Scientists Come One Step Further in Creating Quantum Computers

The world of technology has got one step closer to creating quantum computers.  Dutch scientists have recently created a 2-qubit (quantum bitprocessor running on a silicon chip.

While standard computers work with bits of information that can have only two states, 0 or 1, quantum processors are based on the fact that bits can exist in both states at the same time. As a result, they have tremendous computing power and can do things that no classical computer can do. Quantum computers can be used for solving complex problems and can manage much larger number of calculations at once.

Scientists explain that they are still in the early stages of developing a real quantum processor. Hardware manufacturer IBM has already built a 50-qubit computer, but with superconductive materials that need extreme cooling. Putting a quantum processor on a silicon chip, which is already used in the computer industry, may be the first step toward mass production.

In such quantum processors, electrons can be in many states at once. This is called superposition. In the lab, scientists have managed to keep electrons between both positions at the same time, however, such electrons are not stable and quickly fall apart. By linking these electrons together on a silicon chip qubit hardware manufacturers could produce quantum processors for commercial use.

Design of a quantum computer chip
Design of a quantum computer chip – Image: D-Wave Systems, Inc.

 Words

  • bit = the smallest unit of information that a computer uses
  • calculation = when you use numbers to find out something
  • classical = here: normal; the ones we have today
  • commercial use = here: something that is produced so that people buy it
  • complex = very complicated
  • electron = very small piece of matter with a negative electrical charge that moves around the central part of an atom
  • hardware manufacturer = company that producers computers
  • however = but
  • lab = laboratory
  • link = connect with each other
  • manage = work with; succeed in doing something
  • mass production = products that are produced in factories in large numbers so they can be sold cheaply
  • processor = central part of a computer that deals with commands and the information it is given
  • quantum = unit of energy in physics
  • qubit= quantum bit = piece of information that can exist in two states at the same time
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • silicon chip = small piece of silicon  that has electrical connections and can store information
  • stable = steady; something that does not change
  • stage = phase, time during which something happens
  • superconductive = when electricity can flow through a material very easily, especially at low temperatures
  • state = condition that something is in
  • tremendous = very big, fast, powerful

Twitter Announces First Profits

The social media site Twitter has announced its first profit since the founding of the company in 2005. The last quarter of 2017 saw the company making $ 91 million in profits. After the announcement, Twitter shares rose more than 20%.

Twitter made the profits from an increase in ad sales and from expansion outside the US.  Overall revenue has been increasing constantly and is now at $ 731 million, due to a better targetting of ads. While revenue in the US fell, it increased strongly in Japan and other countries.

Currently, Twitter is reported to have over 330 million active users. It has been an important media outlet for celebrities and politicians, especially in the United States, for a long time. However, surprisingly, up to now, the company has failed to make any profits. Business experts have criticized Twitter for failing to grow over the longer term and step out of the shadows of its bigger brother, Facebook.

 

The company has announced its plans for 2018.  It wants to improve the quality of information and tackle security issues, for example, fake accounts and spam. As many as 15% of all accounts on Twitter are said to be controlled by bots.

 

Twitter headquarters in San Francisco
Twitter headquarters in San Francisco – Image: Runner1928

Words

  • account  = agreement you have with an organisation so that you can use its services or website
  • ad = advertisement = pictures, text or a short film that persuades people to buy a product
  • announce = to say in public, officially
  • bot = computer programme  that can control information on a website
  • celebrity = famous person
  • constantly = slowly, but all the time
  • currently = at the moment
  • due to = because of
  • especially = above all
  • expansion = when something increases in size
  • fail = here: not succeed in doing something
  • fake = not a real person
  • founding = when the company started
  • increase = grow, become larger
  • longer term = over a longer period of time
  • outlet = here: organization through which information is presented
  • overall = total; altogether
  • politician = person who works in the government, parliament or a political party
  • profit = the money you for selling things or doing business after  your costs  have been paid for
  • reported = it is said that …
  • revenue = money that a company gets in a certain time for selling products and services
  • rise – rose = to go up
  • security issues = problems in which the website is attacked by criminals and hackers
  • shares = part of a company that you can buy
  • spam = message that is sent to many different people by email or the Internet, usually as a way of advertising something
  • tackle = manage ; fight against
  • target = here: people who are chosen for getting ads

World Health Organisation Introduces Gaming Disorder

The World Health Organisation has added the term “gaming disorder” to its International Classification of Diseases. It refers to people who are addicted to video and other games and cannot stop. It is the first update in the WHO’s catalogue in almost three decades.

According to the WHO, gaming becomes a disorder if you are unable to control how long you play and when to stop. When that happens, it gets control of your life, influences everyday situations and affects your daily routine. WHO officials say that excessive gaming is  a serious disorder that must be closely watched

In order for a person to be regarded as having a gaming disorder, the behaviour must be going on for at least one year, either constantly or in phases. Gamers put their addiction above their family life, meeting with friends and going to school.

On one side studies have shown that playing video games may help with problems like depression and dementia.However, gaming is highly addictive and many people play for a longer time than is healthy. As a result, people get fired for not going to work or miss school classes for a longer period of time.

Many continue with their addiction, even if they see and realize the negative consequences it leads to.

 

 

Gaming is now regarded as a WHO disorder
Gaming is now regarded as a WHO disorder – Image: Marco Verch

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • addicted to = not able to stop doing something that may be harmful
  • addiction = when you have to and want to do something regularly
  • behaviour = here: too much gaming
  • classification = when you put people into a group
  • consequence = result
  • constantly = all the time, without interruption
  • daily routine = what you normally do every day
  • decade = ten years
  • dementia = illness that affects the brain, in which you cannot think clearly and behave in a normal way; you also forget a lot of things
  • depression = situation in which you are unhappy, nervous  and cannot live a normal life
  • disorder = mental or physical illness which stops your body from working the way it should
  • excessive = too much
  • get fired = lose your job
  • highly addictive = here: the will to play a game is so strong you cannot stop
  • however = but
  • influence = change
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • realize = understand how bad the situation is
  • refer = to be about something
  • regard as = here: to put a person into this category
  • serious = very bad
  • studies = work that is done to find out more about a topic
  • update = change
  • World Health Organisation (WHO) = international organisation that is part of the United Nations, which helps countries improve the health of their population; it also offers information about diseases and provides medicine

NASA Discovers Star System With 8 Planets

NASA has discovered the eighth planet of a star system, similar to our solar system. The star, Kepler-90  is over 2,500 light years away and larger and hotter than our sun. It is the first star known to have as many planets as our solar system.

The Kepler-90 star system is much more compact than our solar system. The outermost planet orbits the star at about the same distance as the earth orbits the sun.  its inner planets are small and rocky while the outer ones are larger and made up of gas

The newly discovered planet, Kepler -90i, is the third celestial object in the star system. It is probably rocky and similar to our earth, but because of its closeness to its home star has an average surface temperature of about 400° C. It moves around the star once every 14.4 days.

The discovery was made based on data provided by the Kepler space telescope. Launched in March 2009, the telescope has constantly been scanning certain sections of the universe in search of new stars and planetary systems. Up to now, over 2,000 new worlds have been discovered.

To help analyse the data NASA has been relying on artificial intelligence software supplied by Google.  This software examines weak signals of light when objects pass in front of a star.  The new way of examining data is expected to reveal even more new planets in the future.

 

Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system
Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system

Words

  • artificial intelligence = when computers do intelligent things  that only people can do, such as think and make their own decisions
  • average = normal, usual
  • based on = use
  • celestial = about the sky
  • closeness = being close to something
  • compact = here: the planets are closer together and near to the star
  • constantly = always
  • data = information
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • examine = look at something closely
  • launch = to send  an object into space
  • light year = the distance light travels in one year = 9,460,000,000,000 km
  • orbit = to go around
  • outermost = the farthest away from something
  • planetary system = star with planets moving around it
  • provide = give
  • rely = depend on; need
  • reveal = to show something that was not known before
  • rocky = covered with or made of rocks; here: a hard surface
  • scan = when a machine looks at things carefully but quickly
  • similar = like
  • solar system = our sun and the eight planets that move around it
  • surface temperature = temperature you get when you stand on the planet
  • weak = not strong

 

 

Texting Celebrates 25th Birthday

Short Message Service (SMS), also called texting, is celebrating its 25th birthday. The first text message was sent in Great Britain shortly before Christmas in 1992 in Great Britain. It was British engineer Neil Papworth who sent the first message from a computer to a  mobile phone on the Vodaphone network. At that time mobile phones could only receive messages, not send them.

In 1994, Nokia presented its first mobile phone that could actually send and receive messages.  It was the first phone that could produce more than an audio signal. Shortly afterwards the first commercial SMS service started in Finland. Text messages were limited to 160 characters.

25 years later text messaging is widely popular.  97% of all smartphone users send some type of text message regularly. About 25 billion are sent every day. Today there are more complex messaging services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messanger and iMessage.

Media experts regard texting as the first step towards today’s smartphones, which are basically pocket computers with countless apps.

Texting has changed the way we communicate. For the first time, you could send the same text to different contacts at the same time and it didn’t matter if the recipient was reachable or not. A new language has also emerged with abbreviations and short sentences.

Texting on a mobile phone
Texting on a mobile phone – Image : Helar Lukats

Words

  • abbreviation = short form of a word or phrase
  • actually = really, in fact
  • basically = practically
  • celebrate = to show that an event is important
  • commercial = here: something that you can make money with
  • communicate = exchange information or get into contact with each other
  • complex = advanced; with many different parts
  • countless = very many
  • emerge = develop, appear
  • engineer = person who designs and builds machines and other objects
  • limit = only allow
  • network = here: system of telephone lines that are connected to each other
  • reachable = here: speak to someone
  • receive = get
  • recipient = here: a person who receives a message
  • regard = think of something as…
  • widely popular = used by many people

China Overtakes US in Number of Supercomputers

For the first time in history, China has overtaken the United States in the number of supercomputers.  Currently, China has a total of 202 of the world’s 500 fastest computers, up from 159 half a year ago. The number of US supercomputers has dropped to 144.

The world’s most powerful computer is located in China. The Sunway  TaihuLight ,  at Wuxi can do 93 quadrillion calculations per second. The fastest US computer, the Titan, is ranked fifth while Europe’s speediest computer is Switzerland’s Piz Daint, ranked third.

Supercomputers are machines that occupy entire buildings and use the combined power of thousands of processors. They are used to carry out special tasks that involve a huge number of calculations.  Among them are weather forecasts and climate studies, as well as strategic tasks like nuclear weapons simulations.

Chinese supremacy in the world of supercomputing reflects the country’s  investment in research and development. One-fifth of the money used on research and development around the world is spent in China.

On the other side, many Chinese systems have been created to earn money. Processing power is rented to other national and international companies.

For years the speed of supercomputers has steadily increased although since 2012 this increase has slowed down.

 

America's Titan2  - Supercomputers
America’s Titan2 Supercomputer – Image: Courtesy of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Dept. of Energy

Words

  • although = while
  • calculation = here: a single task
  • combined = everything  put together
  • create = make
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • drop = go down
  • entire = whole
  • huge = very big; very many
  • investment = to use money for special things
  • involve = need
  • located = can be found
  • nuclear weapons simulation = here: software that tries to find out how nuclear bombs will affect the world and its population if they are used
  • occupy = use up; need
  • overtake = to be better than
  • processor = central part fo a computer that deals with commands and the information you give it
  • quadrillion= the number one followed by 24 zeros
  • ranked = position in a list
  • reflect = show, demonstrate
  • rent = let someone use something for money
  • research and development = to study special fields and use new ideas to create new things
  • speediest = fastest
  • steadily = slowly
  • strategic = here: about the military
  • supremacy = being number one or the best in the world
  • task = piece of work
  • weather forecast = a description of what the weather will be like in the next few days

Twitter Increases Number of Characters to 280

The social networking service Twitter has increased the number of characters that can be used for a single tweet to 280. The new limit will apply to English and other languages that use a Roman alphabet. Languages, such as Chinese, Japanese or Korean, are not affected by the change because users can say more with fewer characters.

Twitter says that the change has been made to give people more opportunity to say what they think and express their opinions without making texts shorter or using bad grammar. More space makes it easier to put your thoughts in writing.

Twitter decided to implement the change after a month of intensive testing .Those who tested the new character limit said it was good because they were able to express themselves in a better way.

In the first few days after the new rule took effect, many people used up the full 280 character limit. A spokesperson said that, after a few days, everything had become normal again.  Only five percent of all tweets exceeded the old 140 character limit, probably because most users were used to it.

Twitter’s 140-character limit goes back to the days when the company was founded in 2006. Back then, the limit for sending SMS text messages was 140 characters and Twitter based the new service on that limit. Texting today is considered out of date and not used that much anymore.

 

Twitter logo
Twitter logo

Words

  • affect = here: to do something that produces a change
  • apply = affect; to be used for
  • character = letter, number or sign used in an alphabet
  • considered = thought to be …
  • exceed = to be more than …
  • express = tell or show what you think or feel
  • found – founded = here: to start a new company
  • implement = here: to make changes
  • increase = to go up
  • intensive = here: a lot of
  • limit = here: the number of characters you are allowed to use
  • opinion = what you think about something
  • opportunity = chance
  • out of date = not useful, because something more modern has taken its place
  • Roman alphabet = alphabet used in English and other European languages
  • spokesperson = someone who speaks for a company and makes announcements in public
  • take effect = to start to produce results after something has changed
  • thought = what you think
  • tweet = a message on twitter

 

Netflix Hits 100 Million Subscribers

The American video streaming service Netflix has 100 million subscribers around the world. This year alone the company has gained almost 5 million new viewers. Its content can now be seen used in 190 countries. Almost half of Netflix’s subscribers live in the United States.

The company expects to expand even more quickly as services in Asia, Africa and Latin America have just been started. Almost 75% of the world’s population live here.

A major part of Netflix’s success comes from producing its own shows.  “House of Cards”  or “Stranger Things” have won many awards become worldwide hits.

The success of the video streaming giant is also reflected at the stock markets. At the moment, Netflix has a market value of  $63 billion and its stock price continues to rise.

In the past decade, Netflix has changed the way we watch television.  More and more people are turning away from traditional TV, where you have to watch a film when it is aired or wait a week to watch the next episode of your favourite show. With video on demand viewers tend to watch whatever they want when they want to.

Competitors of Netflix have started to gain ground and are trying to make life tough for the streaming giant. Amazon Prime has launched its own streaming service and the big US networks are streaming their own shows as well.

 

Netflix
Netflix

Words

  • air = broadcast on television
  • award = prize
  • content = here: films and movies it offers
  • continue = to go on
  • decade = ten years
  • expand = to make bigger
  • gain = to become more ; get
  • gain ground = catch up with; to become better
  • launch = start
  • reflect = show
  • rise = go up
  • stock market = place where parts of companies and businesses are bought and sold
  • streaming service = when you can watch a video while it is being broadcast over the Internet
  • subscriber = person who pays money every month to use something
  • success = to achieve what you wanted; to become very good at what you do
  • tend = have a habit of doing something; to do something regularly
  • tough = hard
  • value = what something is worth
  • video on demand = you can watch something whenever you want to
  • viewer = a person who watches something on TV or the Internet