Quantum computers ‘one step closer’

Quantum computingImage copyright SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Quantum computing has taken a step forward with the development of a programmable quantum processor made with silicon.

The team used microwave energy to align two electron particles suspended in silicon, then used them to perform a set of test calculations.

By using silicon, the scientists hope that quantum computers will be more easy to control and manufacture.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

The old adage of Schrödinger’s Cat is often used to frame a basic concept of quantum theory.

We use it to explain the peculiar, but important, concept of superposition; where something can exist in multiple states at once.

For Schrodinger’s feline friend – the simultaneous states were dead and alive.

Superposition is what makes quantum computing so potentially powerful.

Standard computer processors rely on packets or bits of information, each one representing a single yes or no answer.

Quantum processors are different. They don’t work in the realm of yes or no, but in the almost surreal world of yes and no. This twin-state of quantum information is known as a qubit.

Unstable liaisons

To harness their power, you have to link multiple qubits together, a process called entanglement.

With each additional qubit added, the computation power of the processor is effectively doubled.

But generating and linking qubits, then instructing them to perform calculations in their entangled state is no easy task. They are incredibly sensitive to external forces, which can give rise to errors in the calculations and in the worst-case scenario make the entangled qubits fall apart.

As additional qubits are added, the adverse effects of these external forces mount.

One way to cope with this is to include additional qubits whose sole role is to vet and correct outputs for misleading or erroneous data.

Module with mountImage copyright  ION QUANTUM TECH GROUP, UNI SUSSEX
Image captionResearchers are taking multiple approaches to building quantum computers; this picture is of the “ion trap” variety

This means that more powerful quantum computers – ones that will be useful for complex problem solving, like working out how proteins fold or modelling physical processes inside complex atoms – will need lots of qubits.

Dr Tom Watson, based at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and one of the authors of the paper, told BBC News: “You have to think what it will take to do useful quantum computing. The numbers are not very well defined but it’s probably going to take thousands maybe millions of qubits, so you need to build your qubits in a way that can scale up to these numbers.”

In short, if quantum computers are going to take off, you need to come up with an easy way to manufacture large and stable qubit processors.

And Dr Watson and his colleagues thought there was an obvious solution.

Tried and tested

“As we’ve seen in the computer industry, silicon works quite well in terms of scaling up using the fabrication methods used”, he said.

The team of researchers, which also included scientists from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, turned to silicon to suspend single electron qubits whose spin was fixed by the use of microwave energy.

In the superposition state, the electron was spinning both up and down.

The team were then able to connect two qubits and programme them to perform trial calculations.

They could then cross-check the data generated by the quantum silicon processor with that generated by a standard computer running the same test calculations.

The data matched.

The team had successfully built a programmable two-qubit silicon-based processor.

Commenting on the study, Prof Winfried Hensinger, from the University of Sussex, said: “The team managed to make a two qubit quantum gate with a very respectable error rate. While the error rate is still much higher than in trapped ion or superconducting qubit quantum computers, the achievement is still remarkable, as isolating the qubits from noise is extremely hard.”

He added: “It remains to be seen whether error rates can be realised that are consistent with the concept of fault-tolerant quantum computing operation. However, without doubt this is a truly outstanding achievement.”

And in an accompanying paper, an international team, led by Prof Jason Petta from Princeton University, was able to transfer the state of the spin of an electron suspended in silicon onto a single photon of light.

According to Prof Hensinger, this is a “fantastic achievement” in the development of silicon-based quantum computers.

He explained: “If quantum gates in a solid state quantum computer can ever be realised with sufficiently low error rates, then this method could be used to connect different quantum computing modules which would allow for a fully modular quantum computer.”

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Toronto Wolfpack plot financial path to Super League rugby

Toronto Wolfpack's Quentin Laulu-Togaga'eImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionToronto play in the second-tier Championship this season

With the new rugby league season about to kick-off, the sport’s most exotic club is ready to take to the skies again for a campaign of trans-Atlantic battle.

Canadian club Toronto Wolfpack created a stir when they joined the third tier of the English rugby league system last year, as it meant round trips of around 7,000 miles for away games.

The club and its main sponsor, Canadian airline Air Transat, paid – and will do so again this season – for their European opponents’ eight-hour flights to and from Canada for away games against the Wolfpack.

Toronto Wolfpack cheerleadersImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club is looking to boost its presence in Canada and in the UK

After running away with the title last year, the Wolfpack will play in the second-tier Championship league this season, competing against a host of powerful English clubs, plus Toulouse in France.

The club admits it made a financial loss last year, but insists that was expected as part of a longer-term business plan designed to reach the riches of the top tier of rugby league.

‘Right trajectory’

“It is a five year plan to get to the Super League,” the Wolfpack’s general commercial manager Scott Lidbury, an Australian who grew up watching rugby league, tells me.

Toronto Wolfpack's Jonny PownallImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club will face a number of historic and powerful English club sides this season

“We are in year two of that plan, we are in the Championship and things are on the right trajectory. Promotion this year is obviously the goal. We would be disappointed if we did not finish in the top four.”

Coming among the top quartet would give them a chance at promotion via the Qualifiers Super 8s playoffs.

Mr Lidbury adds: “It would not be the end of the world if we did not go up, but we feel confident, particularly with the players we have signed.”

He says if they were not promoted the business can sustain its various outgoings, from travel and stadium hire to player salaries and media operations.

Toronto Wolfpack's Quentin Laulu-Togaga'e (in white)Image copyrightALAMY
Image captionPromotion to the Super League is the club’s sporting and business goal

But promotion to the Super League would bring a huge financial boost in terms of TV rights money from Sky, and more and bigger sponsorship deals.

Last season’s budget was 3.4m Canadian dollars ($2.7m; £2m), and is set to be more this year as the club has moved out seven players from last season, but brought in 10 more.

Centre of excellence

The Wolfpack’s main financial backer is Australian mining tycoon David Argyle, who grew up playing rugby.

“David is 100% in it for the long term,” says Mr Lidbury. “He has a very strong vision, he is a big driver of Toronto as a regional centre of rugby excellence, for both codes.”

Toronto Wolfpack fanImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionThe club wants to increase its number of season-ticket holders

The Wolfpack play their games in blocks of away matches followed by home ones in the summer, to cut down on criss-crossing the Atlantic and also because the harsh Canadian winter extends into the start of the season.

This year they will play 11 away games, then two at home, then two on neutral English grounds, then eight at home.

Chief executive and club founder Eric Perez secured the use of 10,000-seater Lamport Stadium in Toronto, and last year average home gates were a healthy 7,000 (though half of those attending had complimentary tickets).

Eric PerezImage copyrightALAMY
Image captionEric Perez is the founder and chief executive of the Wolfpack

The team wants bigger gates this season, and to boost its 650 season-ticket holders by at least 50%.

A UK-based business development manager has also been appointed to bring in British commercial deals, and to deal with things like new Toronto player registrations and obtaining relevant visas for visiting players.

In addition, the club has now made the Platt Lane Sports Complex in Fallowfield, south Manchester, its full-time UK base.


The case of Barrow Raiders

Barrow RaidersImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBarrow Raiders won the League 1 Cup last season

Each away team can travel free via Air Transat when they play in Toronto; being able to take a full squad, coaches and ancillary staff, at what has been promised by rugby league authorities as no cost.

However, last season Barrow Raiders, which played in Canada twice, found there was a financial price to pay.

It had to pay for things like coach travel to and from the airport, extra baggage, visas for some players at £80 each, and food and drink for 25 players and staff. It cost the club around £4,000 for the regular League One fixture in Canada.

When the teams played again in the Super Eight playoffs in Toronto, fans set up a funding page and raised nearly £3,000 to cover the club’s expenses. And while 30 fans made the trip for the first game, none went for the second.

The clubs will play home and away again in the Championship this season.


‘Major partner’

Principal sponsor Air Transat, signed on a three-year deal, provides 540 airline seats a year, which sees the club fly with 35 people when it visits Europe, and opposition clubs offered 25 free transatlantic return flights.

Air Transat owns Canadian Affair travel website, which offers away team fans weekend packages in Toronto, including hotel and match ticket.

“They are a major partner for us and play a crucial role in our operations,” says Mr Lidbury. “They are the perfect example of a brand who can benefit from association with ourselves.

“Like one of our other major partners, Maple Leaf Diamonds, they are a Canadian brand looking to be stronger in the UK.”

Conversely, the club’s UK sponsors such as Manchester Metropolitan University get coverage in Canada.


A fan’s view: Steve Newcombe, London Broncos Supporters Association

London Broncos (grey/black) v HalifaxImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionLondon Broncos play their home games in Ealing, west London

“They knocked us out of the Challenge Cup in London last year, and their visit created a buzz. They are a brash organisation and good luck to them, they wear their hearts on their sleeves.

“They also have healthy crowds at their home games. They will be looking to build fan support not only in Toronto, but among Canadians in the UK.

“I won’t be going to Canada for our away Championship game, but a couple of dozen fans will go to Toronto.

“With the Wolfpack having a major base in Manchester they are buying English-based players who might have gone to other clubs here, and that has caused debate among rugby league fans.”


‘TV revenues’

The Wolfpack has an unusual TV arrangement whereby it films its own home matches and gives the footage free to CBC Online and cable channel Game TV.

Although they lose money on the operation they feel it is vital in generating wider awareness.

“Our goal is to grow our reach, and develop our revenue streams, and broadcast is something we are working on all the time, developing Wolfpack TV platforms,” says Mr Lidbury.

“We hope that in year three we would be able to start driving some TV rights revenues. We believe we have a very bright sporting and business future.”

Victorian nymphs painting back on display after censorship row

Hylas and the Nymphs by JW WaterhouseImage copyrightMANCHESTER ART GALLERY
Image captionHylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse dates from 1896

A gallery is to put a Victorian painting of naked adolescent girls back on display after a row over censorship.

Manchester Art Gallery said it took down Hylas and the Nymphs by JW Waterhouse to “encourage debate” about how such images should be displayed.

But critics accused curators of being puritanical and politically correct. The painting will return on Saturday.

“It’s been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised,” Manchester City Council said.

The 1896 painting was removed a week ago in an attempt to rethink the “very old-fashioned” way images of women’s bodies were exhibited as “either as passive beautiful objects or femmes fatales”.

Curator Clare Gannaway said: “It’s not about saying these things can’t exist in a public gallery – it’s about saying, maybe we just need to challenge the way these paintings have been read and enable them to speak in a different way.”

Visitors were invited to write their views about the decision on sticky notes and post them in the vacant space.

Manchester Art Gallery
Manchester Art Gallery
Image captionVisitors can stick notes to the wall where the painting hung

But after a backlash, the city council, which runs the gallery, announced that the painting would return to the wall.

The gallery’s interim director Amanda Wallace said: “We were hoping the experiment would stimulate discussion, and it’s fair to say we’ve had that in spades – and not just from local people but from art-lovers around the world.

“Throughout the painting’s seven day absence, it’s been clear that many people feel very strongly about the issues raised, and we now plan to harness this strength of feeling for some further debate on these wider issues.”

The gallery is now planning a series of public events “to encourage further debate”.

‘Killing any debate’

Speaking on Thursday, Clare Gannaway denied that the gallery was censoring the picture, but there were strong reactions on social media and in the art world.

“Removing art due to political concerns is exactly censorship,” wrote Gary Brooks on Twitter.

“I think you can spark a debate without removing the painting,” said Ben Perkins.

Professor Liz Prettejohn, who curated a Waterhouse exhibition at the Royal Academy in London in 2009, told BBC News: “Taking it off display is killing any kind of debate that you might be able to have about it in relation to some of the really interesting issues that it might raise about sexuality and gender relationships.

“The Victorians are always getting criticised because they’re supposed to be prudish. But here it would seem it’s us who are taking the roles of what we think of as the very moralistic Victorians.”

The painting’s initial removal was filmed to be made into a new piece of video art for artist Sonia Boyce’s exhibition at the gallery in March.

Postcards of the painting were also taken out of the gallery shop.

The furore came two months after two sisters started a petition asking the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to remove, or at least reimagine the way it presented, a painting by Balthus of a neighbour’s daughter in an erotic pose.

The sisters said the Met was “romanticising voyeurism and the objectification of children”.

The museum refused to remove it, saying it wanted to encourage “the continuing evolution of existing culture through informed discussion and respect for creative expression”.

BBC News

J.R.R. Tolkien’s other adventure: Courting and marrying Edith Bratt

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The legendary novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings have already withstood the test of time, confirming the legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien. However, not many readers may be familiar with Tolkien’s personal struggles when it came to marriage and the outcome.

The story is of his wife, and muse, Edith Bratt.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, known as Ronald in his family, met Edith, who was three years older than him, when he and his brother, Hilary, moved into a boarding house on Duchess Road in Edgbaston, where she lived. Edith and Hilary Tolkien got along very well and they frequently spent time together; however, there was a special spark between Ronald and Edith. They didn’t share the same interests but were on the same level in emotional ways.

According to the English biographer Humphrey Carpenter, she had no interest in his love of books and languages, just as he wasn’t much into her love of piano-playing, but that didn’t prevent them from smuggling food out of the kitchen and making secret feasts in Edith’s room. Their everyday adventures included visiting tea shops and throwing sugar-cubes into the hats of passers-by. Carpenter described their relationship as one that was meant to flourish since they were both orphans who needed affection and kindness and they realized that they were capable of giving that to one another. In the summer of 1909, they fell in love.

Not everyone was happy with this romance. The guardian of Tolkien, Father Morgan, thought Edith was the reason that Ronald failed his exams, and he considered it unfortunate that his surrogate son was having a romantic affair with an older, and on top of everything, Protestant woman. He ordered him not to meet her or even talk to her until he was 21 years old. Ronald, who was not rebellious and aware that he was dependent upon Father Francis’ financial support, obeyed his demand.

At that time, Ronald was studying for a scholarship at the Oxford University, a challenge that he didn’t succeed in achieving as his young mind was presumably occupied with Edith. He failed the entrance exam and couldn’t prove to Father Francis that Edith wasn’t his main distraction regarding schooling. He recorded in his diary entry on January 1st, 1910, “Depressed and as much in dark as ever. God help me. Feel weak and weary.”

His disappointments during that period were vividly described by Tolkien himself in one of his letters to his son Michael, where he told him that he had to choose between obeying and respecting his guardian who was like a father to him and the love he felt for Edith. He continued by saying that he had never regretted his decision to wait, but he was aware that it was pretty hard on Edith. He knew that she was entirely free and hadn’t made any promise to him, having complete freedom to marry any other person. For almost three years, he didn’t write to her or see her and he felt completely devastated. He was distracted and, ultimately, failed in his primary year at college.

It can be said that Ronald was counting the days until his 21st birthday when he could finally write to Edith. At that time, she was living with C. H. Jessop, a family friend, in Cheltenham. He declared his love for her, which as he said, never ceased, and finally asked her to marry him.

Her answer left him heartbroken. Edith replied that she was already engaged to George Field, the brother of one of her friends and that she had said “yes” to him. However, she added that her decision was one of convenience because she had believed that Tolkien no longer cared for her. Fortunately, she finished the letter saying that his words made her reconsider her feelings towards him as well as her marriage decision regarding Field.

On January 8, 1913, Tolkien traveled by train to Cheltenham where Edith was waiting for him at the railroad station. They walked and talked for hours. When the day was over, Edith accepted Tolkien’s proposal. She returned her engagement ring to Field, leaving him shocked and his family insulted.

Learning of Edith’s new plans, her guardian wrote her that although he didn’t have anything personal against Tolkien, he considered his prospects to be very poor as he didn’t have any profession or career that would provide Edith stability as his spouse.

Just before their engagement, Edith announced that she decided to convert to Catholicism and that Tolkien had insisted on her doing so. Her guardian was quite upset, for like many others of his age and class, he was strongly anti-Catholic.

In January of 1913, Edith and Tolkien were engaged in Birmingham and on March 22, 1916, they finally married at St. Mary’s Immaculate Roman Catholic Church, Warwick. With a humorous tone in another of his letters to Michael, Tolkien wrote that he admired his wife for being willing to marry an almost penniless man with no career and no higher prospects except the possibility of being a casualty in the First World War.

Read another story from us: The life story of J. R. R. Tolkien will be told in not one but two films

The friends of the Tolkien family witnessed a great affection between the two. They described their care and love as almost absurd when it came to wrapping birthday presents for each other; they had and frequent conversations, whether it was about health, house, or garden. They shared an immense love for their family and this, along with their love for each other, was the strongest bond keeping them together for over 50 years until death parted them.

Tintin, the subject of 200 million comics sold, was likely based on a real 15-year-old …

 

In the overcrowded world of fictional characters, there are few faces as adorable as Tintin’s. Unlike Batman, Superman, or Wonder Woman, Tintin, the young investigative reporter, is not a household name in America, but he is definitely one of the most beloved figures in Europe.

With no specific magic powers, he is the antithesis of a superhero, but that didn’t prevent him from being widely admired by both children and adults. Charles de Gaulle once declared that Tintin is his only international rival, saying that “nobody notices, because of my height. We are both little fellows who won’t be got at by big fellows.”

Tintin and his fox terrier, Snowy, appeared for the first time on January 10, 1929, in the children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siecle. What started as the subject of a supplement went on to become a symbol of the 20th century, appearing in an inde­pen­dent comic book, on television, and even on the big screen in Steven Spiel­berg’s animated movie The Adven­tures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.

Tintin is one of the most beloved figures in the comic book world.Author: Joi/Flickr-CC By 2.0

Georges Prosper Remi, known by the pen name Hergé, is the man behind the creation of Tintin. With almost no formal training, Hergé began drawing the legendary comic-book character in 1929, but little did he know that by doing so he would give birth to an entire European comics publishing industry.

Tintin and his fox terrier Snowy appeared for the first time in 1929. Author: karrikas/Flickr CC By 2.0

Since 1929, Tintin comics have sold more than 200 million copies, and over the years, this beloved character served as an inspiration for many people and influenced the ways comic book readers perceive the world around them. But what actually inspired Hergé to create the iconic character?

Debate still exists on what exactly inspired Hergé to come up with the snub-nosed teenage reporter, but most people agree that it was a real life person known by the name Palle Huld. It is one of the most original of origin stories in the comic book world.

Less than a year before Tintin made his first appearance, in the children’s supplement of  Le Vingtième Siecle, a 15-year-old Danish Boy Scout named Palle Huld won a competition organized by a Danish newspaper to mark the centennial of Jules Verne.

 

Palle Huld, during his trip around the world in 1928, almost certainly influenced Hergé to create Tintin.

The winner of the competition would re-enact Phileas Fogg’s voyage from Verne’s famous novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Strangely enough, only teenage boys were allowed to take part in the competition, and the 15-year-old was the perfect match. There was another twist: The winner had to complete the journey within 46 days, without any company and without using planes.

Hundreds of Danish teenagers applied to participate in the competition, and Palle was lucky enough to be chosen. He started his journey on March 1, 1928, from Copenhagen and traveled by rail and steamship through England, Scotland, Canada, Japan, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Germany.

His journey made the headlines at the time and when he arrived in Denmark, he was already a celebrity. Over 20,000 admirers greeted their hero when he came back home.

The next thing he did was write a book about his journey, which was quite popular among his admirers, and published in several languages. That book also came into the hands of a Belgian cartoonist known by the name of Hergé and that same year, when Huld’s book was published, Tintin made his debut.

Huld himself suggested on several occasions that he was the inspiration for Tintin. However, others believe that the inspiration behind the character was actually the French travel photojournalist Robert Sexe, whose journeys were exactly in the same order as Tintin’s first three books.

With no specific superpowers, Tintin is the antithesis of a superhero. Author: Hicham Souilmi CC By 2.0

Nonetheless, true Tintin fans couldn’t care less. For them it is all about the character, a hero they all know and love, representing something that others don’t have: uncompromising vigilance and the need to succeed no matter what the cost.

Tintin proves that a hero doesn’t need to be big or strong, he or she just needs to be tenacious and stubborn enough to do what needs to be done.

By Goran Blazeski

The sandwich was named after an 18th century earl who didn’t want to take a break from gambling to eat

Born on Nov. 13, 1718, John Montagu was a British diplomat who received his education at Eton and at Trinity College, Cambridge. Before that, in 1729, as a 10-year-old boy, he succeeded his grandfather, Edward Montagu, as the Earl of Sandwich.

The title was created in 1660 in recognition of the achievements of Admiral Sir Edward Montagu, who later became Baron Montagu. His great-grandson John served as First Lord of the Admiralty and as Secretary of State for the Northern Department throughout his life and came to be remembered as the man who sponsored Captain James Cook’s exploration voyages, who in exchange named the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) in honor of him. Apparently, he is also the man the famously convenient food is named after.

John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich.

“Sandwich” has referred to meat (or anything of personal preference really) arranged in between slices of bread since the 18th century in Europe.

The practice of placing bread below or around food, or simply using it for scooping something up, has been found in countless cultures predating the 18th century.

John Hamilton Mortimer (1740-1779) – Oil on canvas (from left: Dr. Daniel Solander, Sir Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook, Dr. John Hawkesworth, and John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich)

Digging deep, the first written usage of the English word can be found in Edward Gibbon’s journal, who referred to “bits of cold meat” as a “Sandwich,” yet using it to describe the sandwich we all love today is found in the satirical travel book A Tour to London; Or New Observations on England and its Inhabitants, penned by the French travel writer and observer Pierre-Jean Grosley.

Edward Gibbon was an English historian and writer celebrated for writing The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, published in six volumes.

In this satire, Grosley wrote about John Montagu’s bad gambling habits, among his many other vices, describing him as a relentless gambler. If Montagu was on a streak, he would not leave the table for hours, eating only food brought on request in order to stay alive.

Oftentimes when hungry, he would order his valet to bring slices of meat tucked between two pieces of bread to his table, allowing him to continue playing cards and fill his stomach at the same time, without the need to use a fork. By doing so, he was keeping the cards clean, and not greasy as they inevitably would be if he was to eat the meat with his bare hands.

This habit came to be well known among his gambling friends, so very soon others began to order “the same as Sandwich,” thus giving birth to the “sandwich” much appreciated today.

Salmon Cream Cheese Sandwiches. Author Katrin Morenz from Aachen, Deutschland – CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Eight men, evidently Government contractors, sit around a table smoking and drinking. Author Library of Congress

This story is a bit debatable, considering that Grosley was taking a satirical stance on things when writing his memoirs. There is another story, though, found in the writings of Nicholas A. M. Rodger, Sandwich’s biographer. He states that the commitments Sandwich had to the Navy as First Lord of the Admiralty, serving as the Secretary of State for the Northern Department in the government of George Grenville, meant that the most often than not, he had to eat at his working desk.

In his views, the first “sandwich” and countless after it were probably eaten by the Earl at his work desk due to his lack of time to eat proper aristocratic meals. This theory is a more praise-worthy approach to things.

By Stefan A