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AWS launches Braket, its quantum computing service

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While Google, Microsoft, IBM and others have made a lot of noise around their quantum computing efforts in recent months, AWS remained quiet. The company, after all, never had its own quantum research division. Today, though, AWS announced the preview launch of Braket (named after the common notation for quantum states), its own quantum computing service. It’s not building its own quantum computer, though. Instead, it’s partnering with D-Wave, IonQ and Rigetti and making their systems available through its cloud. In addition, it’s also launching the AWS Center for Quantum Computing and AWS Quantum Solutions Lab.

With Braket, developers can get started on building quantum algorithms and basic applications and then test them in simulations on AWS, as well as the quantum hardware from its partners. That’s a smart move on AWS’s part since it’s hedging its bets without incurring the cost of trying to build a quantum computer itself. And for its partners, AWS provides them with the kind of reach that would be hard to achieve otherwise. Developers and researchers, on the other hand, get access to all of these tools through a single interface, making it easier for them to figure out what works best for them.

“By collaborating with AWS, we will be able to deliver access to our systems to a much broader market and help accelerate the growth of this emerging industry,” said Chad Rigetti, founder and CEO of Rigetti Computing .

D-Wave offered a similar statement. “D-Wave’s quantum systems and our Leap cloud environment were both purpose-built to make practical application development a reality today and, in turn, fuel real-world business advantage for our customers,” said D-Wave’s chief product officer and EVP of R&D, Alan Baratz. “Amazon’s Braket will open the door to more smart developers who will build the quantum future, and the forward-thinking executives who will transform industries.”
It’s worth stressing that AWS is not installing these quantum computers in its own data centers. Instead, it’s essentially offering a unified way to access the machines these companies already offer inside their own labs and data centers.

Braket provides developers with a standard, fully-managed Jupyter notebook environment for exploring their algorithms. The company says it will offer plenty of pre-installed developer tools, sample algorithms and tutorials to help new users get started with both hybrid and classical quantum algorithms.

With its new Solutions Lab, AWS will also provide researchers with a soltion for collaborating around this new technology. “Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab engagements are collaborative research programs that allow you to work with leading experts in quantum computing, machine learning, and high-performance computing. The programs help you research and identify the most promising applications of quantum computing for your business and get quantum ready,” the company explains.

With its research center for quantum computing, Amazon is starting to do some long-term research as well, though. As is so often the case with AWS, though, I think the focus here is on making the technology accessible to developers more so than on doing basic research.

“We believe that quantum computing will be a cloud-first technology and that the cloud will be the main way customers access the hardware,”  said Charlie Bell, Senior Vice President, Utility Computing Services, AWS. “With our Amazon Braket service and Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab, we’re making it easier for customers to gain experience using quantum computers and to work with experts from AWS and our partners to figure out how they can benefit from the technology. And with our AWS Center for Quantum Computing and academic partnerships, we join the effort across the scientific and industrial communities to help accelerate the promise of quantum computing.”

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2019/12/02/aws-launches-braket-its-quantum-computing-service/

Quantum

Sure, The Goop Lab Is Absurdbut It Also Offers Hope

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The first episode of The Goop Lab, Gwyneth Paltrow’s new Netflix show, opens in Jamaica. The sun beams, the crystalline water sparkles, and a group of Goop staffers sit cross-legged in a circle, like schoolchildren poised for a read-aloud. Then, under the supervision of three “psychedelic elders,” they each drink a mug of psilocybin tea.

It’s fitting that the series begins this way. The following episodes, each meant to explore the “ideas that may seem out-there or too scary,” feel a bit like navigating the surrealism of psychedelics. There are moments of absurdity, moments of poignancy. A woman is brought to tears by a psychic reading that involves a donkey; in another episode, a series of vulva portraiture flashes onscreen. By the end, the viewer may feel the way one Goop staffer describes feeling after the work-sponsored mushroom trip: “really drained, physically and emotionally.”

Since it began as an email newsletter in 2008, the Goop brand has become well-established for championing the unestablished. The products sold on its website include, among other things, a mustard seed detox bath, an aromatic spray for psychic vampires, and a supplement called Brain Dust. In 2017, the watchdog group Truth in Advertising filed a complaint with two district attorneys at the California Food, Drug and Medical Device Task Force asking the regulators to look into Goop’s claims about more than 50 of its products, including its vaginal eggs, which the Goop site suggested could “increase vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.” As a result, the company agreed to pay a $145,000 fine and submit to a five-year injunction, during which Goop promised not to say its products have "sponsorship, approval, characteristics, ingredients, uses or benefits which they do not have.”

The Netflix show uses this skepticism as a runway. This isn’t science—it’s something much more lucrative. “We’re here one time, one life,” Paltrow says in the first episode, addressing her staffers from the Goop headquarters in Santa Monica, California. “How can we really milk the shit out of this?” She’s referring to the show’s approach to self-optimization, but could just as easily be talking about her business strategy.

As a multimillion-dollar business, Goop has perfected the art of manufacturing hope. Modern-day anxieties go in (stress, lack of desire, an undiagnosable medical condition) and out comes a strange but sellable solution (herbal supplements, crystals, reiki). The Goop Lab follows this formula as well. Each episode unpacks a controversial wellness idea—cold therapy, energy healing, orgasm coaching, psychic communication, dieting for longevity, and psychedelic medicine—and explores its merits with expert interviews, case studies, and a stunt from the Goop staffers. Many of these staffers out themselves as skeptics, talking on camera about how they do not believe in psychic mediumship or energy healing. In that sense, few of the episodes come off as outright endorsements. Then again, Paltrow and her staff don’t do much to counterbalance or fact-check the claims of the experts they invite on the show. To that end, it’s worth mentioning that each episode includes a disclaimer: The show is meant to “entertain and inform, not provide medical advice.”

Paltrow’s colleagues call her GP, which abbreviates her name but also doubles for “guinea pig.” On the show, she tries several of the controversial wellness practices herself—like a five-day fast and, in one rather frightening scene, a facial that involves needling her own blood plasma back into her face. Mostly, though, Paltrow saves herself from much on-screen embarrassment. For those experiments, she sends her staff.

The Goop staff goes to Jamaica for the supervised psilocybin trip. They go to Lake Tahoe to practice hyperventilating and submerging themselves in freezing-cold water. They take erotic portraits in a workshop about sensuality, and they take turns reading each others’ psychic energies with a medium. Even though Goop staffers express skepticism, science and pseudoscience are woven so tightly together on the show that it’s difficult to find the seams.

Timothy Caulfield, who researches health law and policy at the University of Alberta, has called this the “the wellness version of fake news” and “an infomercial for the gestalt that is Goop.” (Caulfield is also the author of the 2016 book Is Gwyneth Paltrow Wrong About Everything? in which he seems to conclude, basically, yes.) Paltrow and her staffers occasionally raise their eyebrows at the claims made onscreen, but mostly, they are game to participate and promote the theories in each episode. Caulfield says that’s for one obvious reason: Goop, the company, stands to profit from them.

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“People are frustrated with how they’re treated by the conventional system, and feel like their needs are not being listened to,” says Caulfield. “But an entity like Goop is exploiting a real problem in order to sell pseudoscience. It’s a for-profit company. It’s doing these things in order to build a brand.”

The show has its fair share of “junk science, gibberish, and unproven health claims from snake-oil-salesmen guests,” as some reviews have pointed out. But there are reputable experts who share real science, too. The first episode, about the benefits of psychedelics, features an interview with Mark Haden, the executive director of MAPS Canada. MAPS, or the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, works closely with the FDA and promotes academic research and clinical studies around the therapeutic potential of psychedelics. Another episode, on female orgasm, features Betty Dodson, the 90-year-old sex educator whose work has been instrumental in understanding pleasure.

Those moments of lucidity can make it difficult to parse what’s real and what’s not. (Caulfield has a term for this thin veneer of credibility: “We call it ‘scienceploitation.’”) In some cases, like the episode about psychedelics, the show conflates the real science with the anecdotal experience of the Goop staffers in Jamaica. Other times, the effect is more absurd. In an episode about energy healing, a body healer cites the “double slit experiment” from quantum mechanics to credentialize his work—a practice that involves waving his hands like a puppeteer above a person’s body to release the energy that’s “trapped” in the fascia and can cause pain, disease, and emotional unrest.

What the show does most candidly, though, is shine a light on the desperation people feel when science cannot understand their pain. Throughout the series, we meet a Goop staffer suffering from a panic disorder, another who’s dealing with the trauma of her father’s suicide, and another who has trouble with intimacy since coming out as gay. Between the interviews and the staff stunts, there are various “case studies,” like a veteran who tried to kill himself multiple times before finding MDMA-assisted therapy. If The Goop Lab is an informercial for the products it sells, it’s also a portrait of the average Goop aficionado. They’ve been failed by everything else; if a $300 crystal can make them feel better, why not try?

If anyone stands to gain from The Goop Lab, though, it’s not the viewers, or the staffers who jump at the chance to go on a 'shroom trip. It’s the people whose products and alternative therapies are showcased on screen, each of whom can expect a sizable dose of interest after the exposure from Paltrow’s show. After watching so many of Goop’s staffers open up about their personal challenges and traumas, it’s hard not to root for them to find a little peace. If energy healing does the trick, well, so be it.


Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/the-goop-lab-review/

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Quantum

New guidelines for the allocation of Partnership Resource

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The Hub has today published new guidelines for the allocation of its flexible funding, the so-called Partnership Resource. We welcome proposal submissions for a period of six weeks (till March 8th, 2020). Funding decisions will be communicated to all successful applicants during the w/c 23/03/20. For more information on the nature of the partnership resource funding, the kind of projects supported in the past, and to download the guidelines, visit the Partnership Resource section of the website here.

Source: https://www.quantumcommshub.net/news/new-guidelines-for-the-allocation-of-partnership-resource/

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Scientists gain new visibility into quantum information transfer

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When we talk about “information technology,” we generally mean the technology part, like computers, networks, and software. But information itself, and its behavior in quantum systems, is a central focus for MIT’s interdisciplinary Quantum Engineering Group (QEG) as it seeks to develop quantum computing and other applications of quantum technology.

A QEG team has provided unprecedented visibility into the spread of information in large quantum mechanical systems, via a novel measurement methodology and metric described in a new article in Physics Review Letters. The team has been able, for the first time, to measure the spread of correlations among quantum spins in fluorapatite crystal, using an adaptation of room-temperature solid-state nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques.

Researchers increasingly believe that a clearer understanding of information spreading is not only essential to understanding the workings of the quantum realm, where classical laws of physics often do not apply, but could also help engineer the internal “wiring” of quantum computers, sensors, and other devices.

One key quantum phenomenon is nonclassical correlation, or entanglement, in which pairs or groups of particles interact such that their physical properties cannot be described independently, even when the particles are widely separated.

That relationship is central to a rapidly advancing field in physics, quantum information theory. It posits a new thermodynamic perspective in which information and energy are linked — in other words, that information is physical, and that quantum-level sharing of information underlies the universal tendency toward entropy and thermal equilibrium, known in quantum systems as thermalization.

QEG head Paola Cappellaro, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, co-authored the new paper with physics graduate student Ken Xuan Wei and longtime collaborator Chandrasekhar Ramanathan of Dartmouth College.

Cappellaro explains that a primary aim of the research was measuring the quantum-level struggle between two states of matter: thermalization and localization, a state in which information transfer is restricted and the tendency toward higher entropy is somehow resisted through disorder. The QEG team’s work centered on the complex problem of many-body localization (MBL) where the role of spin-spin interactions is critical.

The ability to gather this data experimentally in a lab is a breakthrough, in part because simulation of quantum systems and localization-thermalization transitions is extremely difficult even for today’s most powerful computers. “The size of the problem becomes intractable very quickly, when you have interactions,” says Cappellaro. “You can simulate perhaps 12 spins using brute force but that’s about it — far fewer than the experimental system is capable of exploring.”

NMR techniques can reveal the existence of correlations among spins, as correlated spins rotate faster under applied magnetic fields than isolated spins. However, traditional NMR experiments can only extract partial information about correlations. The QEG researchers combined those techniques with their knowledge of the spin dynamics in their crystal, whose geometry approximately confines the evolution to linear spin chains.

“That approach allowed us to figure out a metric, average correlation length, for how many spins are connected to each other in a chain,” says Cappellaro. “If the correlation is growing, it tells you that interaction is winning against the disorder that’s causing localization. If the correlation length stops growing, disorder is winning and keeping the system in a more quantum localized state.”

In addition to being able to distinguish between different types of localization (such as MBL and the simpler Anderson localization), the method also represents a possible advance toward the ability to control of these systems through the introduction of disorder, which promotes localization, Cappellaro adds. Because MBL preserves information and prevents it from becoming scrambled, it has potential for memory applications.

The research’s focus “addresses a very fundamental question about the foundation of thermodynamics, the question of why systems thermalize and even why the notion of temperature exists at all,” says former MIT postdoc Iman Marvian, who is now an assistant professor in Duke University’s departments of Physics and Electrical and Computer Engineering. “Over the last 10 years or so there’s been mounting evidence, from analytical arguments to numerical simulations, that even though different parts of the system are interacting with each other, in the MBL phase systems don’t thermalize. And it is very exciting that we can now observe this in an actual experiment.”

“People have proposed different ways to detect this phase of matter, but they’re difficult to measure in a lab,” Marvian explains. “Paola’s group studied it from a new point of view and introduced quantities that can be measured. I’m really impressed at how they’ve been able to extract useful information about MBL from these NMR experiments. It’s great progress, because it makes it possible to experiment with MBL on a natural crystal.”

The research was able to leverage NMR-related capabilities developed under a previous grant from the US Air Force, says Cappellaro, and some additional funding from the National Science Foundation. Prospects for this research area are promising, she adds. “For a long time, most many-body quantum research was focused on equilibrium properties. Now, because we can do many more experiments and would like to engineer quantum systems, there’s much more interest in dynamics, and new programs devoted to this general area. So hopefully we can get more funding and continue the work.”


Source: http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-qeg-develops-unprecedented-visibility-quantum-information-transfer-0308

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