NASA Purchases ‘Quantum’ Computer

NASA Purchases 'Quantum' ComputerA $15m computer that uses “quantum physics” effects to boost its speed is to be installed at a NASA facility. It will be shared by Google, NASA, and other scientists, providing access to a machine said to be up to 3,600 times faster than conventional computers.

‘Fractions of a second’

Unlike standard machines, the D-Wave Two processor appears to make use of an effect called quantum tunnelling. This allows it to reach solutions to certain types of mathematical problems in fractions of a second. Effectively, it can try all possible solutions at the same time and then select the best.

Google wants to use the facility at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California to find out how quantum computing might advance techniques of machine learning and artificial intelligence, including voice recognition. University researchers will also get 20% of the time on the machine via the Universities Space Research Agency (USRA).


‘Skepticism’

NASA will likely use the commercially available machine for scheduling problems and planning. Canadian company D-Wave Systems, which makes the machine, has drawn skepticism over the years from quantum computing experts around the world. Until research outlined earlier this year, some even suggested its machines showed no evidence of using specifically quantum effects.

Reportedly costing up to $15m, housed in a garden shed-sized box that cools the chip to near absolute zero, it should be installed at NASA and available for research by autumn 2013.

Do you think the quantum computer to be installed in NASA will be a great contribution to its projects? Feel free to comment on this latest technological development!

Source: Alex Mansfield, BBC News

Image: MIT Technology Review

A Graduate Degree For $100?

Ask Sebastian Thrun what makes him tick, and the inventor and Google Fellow ­offers up three favorite themes: big open problems, a desire to help people and “disrespect for authority.” Thrun, 45, has been aiming high—and annoying the old guard—for nearly two decades.

Thrun has found a fresh challenge that excites him even more: fixing higher education. Conventional ­university teaching is way too costly, inefficient and ­ineffective to survive for long, he contends. Financiers at Charles River Ventures have already pumped $5 million into Thrun’s online-ed startup, Udacity. “I like to back people who have disruptive ­personalities,” explains CRV partner George Zachary. “They create disruptive solutions.”

Getting a master’s degree might cost just $100. After teaching his own artificial intelligence class at Stanford last year—and attracting 160,000 online signups—Thrun believes online formats can be far more effective than traditional classroom lectures.


Udacity is charting its own path as a career academy for brainy people of all ages. Udacity’s offices are just a few hundred yards from Stanford, but they’re a world away from the school’s idyllic environs. Its open, barnlike work area has stained beige carpets, cheap desks and a Go board perched on a flimsy coffee table. Most of its 25 employees are video, graphics or software whizzes determined to make each second of online instruction as eye-catching and compelling as possible.

It currently offers 11 courses, for free, in subjects such as computer programming, statistics and mathematics, plus a robocar programmer’s workshop with Thrun himself. Thrun decided to apply new elements to a fall 2011 artificial intelligence class that he and Google research chief Peter Norvig cotaught at Stanford. By Thrun’s tally he influenced more students through that single online course than he had in all his two decades of classroom teaching.

What do you think of the idea of Udacity? Would you want to be one of Sebastian Thrun’s students and pursue a degree for a meager hundred bucks?

Source: Digg

Image: The Air Space