-year-old cylinder of platinum and iridium, kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Paris.

Nonetheless, this might not be the ideal answer either as it seems that the cylinder is changing as it ages, prompting several groups of scientists to seek a replacement. They hope to define the kilogram by referring to a physical constant rather than an antique object.

The latest result from a team led by Peter Becker of the Federal Institute of Physical and Technical Affairs (PTB) in Braunschweig, Germany, published on the arXiv comes closer than ever to ending the cylinder’s reign. The team has measured the number of atoms in a sphere of silicon-28 to calculate Avogadro’s constant to nine significant figures. The constant refers to the number of atoms in a sample whose bulk mass in grams equals the relative atomic mass of the element. This general relationship makes Avogadro’s constant a fixed point from which to define mass.