Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Awareness Series: Quantum Computer

Computers were invented 60 years ago. Since then they have become very very powerful, but their working principle has remained the same. Now scientists are working on a new kind of computer called the ‘Quantum Computer’. The quantum computers are based on quantum mechanics.

The quantum effect was discovered by many scientists beginning with Einstein in the first 25 years of last century. These strange effects are observed only at very small scale, like particles smaller than the atom. Some of the strange effects are superposition and entanglement.

The quantum computer is based on these effects. As a unit of calculation, it uses ‘qbit’ or quantum bit instead of the ‘bit’ that a normal computer uses. A bit can be either 0 or 1, but qbit can be both at the same time, because of the strange quantum properties. Therefore a set of qbits can do many computations at the same time.

It is not correct to say that quantum computers are faster than the conventional computers. There are some tasks- like code breaking- that conventional computers cannot do in years, but quantum computers can do in seconds. But for many other tasks, they may be as fast as the normal ones.

Even though quantum computers are in the laboratories today, rapid progress is being made in making it available in the market. I hope my dear readers of YSc would welcome the arrival of a new kind of computers first time since their invention.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Nobel Prizes 2015 – Medicine

There are two heart-warming things about the nobel for medicine this year, announced today.

It was jointly awarded to three scientists – William Campbell of US (born Irish), Satoshi Omura of Japan and Youyou Tu of China. All are now in their eighties.

The first heart-warming thing – The prize was given for development of important drugs for the diseases of the poor. Mr. Campbell and Mr. Omura discovered a drug called Avermectin that treats diseases caused by roundworms. One of these diseases is called river blindness. Another is Lymphatic Filariasis, a terrible swelling condition. Together these affect more than 10 crore people in the world.

Ms. Tu discovered a drug called Artemisinin for treatment of malaria, a disease all too familiar to us in India. It affects 20 crore people worldwide each year, especially in Africa and Asia. Thanks to Artemisinin, the death rate due to malaria in the children has come down by 30%!

The second heart-warming aspect of the nobel – both the drugs have been developed from natural sources. Avermectin from a certain bacteria and Artemisinin from a traditional chinese herb.

(To read further on how important natural resources are for development of new drugs, read my older article…/ecosystem-sciences-part-3-me…)

Yours Sciencely congratulates the recipients and thanks them for their gifts to the humanity.