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Quantum theory to quantum biology


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Professor of Physics Jim Al-Khalili from the University of Surrey presented a talk at TEDx earlier this year, which explores the idea that quantum effects can be observed at a biological level.

In his presentation, Professor Al-Khalili explains how quantum entanglement may answer the question of how birds are able to navigate the Earth’s via its invisible magnetic fields (which are a hundred times weaker than a fridge magnet), or why quantum tunnelling could be the key to how the sun shines.

“Quantum biology is about looking for the trivial, the counter-intuitive ideas in quantum mechanics and to see if they do indeed play an important role in describing the processes of life,” said Professor Al-Khalili.

His latest book with Professor Johnjoe McFadden is titled “Life on the Edge: The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology“, which looks at these ideas in depth and seeks to answer the many questions about the origin of life itself.

Image: an illustration of a robin (via RSPB UK)

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Australian Quantum Security Firm Wins Global Award


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Australia-based quantum security firm QuintessenceLabs has won a major international award. The firm was recently announced as a 2015 winner by the global Security Innovation Network.

The Security Innovation Network (SINET), which includes the US Department of Homeland Security and the Home Office in the United Kingdom, has listed the company as one of the world’s top emerging innovation companies.

With close connections to the Australian National University’s Department of Quantum Science, QuintessenceLabs has been working with physicists to develop quantum encryption-based security systems that may be applied in banking and government sectors.

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‘The Probable Universe’


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The Terminator meets Twin Peaks in this eerie interactive audio-visual installation, which combines “an infinite combination of projected worlds in a physical environment using an industrial robotic arm.” Quantum physics couldn’t get any spookier!

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The politics of physics


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The New York Times recently published this piece that describes implications of politics and war on physics, in a time when Einstein’s work on the general relativity was a puzzle with its pieces all coming together.

In this article, Professor David Kaiser from MIT discusses the lesser known stories behind the development of one of the most important and famous theories in physics, from the naysayers who argued against Einstein’s anti-Newtonian ideas of gravitational forces, to the anti-Einstein rallies in a war-ravaged Germany during WWI. It is fair to say that our beloved general theory of relativity has had quite a journey to begin with.

Image: “Albert Einstein: Authorial Fame Seems to be Relative!” (via GHDI)

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Promising research in quantum gravity


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Yesterday, international science journal Nature published a fascinating overview of recent research in quantum gravity penned by Ron Cowen.

The piece surveys a number of findings hinting that quantum entanglement can correlate with space-time geometry. A “small industry” of scientists drawing on an eclectic mix of research are showing that the long-entrenched question of quantum gravity may soon get some answers.

Photo: A Belfast mural by English artist Liam Gillick (Wikipedia Commons)

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Re-Remembering War and Peace in Uncertain Times


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In Thursday’s Q Lecture, Mckenzie Wark focused on the gaps that exist between data, models, and theory. On Friday, Andrea Loehr talked about the event horizon­: the range at which two objects are so far apart in the universe that the photons they emit will never reach each other. Saturday morning saw Badredine Arfi problematize the notion of a discernable present and question the stability of identities that cannot be auto-present. In both the physical or social sciences, the limits to knowledge—and, by extension, common connotations like fixity, stability, and security—have emerged as a preeminent theme for Project Q.

For Saturday’s “War: Memorial, Transformational, Gendered” panel, discussant Megan Mackenzie (University of Sydney/CISS) found this common theme once more. The presentations by Antoine Bousquet (Birkbeck/University of London), Laura Shepherd (University of New South Wales), and Jairus Grove (University of Hawai’i at Mānoa) each focused on new means of thought and action developing around the First World War, but Mackenzie noted that each presentation had a “focus on what we focus on” before introducing the notion of “blind spots” to push the conversation.

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Crucial hurdle overcome in quantum computing


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A team of Australian engineers have built a quantum logic gate in silicon for the first time, making calculations between two quits of information possible – and thereby clearing a major hurdle to making silicon quantum computers a reality.

The Project Q team spoke to team leader Andrew Dzurak, Scientia Professor and Director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at the University of New South Wales, as well as Dr. Menno Veldhorst, a UNSW Research Fellow, on their ground breaking achievement, and what it means for the world of quantum computing.

Q2

Time: Historical, Representational, and Relative


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Saturday morning’s panel on “Time: Historical, Representational, and Relative” continued Q’s experiments with the entanglements of the physical and social sciences with theory and aesthetics. In his introduction of the panel, Jairus Grove (Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawai’i-Mānoa) noted that his charge included Particle Fever director Mark Levinson and University of Florida political science Professor Badredine Arfi, two trained physicists who had moved on to other endeavors but never left the field behind them. The panel’s third presenter, Professor Dean Rickles, specializes in quantum gravity and string theory and is now Professor of History and Philosophy of Modern Physics at the University of Sydney. Simon Reay Atkinson, whose career has taken him from aircraft carrier to college quad as a professor, engineer, and Captain in the Royal Australian Navy, rounded out the panel’s eclectic ensemble in his role as discussant.

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Space: States, Subjects, Simulation, and a Screening


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With Friday’s opening panel on The Space-time of War and Diplomacy having established Q2’s overall theme, subsequent panels explored simultaneously the distinctive qualities and complementarity of its components of space, time, war, and diplomacy.

In the opening panel, both Stephen Kern and Arthur I. Miller emphasized the significance of technological, cultural, aesthetic, and scientific innovations to the representations and perceptions of space before and during the First World War. After a brief break, the conversation went deeper in the panel on “Space: Geopolitical, Galactic, and Virtual”. Presentations by Andrea Loehr, Mark Salter, and McKenzie Wark brought insights from astrophysics, history, and critical political theory to bear on perceptions of inhabiting and moving through space(s) at scales galactic, planetary, and subjective.

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Q2’s First Morning Touches on Memory, Space-Time, and War


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As Q2’s attendees assembled to catch a ferry to Q station on Friday morning, traces of McKenzie Wark’s lecture the night before were manifesting in conversations and the space itself. Near the pier sits a plaque commemorating the spot where the 1st Infantry Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment left to fight in Korea in 1952. This plaque mentions another 1st Battalion, one inaugurated in Sydney on August 17, 1914, that also left from Circular Quay on a tour of duty that would take it to Cairo, Gallipoli, and the Western Front. It later became a garrison reserve unit during the Second World War, and came briefly under the command of Blair Anderson Wark (McKenzie’s great-uncle, introduced in his lecture the night prior) before his untimely death in 1940.

Plaque commemorating Australia's 1st Battalion in Circular Quay. (Photo: Register of Australian War Memorials)
Plaque commemorating Australia’s 1st Battalion in Circular Quay. (Photo: Register of Australian War Memorials)

Like the stone in which the plaque is embedded, the space and time of the First World War remains somewhat of a bedrock for so many aspects of security and geopolitics of today. The war’s impacts persist in time and space through emerging states and nationalisms, the rise of the modern international organizations and endeavors of “collective security”, and physical reminders both intentional and not (the annual “Iron Harvest”, for example, when farmers across Western Europe uncover hundreds of tons of unexploded ordinance in their fields). For a conference interrogating these impacts and parsing their contemporary relevance, Circular Quay was a fitting point of departure.

As the ferry pulled into Q Station’s small wharf after a quick trip across the harbor, a buzzing comes across the sky. A new buzzing began among the participants, realizing their welcome to Q Station by a quadrocopter making passes over the pier. With this bit of drone détournement provoking everything from bemusement to mild dismay among the passengers, the observation apparatus had already begun disturbing the behavior of the system.

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