Tuesday, January 23, 2018

"New type of supercomputer could be based on ‘magic dust’ combination of light and matter"

In Sunday's Rabobank: "World Vegetable Map 2018" I re-referenced one of the great corrections of 2016
Correction: An earlier version of this item incorrectly described all the avocados exported by the Netherlands as having been grown there....
Which, of course, reminded me of something.
So today we'll go with one of my 2017 favorites, first posted September 26, 2017. Plus, the story that triggered the excursion is itself pretty interesting:

"New type of supercomputer could be based on ‘magic dust’ combination of light and matter"

I may have picked the wrong decade to quit microdosing.*

From Next Big Future:
A team of researchers from the UK and Russia have successfully demonstrated that a type of ‘magic dust’ which combines light and matter can be used to solve complex problems and could eventually surpass the capabilities of even the most powerful supercomputers.

The researchers, from Cambridge, Southampton and Cardiff Universities in the UK and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia, have used quantum particles known as polaritons – which are half light and half matter – to act as a type of ‘beacon’ showing the way to the simplest solution to complex problems. This entirely new design could form the basis of a new type of computer that can solve problems that are currently unsolvable, in diverse fields such as biology, finance or space travel. The results are reported in the journal Nature Materials.

Our technological progress — from modelling protein folding and behaviour of financial markets to devising new materials and sending fully automated missions into deep space — depends on our ability to find the optimal solution of a mathematical formulation of a problem: the absolute minimum number of steps that it takes to solve that problem.

The search for an optimal solution is analogous to looking for the lowest point in a mountainous terrain with many valleys, trenches, and drops. A hiker may go downhill and think that they have reached the lowest point of the entire landscape, but there may be a deeper drop just behind the next mountain. Such a search may seem daunting in natural terrain, but imagine its complexity in high-dimensional space. “This is exactly the problem to tackle when the objective function to minimise represents a real-life problem with many unknowns, parameters, and constraints,” said Professor Natalia Berloff of Cambridge’s Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics and the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, and the paper’s first author.

Modern supercomputers can only deal with a small subset of such problems when the dimension of the function to be minimised is small or when the underlying structure of the problem allows it to find the optimal solution quickly even for a function of large dimensionality. Even a hypothetical quantum computer, if realised, offers at best the quadratic speed-up for the “brute-force” search for the global minimum....MORE
*That line is a bastardization of the various Lloyd Bridges scenes in "Airplane":
"Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit smoking/drinking/amphetamines/sniffing glue!"
combined with a strong contender for best correction by a major paper in a prime time role—2017:

A Financial Times Correction: LSD Microdosing
From the Financial Times:
• Drug microdosers use 10 microgrammes of LSD every three days, not 10 milligrammes as wrongly stated in an article in the Aug 12/13 FT Magazine.
Fortunately for anyone who took the 1000-times-larger amount, President Carter (a bit of a micro-manager) is still alive:...