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Discovery of a "Flat" Atom Hailed as Quantum Computing Breakthrough 205

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the breakthroughs-by-mistake dept.
msw writes to tell us that nanoelectronics researchers have discovered a new molecule that could act as a state-manipulable atom due to its unique shape and properties. "Imagine a tiny arsenic atom embedded in a tiny strip of silicon atoms. An electric current is applied. Something strange arises on the surface -- an exotic molecule. On one end is the spherical submerged arsenic atom; on the other end is an 'artificial' flat atom, seemingly 2D, created as an artifact. The pair form an exotic molecule, which has a shared electron, which can be manipulated to be at either end, or in an intermediate quantum state."
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Discovery of a "Flat" Atom Hailed as Quantum Computing Breakthrough

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  • by unity100 (970058) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:02PM (#24035477) Homepage Journal
    and unleash them on the flux capacitor !!! we are getting into quantum artifact business.
  • Quantum State (Score:5, Informative)

    by Pictish Prince (988570) <wenzbauer@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:04PM (#24035489) Journal
    Don't you mean indeterminate quantum state? The electron can't be in an intermediate state since there are only two possible states.
    • by Romancer (19668) <(moc.roodshtaed) (ta) (recnamor)> on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:08PM (#24035533) Journal


      He meant to say interdeterminatable.

    • Re:Quantum State (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gat0r30y (957941) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:10PM (#24035567) Homepage Journal
      qubits have 3 possible states 1 0 and indeterminate. Thus it is a breakthrough in quantum computing and not just regular computing. The indeterminate state is defined as a superposition of the two other states. And indeed it is a real, though not particularly well defined state for the electron to be in.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        I propose that we rename "indeterminate state" to "undead cat state", just because it sounds cooler and (sorta) makes sense.

      • How is indeterminate different from unknown?

        In any analog system without hysteresis, and thus many digital systems too, you go through an unknown state as you transition from low to high.

        IIRC, which I probably don't, quantum computing's indeterminate state is a bit more than just "unknown". It allows the calculation to be done with essentially "wildcard bits" that, when resolved magically give us the answer. THis essentially allows multiple parallel calculations. Unknown does not give us that.

      • Re:Quantum State (Score:5, Insightful)

        by sfazzio (1227616) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:49PM (#24036049)

        qubits have 3 possible states 1 0 and indeterminate.

        Not true! Qubits have an infinite number of possible states. Imagine that your classical bit is represented as either an arrow pointing up for 1 and an arrow pointing down as -1. A quantum bit is like an arrow that can be pointed in the up direction, the down direction, or any other direction (it basically constrained to the surface of a sphere).

      • by mdmkolbe (944892)

        Technically it has only two states (0 and 1) but is always in a superposition of the available states. Different superpositions have different mixes of the two states ranging from "pure" superpositions with only 0 or 1 in them to mixed states with equal amounts of 0 and 1 and everything in between.

        (Even this doesn't tell the whole story because there are constraints on how the states can mix (the sum of their squares must be unit) and we also can have "negative" amounts of states (only indirectly observ

        • Re:Quantum State (Score:4, Informative)

          by sfazzio (1227616) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @05:03PM (#24037013)
          Your terminology is slightly off. Qubits can have an infinite number of possible states. 0 and 1 are called the basis. Also, a qubit is considered to be in a "pure state", not only when it's in a basis state, but also if it is in a superposition of the bases. A mixed state is something completely different. It occurs when we don't know exactly what pure state, so the state is represented by the sum of the possible pure states weighted by the probability of the qubit being in that state. http://www.quantiki.org/wiki/index.php/Mixed_state [quantiki.org]
    • by sm62704 (957197)

      Don't you mean indeterminate quantum state?

      Well, that's indeterminate... [angryflower.com]

    • by cmat (152027)

      I think he meant "unconceivable" state.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        I think he meant "unconceivable" state.

        Are you sure you don't want to say, inconceivable or are you worried a certain swordsman will challenge you on the overuse of that word?

  • I suspect that they mean some kind of artifact that behaves like an atom for certain useful purposes, but without explaining what that artifact is and what makes it behave like an atom they're not actually explaining anything.

    • by snowgirl (978879) * on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:31PM (#24035797) Journal

      Yeah, the title of this should be "found a flat 'atom'" which should be in quotes, not the "flat" part.

      The artifact is definitely flat, but the "atom" is a virtual one. Much like an atom of Positronium, where an electron is circling around a positron (anti-electron). Positronium acts chemically exactly like Hydrogen, because chemistry is based on the electron shell, not the actual atom inside (the different elements are all distinguished by how many electrons they have in orbit, as well how much or little they want to keep electrons.)

      So, this "atom" that they're referring to doesn't actually exist as a "physical" object, but rather it's an artifact as you mentioned, and if an electron were to just kind of oddly orbit around an empty space, chemically, it's a hydrogen atom.

      • Ah, now it makes more sense.

        And now for something completely different...

        And to demonstrate that there is nothing so weird that the quacks won't latch onto it, when I googled on Positronium I discovered that someone is claiming that they have a homeopathic remedy created from the decay of Positronium.

        http://www.hominf.org/posi/posifr.htm [hominf.org]

        Such gems as Since positronium is made up of both particle and anti-particle, it assumes a position mid way between matter and anti-matter. When it decays, it is converted into a pulse of pure energy. This threefold state has been picked up by a number of provers for whom the number 3 was prevalent in dreams and waking experiences. It also provides a convenient way to arrange and "map" (to see the map, a visual representation of the remedy, click here) the symptoms and themes of the proving, as we shall see later.

        Holy mother of Mendeleev, what a load of collywobbles.

        • by snowgirl (978879) *

          Jesus! Where is this guy even GETTING positronium.

          According to Wikipedia, Positronium has three different lifetimes depending upon how the positron is compared to the atom. Either picoseconds, or at best, they think about 1.1 millisecond.

          Unless this guy is making his positronium _IN_ the water... hell, it won't even MAKE it to the proving phase where you bang it...

          Not to mention positrons are extremely expensive... we've spent millions if not billions of dollars on anti-mater, and we've made maybe a gram

          • hell, it won't even MAKE it to the proving phase where you bang it...

            That's what SHE said!

            Your mom, I mean. But she was wrong. Zing!

            • by snowgirl (978879) *

              hell, it won't even MAKE it to the proving phase where you bang it...

              That's what SHE said!

              Your mom, I mean. But she was wrong. Zing!

              Yes.... yes, it is what I said.

        • positronium...number 3 was prevalent in dreams and waking experiences.

          That was a pretty good episode.

      • by ceoyoyo (59147)

        Positronium is a real atom. It behaves just like hydrogen (almost) chemically, but it is a real atom.

        This thing is not... it seems to be more akin to your electron circling nothing example.

    • by snowgirl (978879) *

      Rereading your comment:

      The new molecule was first discovered by Sven Rogge and his colleagues at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. His team was experimenting on impurities in nano-scale transistors. They found that a single atom was transporting electrons, but could not find the impurity responsible. It turned out it was not an impurity, but a synthetic atom with an unknown proton/neutron character, created by the electrical current. The exotic atom was flat and formed a molecule with a

    • It's an artifact, alright - it's the dreaded +2 Atom of Confusion!

  • by anandamide (86527) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:15PM (#24035639)

    Is there a big variety I'm unaware of?

  • by bornwaysouth (1138751) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:23PM (#24035713) Homepage
    Can someone on slashdot please make sense of the article. It claims
    1. That quantum computing needs vastly fewer bits to represent data. I thought it dealt with multiple possibilities simultaneously, but that the final reality just needed small number of bits. (Ideal for encryption cracking. Crap for storing a database)
    2. That a synthetic atom was created. OK. I used to be a chemist. A new non-peridic table atom is heresy to me. But that extraordinary claim seemed to be nothing more than an odd electrical state, acting as if an unknown atom was present.
    3. A molecule was created. Covalent bonds and the like. Except that it seemed to be an arsenic atom buried in a matrix. Not a separate molecule at all.
    4. That faster than light communication is possible. I thought that collapsing entanglement does appear to happen faster than light, but that no information transfer happens. Mind you, that's my memory of my take on a New Scientist comment some time back. My brain has its share of garbage. Compost help ideas grow. ;-)

    I suspect there is great science here being reported as little more than magic.
    • I don't know much about the other three, but #1 can be answered easily. Imagine instead of having ones and zeros, having zeros, ones and twos given that cubits have three states. With the third state, more can be said with the same amount of bits as a binary on/off state.
      • by mea37 (1201159) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @04:12PM (#24036363)

        Imagine that if you want, but it isn't how it works.

        A quantum bit can actually be in many different states; any weighted superposition of the 0 state and the 1 state, in fact. But you can't look at it and say "ah, right now it's in an indeterminate state"; when you read it, it collapses to either the 0 state or the 1 state. Its state prior to observation only determines the odds that you'll see the 0 state vs. the 1 state when you read it; you can only read it as being in one or the other.

    • by kalirion (728907)

      I thought that collapsing entanglement does appear to happen faster than light, but that no information transfer happens.

      You can't find out what the state was before the collapse, but you could conceivably find out that the collapse happened (the behavior becomes that of a particle instead of an element).

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ceoyoyo (59147)

        That's not how it works. You can't measure an indeterminate state. I'm not even sure what you mean by "element."

        If I've got some sets of pair entangled particles and I give you one half of each pair, then I manipulate my set and you measure your set, if we compare notes we'll find out that our measurements agree with each other (actually, in most cases they disagree perfectly, but that's just a detail).

        The catch is that you can only observe the effect after we get together and compare notes. You can only

        • by kalirion (728907)

          Consider a stream of entangled particles is shot in different direction, with each particle in one stream having an entangled partner in the other. At both ends there's one of those double-slit setups. If setup correctly, and the particles aren't interfered with, they will form diffusion patterns. If a measurement device is switched at the end of one stream (before the slits), the interference pattern will disappear at both ends. At least that's the theory. There was a slashdot article about an experim

          • by ceoyoyo (59147)

            It doesn't work that way. I can't remember the exact details, but the interference pattern doesn't just disappear. Remember, an interference pattern is built up from a large number of particle impacts. It's a statistical process. The interference pattern only disappears when you later look back and sift through the data using information about the measurements the other experimenter did. The experiment has been done, and there's a good description in this [amazon.com] book.

            The rules are weird, but pretty airtight.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by kalirion (728907)

              Yes, I read The Fabric of Cosmos. And that's what actually gave me the idea before I ever heard of John Cramer's planned experiment. Remember Greene's example of an experimental setup which specifically stated that if you measure the entangled stream, it would cause the interference pattern to disappear in the original stream. It seems obvious that this can be used for communication. As you said, measuring a single photon would not be enough - a pattern needs many "dots". But if you switch the device o

      • by mdmkolbe (944892)

        you could conceivably find out that the collapse happened (the behavior becomes that of a particle instead of an element

        I assume you mean "wave" instead of "element". If so, your statement is incorrect. It is impossible to pass any information (including whether the other guy looked at his half of the pair) via quantum entanglement.

        • by kalirion (728907)

          I assume you mean "wave" instead of "element". If so, your statement is incorrect. It is impossible to pass any information (including whether the other guy looked at his half of the pair) via quantum entanglement.

          Yes, I did mean "wave". I really should start previewing my posts :)

          And see my other post for a way that might just work.

          • by mdmkolbe (944892)

            I looked at your other post, but have been unable to find any confirmation one way or the other of how such an experiment would turn out. It seems like the Quantum Eraser (for which experiments have already been completed) would be sufficient for FTL communication, but I can't find any reference that explains whether or not that would work (which makes me think there must be an "obvious" reason why it wouldn't that they all forget to mention).

            I must confess that these ideas sound plausible, but on the f

  • by argent (18001) <peter@NOsPam.slashdot.2006.taronga.com> on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @03:28PM (#24035757) Homepage Journal

    Wil McCarthy insists that his Wellstone... an artificial state of matter (or something of that nature) involving a grid of pseudo-atoms... isn't entirely science fiction.

    The Wellstone
    The Collapsium
    Lost in Transition
    To Crush the Moon

    Warning: I haven't been able to bring myself to read the final book in this series, the previous books have set it up as a serious downer and I've already got enough stress in my life as it is.

  • Delft's Rogge, the first of the discoverers stated, "Our experiment made us realize that industrial electronic devices have now reached the level where we can study and manipulate the state of a single atom. This is the ultimate limit, you cannot get smaller than that."
  • am tired of these flat molecules. I want the largest, firmest and the most ample molecules that I can get my hands on...

    Wait... was thinking of something else. Never mind.

  • Imagine a tiny arsenic atom embedded in a tiny strip of silicon atoms.

    Me: ??? <blink, blink>

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @04:26PM (#24036555)

    from the breakthroughs-by-mistake dept.

    There's a word for that, just on the tip of my mind, meaning happy accident... ah yes: schadenfreude.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Serendipity means an accidental discovery. Schadenfreude means taking pleasure from the misfortune of others.

  • ...ah the possibilities.
  • FTF Summary (Score:3, Funny)

    by aztektum (170569) on Wednesday July 02, 2008 @06:15PM (#24037803)

    All I was able to grasp was

    Imagine ...

    Reading everything after caused my brain to spin into the guard rail.

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