Simulating Evolution to Understand a Hidden Genetic Switch

Computer simulations of cells evolving over tens of thousands of generations reveal why some organisms retain a disused switch mechanism that turns on under severe stress, changing some of their characteristics. Maintaining this “hidden” switch is one means for organisms to maintain a high degree of gene expression stability under normal conditions. Tomato hornworm larvae are green in warmer regions, making camouflage easier, but black in cooler temperatures so that they can absorb more sunlight. This phenomenon, found in some organisms, is called phenotypic switching. Normally hidden, this switching is activated in response to dangerous genetic or environmental changes. Scientists have typically studied this process by investigating the changes undergone by organisms under different circumstances over many generations. Several years ago, for example, a team bred generations of tobacco hornworm…
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Important Milestone in the Creation of a Quantum Computer That Uses Transistors As Qubits

One of the obstacles for progress in the quest for a working quantum computer has been that the working devices that go into a quantum computer and perform the actual calculations, the qubits, have hitherto been made by universities and in small numbers. But in recent years, a pan-European collaboration, in partnership with French microelectronics leader CEA-Leti, has been exploring everyday transistors — that are present in billions in all our mobile phones — for their use as qubits. The French company Leti makes giant wafers full of devices, and, after measuring, researchers at the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, have found these industrially produced devices to be suitable as a qubit platform capable of moving to the second dimension, a significant step for a working quantum computer. The…
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Giving Computers a Keen Sense of Smell – Researchers Create a Biohybrid Olfactory Sensor

A keen sense of smell is a powerful ability shared by many organisms. However, it has proven difficult to replicate by artificial means. Researchers combined biological and engineered elements to create what is known as a biohybrid component. Their volatile organic compound sensor can effectively detect odors in gaseous form. They hope to refine the concept for use in medical diagnosis and the detection of hazardous materials. Electronic devices such as cameras, microphones, and pressure sensors enable machines to sense and quantify their environments optically, acoustically, and physically. Our sense of smell, however, despite being one of nature’s most primal senses, has proven very difficult to replicate artificially. Evolution has refined this sense over millions of years and researchers are working hard to catch up. A keen sense of smell…
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Error Protected Quantum Bits Entangled: A Milestone in the Development of Fault-Tolerant Quantum Computers

Even computers can miscalculate. Already small disturbances change stored information and corrupt results. That is why computers use methods to continuously correct such errors. In quantum computers, the vulnerability to errors can be reduced by storing quantum information in more than a single quantum particle. These logical quantum bits are less sensitive to errors. In recent years, theorists have developed many different error correction codes and optimized them for different tasks. “The most promising codes in quantum error correction are those defined on a two-dimensional lattice,” explains Thomas Monz from the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck. “This is due to the fact that the physical structure of current quantum computers can be very well mapped through such lattices.” With the help of the codes, logical quantum…
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Lack of Sleep Could Be a Problem for Artificial Intelligence

One of the distinguishing features of machines is that they don’t need to sleep, unlike humans and any other creature with a central nervous system. Someday though, your toaster might need a nap from time to time, as may your car, fridge and anything else that is revolutionized with the advent of practical artificial intelligence technologies. The change will come when (and if) AI systems that mimic living brains are incorporated into the wide range of devices that currently rely on conventional computers and microprocessors to help us through the day. At least that’s the implication of new research that we are conducting in Los Alamos National Laboratory to understand systems that operate much like the neurons inside living brains. Our realization came about as we worked to develop neural…
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