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Is Quantum Computing Impossible?

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"Quantum computing is complex and it's not all it's cracked up to be," writes Slashdot reader nickwinlund77, pointing to this new article from IEEE Spectrum arguing it's "not in our foreseeable future": Having spent decades conducting research in quantum and condensed-matter physics, I've developed my very pessimistic view. It's based on an understanding of the gargantuan technical challenges that would have to be overcome to ever make quantum computing work.... Experts estimate that the number of qubits needed for a useful quantum computer, one that could compete with your laptop in solving certain kinds of interesting problems, is between 1,000 and 100,000. So the number of continuous parameters describing the state of such a useful quantum computer at any given moment must be at least 2**1,000, which is to say about 10**300. That's a very big number indeed. How big? It is much, much greater than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe. To repeat: A useful quantum computer needs to process a set of continuous parameters that is larger than the number of subatomic particles in the observable universe. At this point in a description of a possible future technology, a hardheaded engineer loses interest....

[I]t's absolutely unimaginable how to keep errors under control for the 10300 continuous parameters that must be processed by a useful quantum computer. Yet quantum-computing theorists have succeeded in convincing the general public that this is feasible.... Even without considering these impossibly large numbers, it's sobering that no one has yet figured out how to combine many physical qubits into a smaller number of logical qubits that can compute something useful. And it's not like this hasn't long been a key goal.... On the hardware front, advanced research is under way, with a 49-qubit chip (Intel), a 50-qubit chip (IBM), and a 72-qubit chip (Google) having recently been fabricated and studied. The eventual outcome of this activity is not entirely clear, especially because these companies have not revealed the details of their work...

I believe that, appearances to the contrary, the quantum computing fervor is nearing its end. That's because a few decades is the maximum lifetime of any big bubble in technology or science. After a certain period, too many unfulfilled promises have been made, and anyone who has been following the topic starts to get annoyed by further announcements of impending breakthroughs. What's more, by that time all the tenured faculty positions in the field are already occupied. The proponents have grown older and less zealous, while the younger generation seeks something completely new and more likely to succeed.

He advises quantum computing researchers to follow the advice of IBM physicist Rolf Landauer. Decades ago Landauer warned quantum computing's proponents that they needed a disclaimer in all of their publications.

"This scheme, like all other schemes for quantum computation, relies on speculative technology, does not in its current form take into account all possible sources of noise, unreliability and manufacturing error, and probably will not work."
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jepler
27 days ago
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It remains unclear to me whether effective quantum computing -- which I think of as something that can implement algorithms like Grover's and Shor's -- is a mere matter of engineering, or whether it requires one or more scientific breakthroughs. So many companies doing public-facing research in the area act like it's the former, but authors like Mikhail Dyakonov who know much more than me act like it's the latter. The thing about scientific breakthroughs is that it's hard to put timelines on them; the hoped-for breakthrough might never come.
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
stefanetal
25 days ago
I've not invested the time in any reasonably deep understanding of quantum computing. But my superficial reading of the news suggests that credible detection of quantum-speedup in any setting is still in the future, as it was in 2014. The new fusion energy...
stefanetal
25 days ago
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Northern Virginia
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Nearly half of people ages 6 to 21 in the U.S. last year were nonwhite

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In the fast-growing West, young people are as likely to be Hispanic as white.
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stefanetal
30 days ago
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This sort of perspective rests on the presumption that all Hispanics are non-white minorities, even if about half of US Hispanics are white (by the standards applied). What is the transition rate of kids of Hispanics to non-Hispanic status? This paper says that according to some data sources 20% of the grandchildren of Mexican immigrants no longer identify as Hispanic. http://conference.iza.org/conference_files/AMM_2018/trejo_s225.pdf
And for more assimilated Hispanics the transition rate out of Hispanic identification could be faster. There's no reason to presume there's a large long-term Hispanic minority (in contrast to what occurs with African Americans). This isn't in the long-term any different than, say, Italians. And yes, there are racial minority groups with in the Hispanic population this might not apply too. But that's not Hispanics overall.
Northern Virginia
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Eat the rich, Reston edition

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This sign comes from Rescue Reston, a group dedicated to preventing homes for people who need them, in favor of protecting views of a golf course.

Incredibly, the sign makers didn't camouflage their message: Views for the rich matter more than homes for people.

Could there be a more perfect rallying cry to build these 1,000 homes? GGWash's Jane Green says it best: “What do you do when both sides of a debate use the same signs?”

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satadru
28 days ago
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New York, NY
mareino
30 days ago
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Washington, District of Columbia
stefanetal
30 days ago
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Northern Virginia
duerig
30 days ago
Ugh. Not to mention that golf courses are ugly. I say tear down the golf course to build even more houses.
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‘Hyperalarming’ study shows dramatic loss of insects in pristine American tropical forest

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A new report suggests the decline in invertebrate populations is more widespread than scientists realized. Huge numbers of bugs have been lost in a pristine national forest in Puerto Rico, the study found, and the forest’s insect-eating animals have gone missing, too.





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stefanetal
62 days ago
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Incredibly scary stuff.
Northern Virginia
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Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett: Consequences of Routine Work Schedule Ins...

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Daniel Schneider and Kristen Harknett: Consequences of Routine Work Schedule Instability for Worker Health and Wellbeing: "The rise in precarious work has also involved a major shift in the temporal dimension of work, a fundamental and under-appreciated manifestation of the risk shift from firms...

...To date, a lack of suitable existing data has precluded empirical investigation of how such precarious scheduling practices affect the health and wellbeing of workers. We use an innovative approach to collect survey data from a large and strategically selected segment of the US workforce: hourly workers in the service sector. These data reveal relationships between exposure to routine instability in work schedules and psychological distress, poor sleep quality, and unhappiness. While low wages are also associated with these outcomes, unstable and un-predictable schedules are much more strongly associated. Further, while precarious schedules affect worker wellbeing in part through the mediating influence of household economic insecurity, a much larger proportion of the association is driven by work-life conflict. The temporal dimension of work is central to the experience of precarity and an important social determinant of worker wellbeing....


#shouldread
#equitablegrowth
#labormarket
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stefanetal
63 days ago
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Northern Virginia
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Republican voters don’t care about Trump’s corruption — and here’s why

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The past couple of weeks of the news have served up a hefty reminder not just of the deep corruption of Donald Trump, but of the entire Republican Party. On top of the headline-dominating story about Republicans ignoring all sorts of ethical concerns to place Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, there was also a blockbuster New York Times report showing that Trump amassed his massive fortune not through hard work or business acumen, but old-fashioned tax fraud and corruption. Meanwhile, there's a pileup of stories indicating that Republicans intend to shore up their prospects in the November midterms through blatant and racist cheating, using a series of Jim Crow-style strategies to keep black and Native American voters from the polls in November.

To add to this already disturbing situation, there's the shady behavior Trump is displaying around the disappearance and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who has run afoul of  Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and big buddy of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner. Saudi Arabia is widely believed to be behind the attack, but Trump — who himself is overtly hostile to the free pressseems reluctant to do anything about the situation, citing his unwillingness to spike an arms deal with Saudi Arabia. It's a stance made even more disturbing by the fact that arms deal isn't even real, but more like a fantasy unlikely to come to fruition. There is also reason to believe that Trump is personally enriching himself off the Saudi government, which likely factors into his decision-making.

Despite all this, in a story that's become all too predictable, Trump's approval ratings don't budge, lingering a few percentage points north or south of 40 percent. He's not popular and never has been, but it's clear that the 40 percent of voters who love him really do not care if he's a crook. And despite the GOP's widespread corruption, FiveThirtyEight still gives the party a four-in-five chance of holding a Senate majority in the midterm elections.

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It's easy to chalk off this widespread indifference to criminality and corruption among Republican voters as evidence that such voters are themselves amoral. But that reading is overly simplistic. It's highly unlikely that 40 percent of the country thinks it's no big deal to cheat or steal or lie under oath or shrug off a murder likely ordered by your son-in-law's friend. Nor is it satisfying to simply blame partisanship. Democratic voters are also highly partisan, but don't seem to have nearly the same tolerance for immoral behavior being conducted in their name.

Instead, the likeliest reason for this willingness of Republican voters to indulge all sorts of wicked behavior in pursuit of power is that they've convinced themselves that the "other side" does it just as much. It's an attitude called "what-about-ism," and it allows Republican voters to tell themselves that their side can be as shady and corrupt as they want to be, because Democrats do it, too.

Of course, the fly in that particular ointment is that Democrats do not, in fact, do it too. Barack Obama did not put an accused sexual predator on the Supreme Court after that person repeatedly lied under oath, nor did he shrug it off when an American journalist was killed because he happened to be fond of the alleged murderer. Democrats are not trying to steal elections through widespread cheating. Hillary Clinton was no tax fraud and was able to prove it by releasing her tax returns, something Trump continues to refuse to do.

This disparity, I think, points to one reason why conspiracy theories tend to proliferate more on the right than the left. In the absence of real corruption and crime among Democrats or leftists, conservatives instead rely on  conspiracy theories to justify their continued belief that Democrats are just as corrupt as Republicans, if not more so.

If one believes, for instance, that Obama faked his birth certificate to evade citizenship requirements to be in the Oval Office — as a solid majority of Republicans suspect — then the fact that Trump is a tax fraud doesn't seem so unusual or objectionable. If one buys into the theory that the Clintons had former White House lawyer Vince Foster murdered back in the 1990s, then Trump's shady attitude about the murder of Khashoggi pales in comparison. And while it's basically impossible to follow what, exactly, Republicans are getting at with their Benghazi obsession, they've using that fake conspiracy theory to minimize real concerns about Trump's possible role in Russia's criminal interference with the U.S. election.

No wonder Trump continually leads his rallies with chants of "lock her up," in reference to the many Clinton crimes alleged by conspiracy theorists that do not exist in real life. The more the crowds insist that Clinton is a criminal, the easier it is for them to justify voting for Trump, who has admitted to sexual assault on tape, has committed what the New York Times deemed tax fraud, and may be implicated in the Russian interference in our election.

The conspiracy theory defense was on display during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. Kavanaugh, after all, was accused of a very serious crime — attempted rape — and lying under oath to cover it up. Rather than deal with that, however, conservatives turned to finger-pointing, starting with Kavanaugh himself — in a written statement that can't be written off as heated language under pressure — claiming that the sexual assault accusations from multiple women were some kind of plot to get "revenge on behalf of the Clintons."

Kavanaugh then used this alleged plot, which almost certainly doesn't exist, to imply that he and other conservatives were entitled to do all sorts of unethical things in response, saying the "whole country will reap the whirlwind."

Donald Trump was right when he gave that infamous speech declaring that he could "shoot somebody" in broad daylight without losing voters. In the right-wing imagination, Democrats do evil things, even commit murder, on a regular basis and get away with it. So too many conservatives have convinced themselves that it's only fair to let Trump get away with similar things, even though the bad things he's doing are all too real and not from the realm of fevered conspiracy theory.

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acdha
65 days ago
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Washington, DC
stefanetal
65 days ago
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Northern Virginia
chrishiestand
65 days ago
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San Diego, CA, USA
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