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50 Year Old Quantum Physics Problem Solved

Hemos posted more than 14 years ago | from the interesting-aspect-of-science dept.

Science 112

notsosilentbob writes "This story about a 50 year old unsolved Quantum Physics problem at Eurekalert.org is interesting, if just for the discussion about the computing power required (SGI/Cray machines). Unlike the blowhard from BlacklightPower, this sounds like an important breakthrough. " The problem solved is that of the scattering effects of three charged particles. This is important, as this event occurs in everything from fluorescent lights to the ion etching of silicon chips.

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Okay, this time for real. (0)

tomcrooze (33802) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445325)

This quantum mechanics thing is pretty crazy. I mean, we're all used to 0's and 1's for computers, but how would quantum computers work? I read somewhere that it's like a sorta-on and sorta-off, like fuzzy logic. But I'm no expert on physics. I'm only a soph in HS taking chemistry. And I hate it.

I like itt (1)

Sneakums (2534) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445326)

This is the kind of story that I like to see. Just when we think there is nothing new to know and that unsolved equals unsolvable, someone cracks an enigma like this and shows that a new perspective is often the only thing required to make significant breakthroughs.

It's just amazing... (1)

Keithel (100326) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445327)

It's just amazing the amount of computing power it takes to solve some of these problems...

I wonder when games with physics engines are going to be able to simulate the universe to this detail?
100 years? 1000 years?

It's just amazing how far we have come since the dawn of the information age!

OOoo .. pretty pictures (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445328)

here [eurekalert.org] and here. [eurekalert.org]
_________________________

From the article: (0)

Money__ (87045) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445329)

They begin with a transformation of the Schrödinger equation called "exterior complex scaling," invented by Caltech's Barry Simon in 1979 to prove formal theorems in scattering theory. The transformation leaves the solution unchanged in regions which correspond to physical reality, producing the correct outgoing waveform based upon the angular separation and distances of two electrons far from the nucleus.

Once the wave function has been calculated, it must be analyzed by computing the "quantum mechanical flux," a means of finding the distribution of probability densities that dates from the 1920s. This computationally intensive process can yield the probability of producing electrons at specific energies and directions from the ionized atom. (Because electrons are identical, there is no way to distinguish between the initially bound and initially free electron).
_________________________

Quantum physics and mysticism (2)

/ (33804) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445330)

Plenty of people out there would cheer this breakthrough, not for its obvious worth as a furthering of scientific thought, but as a further entrenchment of quantum physics as a dominant theory for the mechanations of the universe, because frankly, it suits their personal philosophies of how the universe should remain somehow mystical.

Newtonian physics and its euclidean geometries is far too cold, too exact, too exacting. Bring on the theories that tell us we live in worlds of probabilities: I want to win the lottery, dammit. My ancestors read the tea leaves before me, and soon I'll have a nice quantum computer in a cup of coffee. How much can anyone truly know for sure? Certainly I don't know much, so give me a theory that says no one else can be much more certain. Now that appeals to my insecurities and warms my cockles.

It's quite fitting that such breakthroughs be made on the threshhold of a new era of unprecedented cultural return to mysticism. I'm still betting in science's corner, myself.

Re:It's just amazing... (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445331)

Newtonian physics is already in use in many games today. For example, in Quake, when your conection lags, Newtonian physics is used to extrpolate your future position baced on your current speed and trajectory. I'm sure this isn't the only example, but it's the first one that comes to mind.
_________________________

Re:Okay, this time for real. (2)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445332)

http://www.sciam.com/1998/ 0698issue/0698gershenfeld.html [sciam.com] a good scientific america article, basically a quantum particle can exist in more than one state at once (based on its probability of being in a certain state). the state is a way of saying that there are finite energy levels a particle (electron) can have, these can each represent a state. it also talks about action at a distance. all of this is interesting but unfortunately very hard to understand. its based on wacky math and probability functions. the ones and zeros are basically the same thing...a high level and low level of energy. this is just on a smaller level

Scattering (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445333)




I am trying to understand the importance of this discovery. Although the article mention the ionization process that lead to the grow of the flourenscent tubes, to the engraving of silicon chips, we have done all that WITHOUT understanding exactly how these things are done.

Can anyone tell me what this discovery for the "scattering problem" may yield, that is, apart from the Quantum Physics discipline?

Thanks in advance for any pointer.

Merry Christmas !!


Re:Scattering (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445334)

quantum computing will never be common, but one or two quantum computers will be able to solve a couple of the really tough problems we never thought we could solve

See 2.4 #6 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445335)

I see you've been reading the Slashdot Karma HOWTO [slashdot.org] .

That's a bit unfair (1)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445336)

Unlike the blowhard from BlacklightPower, this sounds like an important breakthrough

You're editorialising again, Hemos! An assessment of the majority reaction to the Blacklight Power story might make it seem safe to do so on this occasion, but public opinion would change pretty quickly if Randall Mills was vindicated.

Mills' claims are certainly outrageous but he's only raised enough capital from hardened venture capitalists to fund his research, and is turning would-be investors away in droves. He's obviously not a fraud. Even his critics in the physics community don't deny he is at least sincere. And don't forget he appears to have a better grasp of maths, chemistry and physics than most people - he's not ignorant or even unqualified.

His enthusiasm for his own theory isn't really enough to warrant labelling him a blowhard. It's not as if he's gone around badmouthing everybody who disagrees with him. If you believed you'd made a breakthrough that would turn science on its head, wouldn't you have something to say about it? Would that make you a blowhard?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not jumping on Mills' bandwagon either (yet). But if his ideas were completely without credibility then he'd surely have been forced out of business by now. I think we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt until his work has been properly peer reviewed by people who are qualified to assess it.

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

Re:Scattering (1)

Jason Skomorowski (5554) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445337)

> quantum computing will never be common,
> but one or two quantum computers will be able to
> solve a couple of the really tough problems we
> never thought we could solve

You remind me of that quote where someone said that there would only ever be a few computers in the world, mostly in specialised research...

What makes you think they won't become mainstream in the same fashion that current technology did?

Re:That's a bit unfair (1)

Captain Nitpick (16515) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445338)

Unlike the blowhard from BlacklightPower, this sounds like an important breakthrough

You're editorialising again, Hemos!

Hemos did not make that statement. notsosilentbob is the one who made the comment, Hemos just let the comment through unedited.

In a Slashdot news post, text in italics is written by the submitter. Plain text is written by the Slashdot crew.

Re: Editorializing and /. - a bit offtopic (1)

PiMan (2859) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445339)

I don't really see a problem with /. editorializing. I mean, I come here expecting a news service with some sort of humans behind it, and I get it. If I don't agree with it, I say so in the comments. Leave the plain facts to the news services /. links to - here, I want opinions to knock down!

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (2)

orcrist (16312) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445340)

because frankly, it suits their personal philosophies of how the universe should remain somehow mystical.

huh?

Newtonian physics and its euclidean geometries is far too cold, too exact, too exacting

...too unable to explain too many phenomena

Now that appeals to my insecurities and warms my cockles.

Speak for yourself.

I'm still betting in science's corner, myself.

And which 'science' did you use for your psychoanalysis of practically the entire Physics community? From what I've gathered, it tends to be more the people enamored of mysticism/religion who are offended by quantum theory.

Chris

not exactly "sorta on, sorta off" (2)

Uberminky (122220) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445341)

Quantum particles used to store information ("Qubits") can be either on, off, or they can be in superposition between on and off. It's sort of hard to explain, but what it basically means is it's BOTH on AND off at the same time. Not sorta anything. Very weird stuff. I like to believe the Universe is a little more organized than that, but who knows...

Potential for distributed computing? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445342)

Is this the sort of thing which could benefit from distributed computing? Or is it one of those things, like protein folding computations, which have to be done on special, ultra-powerful machines?

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (2)

/ (33804) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445343)

Third-person perspective narrated in a first-person format for the purpose of understated satire. Naturally, I don't myself believe any of it -- Of people I know, I'm the least enamored with mystical thinking. But I guess it goes over some people's heads sometimes.

Not entirely on topic. (1)

cam_macleod (59140) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445344)

This being Xmas, I was home having an argument with my father today about Canada's adoption of metric 30 years ago. He (age 53) is rather offended by this still today. I was trying to come up with ways to convince him that his personal discomfort was not enough reason to stay Imperial -- and now I've found one.

This discovery has nothing to do with metric specifically, and (rather amusingly) happened in an Imperial (and imperious, sometimes) country. But it's still representative: countries using common systems (metric) allow many to work together, across borders, to solve problems that we could not work out alone. In this case it was three American schools, but in other cases it has been schools or researchers from separate continents.

Yes, NASA messed up the metric thing. But that was based on one country not matching *all* the others, right? So imagine if this discovery is recanted in 3 weeks: "Oops, we were using inches and gallons, not centimeters and litres." This happens too often (even once is too often).

I'm not sure what my point is. I think it's a combination of "cool" and "why isn't everyone metric yet?"

Cam


- Cam MacLeod

Re:Scattering (1)

weaselp (32626) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445345)

You mean the following?


"I think there's a world market for about five computers."

-- attr. Thomas J. Watson (Chairman of the Board, IBM), 1943

--

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (1)

orcrist (16312) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445346)

Third-person perspective narrated in a first-person format for the purpose of understated satire.

Ummm... I understood that. That's why I was saying speak for yourself.

Chris

You mean like Clipper, CSS, etc.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445347)

Nothing is impossible to solve/crack etc. given enough time. There are no absolutes! Absolutely!

Quantum foam. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445348)

Supposedly, EVERYTHING is chaos at the smallest levels in a 6 dimensional calabi-yau space. How order is build out of this is baffling.

Re:That's a bit unfair (1)

starling (26204) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445349)

But if his ideas were completely without credibility then he'd surely have been forced out of business by now.

Snigger. The history of con artists shows this not to be the case. I wish you were right, but too many people want to believe the claims of snake oil salesmen.

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (1)

orcrist (16312) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445350)

Ooops :-(

Now I get it:

Plenty of people out there would cheer this breakthrough, not for its obvious worth as a furthering of scientific thought, but as a further entrenchment of quantum physics as a dominant theory for the mechanations of the universe, because frankly, it suits their personal philosophies of how the universe should remain somehow mystical.

I parsed the 'their' as the people who subscribe to quantum theory, that threw off my interpretation of the sarcasm, i.e. I knew you were being sarcastic, but I mis-identified the target of the sarcasm.

My apologies.

Chris

Re:beowulf cluster (1)

uninerd (79304) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445351)

Sir, this is in essence, better than a beowulf cluster. I do not wish to waste my time, or anybody else's- but a little explanation may be in order. A quantum processor would work in parallel with itself; checking as many possibilities as it has capacity for all at once- in a really short time. This could find the solution to an equation much faster by merely recognizing which state of the supposition is the correct answer rather than trying them all in sequence. You will not get a faster quantum processor- merely a bigger one. What would a cluster configuration do but split up the task and make the chips to talk to each other unnecesarily?

just my two cents

Hmmm. (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445352)

Hemos, why must you make slams and inject your own commentary to stories? For that matter, why must slashdot? Calling people "blowhards" on a site that is making a genuine attempt to be taken seriously by mainstream is at the least shooting yourself in the foot.

If you want to make a comment, put it in the forums with everybody else's and let moderation take it's course.

Re:Hmmm. (2)

matthewg (6374) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445353)

Hemos didn't say that, the person who submitted the story did.

Scattering and Quantum Computers (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445354)




Thanks for the pointer.

Call me dumb as you must, but I do have difficulty connecting Quantum Computer with the solving of the "scattering" problem.

I thought someone have already prototyped some sort of "quantum" computer, before the "scattering" problem was solved.

That goes back to my original question - that we have done things like Flouresence tube and engraving chips with ion beams _before_ anyone have a definite answer to the "scattering" problem, and my original question is - what that discovery will yield for us, apart for making the Quantum Physicians feel much better?

Again, thanks for your pointer.


Re:Scattering (2)

DJerman (12424) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445355)

It's the difference between being able to sink the 8-ball some of the time by "feel", and being able to calculate the proper angle and energy to sink the 8-ball.

If this holds up (and it appears to be doing it so far) it will assist us in making predictions about what happens to very small or very high-energy things. As the article said, we make flourescent tubes and play with plasma, but up to now it mostly has worked by accident. The breakthrough is the solution of the simplest case, but it's a step towards manipulating plasma properly on purpose.

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (2)

/ (33804) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445356)

Now if only the moderators were as willing to see the light and erase that "overrated" moderation. :) C'mon people: even if you don't like the substance of what I have to say, you have to reward the posters who actually take the time to string together a complicated assortment of syllables with correct spelling and without the aid of a thesaurus, right?

Forget an aibo. All I want at this time of year is massive moderation reform.

Perhaps not that much? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445357)




My point is that perhaps the "discovery" of the "scattering solution" may not be yielding much practical effect, like the onet you have mentioned - distributed computing.

Perhaps the "discovery" itself may be used for predicting when and where the "scattering effect" may occur, and with the ability to predict, new branches of science may finally be able to mushroom.


Re:beowulf cluster (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445358)

Beowulf clusters need lots of power. By understanding these particle interactions better, physicists will understand plasma physics better. Greater knowledge of plasma physics will lead to affordable power from fusion. Affordable power will reduce the costs of operating beowulf clusters.
Yeah, it's a stretch, but you asked for it.

Re:Hmmm. (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445359)

In stories I've submitted with similar comments - those were stripped prior to posting, or otherwise modified. Hemos didn't have to post that, but he did anyway. In my book if you censor anything, you're responsible for everything. Hemos posted it.

Re:I like itt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445360)

Even with all of our advances in science, we are pretty clueless about why the univewrse works. You remind me of a scientist in the 1800's who claimed to know all that is knowable in physics and that all we need to do now is add another signinficant figure in our calculations. Trust me, there are TONS of things left. Physicist will be very buzy figuring everything out for many more centuries.

eye am n eleet physisust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445361)

dood, eye am so eleet!! i solvd this problum wen i waz 3 yeers owld! i solvd tha awl tha0 problums in tha book!!! i hav tha unifyed theary, i hav tha quantim powurz, i hav tha new relativuty, i solvd uclyd's prewf, i beet tha last boss, i kiked mr t's arse, i bawt a furby, i hav awl 150 pokemon, i hav an amd athlon at 1500MHz, i smokd tha kronik, i fukd monika lewinske!!! itz awl me!!! so thar!!!!! i OWN JOO AWL!!!! HAHAHAHAH!!!

LATROZ DATROZ

This is ludicrous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445362)

Why is it that we need to do all this 'science' garbage anyways? You know, people are fooling themselves with this science. It's not doing anyone any good. What we need to do (as a whole) is to just read God's word. We won't need science any longer because all Truth is located within the holy bible! Let's get with it people, God's word is the only way we will *ever* understand anything!

Re:See 2.4 #6 (1)

Money__ (87045) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445363)

I see you've been reading the Slashdot Karma HOWTO.

seen it? hell I helped write it! ;)
_________________________

lame, they did not use open source (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445364)


why do you post these lame stories? this project is against open source and the linux revolution. i mean, why use sgi/crays?? a dual celeron beowulf cluster can smoke anything sgi/cray can make.

using closed source software/hardware in science is like molesting children, you satisfy a need while harming others in the process.

linux the choice of a GNU generation

Re:Scattering and Quantum Computers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445365)

Knowledge. What's more important?

Re:You mean like Clipper, CSS, etc.? (1)

cdlu (65838) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445366)

And just when I thought the Data Encryption Standard was absolutely uncrackable...

:)

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445367)

No scientist worth his/her salt will back a theory because it matches their philosophy. We are just trying to come up with models to describe how the world works. It is up to religous leaders and the philosophers to figure out what it all means. I am sorry if you don't like quantum mechanics because it goes against your religion or whatever. The theory wasn't meant to offend it was meant to descirbe how small particles work. However speaking as a philosopher and not as a scientist I would say: if your beliefs don't fit the world around you maybe you should change your beliefs and not try to change the way the world works (the world works the way it works -- you can't change that; if you don't like it than tough!)

Re:Scattering (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445368)

this is not at all what i meant. they said 5 computers would solve all the worlds problems. i only say a few really tough problems that require immense computational power can be solved. they wont be mainstream because of the large amount of temperature control and other controls that will be required to keep the quanta in a certain state. the difference in energy levels here is very small, there is just no practical way to achieve this in a home. now universities, government institutions (dept of energy - weather) and a few corporations (lockheed and boeing maybe) on the other hand would really be able to put these to use. there is simply no reason a home user would need the incredible amount of computational power these could provide...it would be like every home having 2 crays. i hate when people say 'we dont need more memory, we have enough' or speed or whatever, but this is not even close to comparable.

Re:It's just amazing... (1)

jhellman (129573) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445369)

Unless you're planning on playing games on the atomic and sub-atomic level what would be the point of utilizing these new developments in quantum mechanics in game engines? While the world we live in is a quantum world, Newtonian mechanics holds fine for just about every aspect I can think of in a game. What type of game might be so detailed that we would have to understand the quantum interactions between particles?

Re:Scattering and Quantum Computers (1)

Acinonyx (93583) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445370)

Well, it'll probably make it much more efficient to engrave chips, show us cheaper and easier ways to do what we're doing.

Let's look at a caveman who clubs someone over the head with a wooden club. When his foe becomes dead or unconcious, he might not know *why*, but he knows the effect. He might deduce things like removing branches and leaves that soften the blow make it more effective. But if he learned the reasons behind it, he could make a more effective club using rock, or maybe even metal. Sure, wooden clubs work fine, but isn't a stone axe just so much more convenient and stylish? :)

Re:OOoo .. pretty pictures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445371)

That's why I believe moderators should be required to read the article before they're allowed to moderate the comments attached to it. I don't know how to implement that, though.

Re:Scattering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445372)

Well, maybe in 1943 there was a market for 5 computers. Watson was talking about the world in 1943 not the way the world would be like in the future. I am sure almost no one in 1943 could see how there would be a computer on every desk. I mean back then they were made of hundreds of vacuum tubes for crying out loud.

e,e and e,2e scattering (2)

Sfuerst (114476) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445373)

This result is interesting because previously this problem has been treated by using approximations. The many different "solutions" given by wildly differing methods did not agree - and the errors introduced by the approximations also were impossible to find.

Numerical methods are very good in that you know the degree of error. Increase the number of grid points, and the error will decrease... (but the computation time will increase accordingly.) This one fact means that the results produced are meaningful - they can be compared with experiment.

Now why are these scattering events interesting? Well there is a slightly more complicated collision where the incoming electron knocks out an electron - leaving the atom in an excited state. The excited atom then de-excites itself by emitting yet another electron. (Auger emission.) You can't do this with hydrogen (not enough electrons.) - However, the nobel gases work well...

This second type of collision is very interesting, in that the distribution of outgoing electrons is related to the Fourier transform of the wavefunctions of the electrons in the atom... You can "map" the distribution of an electron in an orbital with this technique. This in turn provides tests on the quantum theory...

This also happens in ionisation events that form Aurora.

Re:That's a bit unfair (2)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445374)

Oops, my bad. Apologies to Hemos. Mild rebuke to notsosilentbob instead.

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

End of Chemistry? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445375)

I start to wonder if the conclusion of that press release actually saying... we can simulate gas phase chemical reaction, just add more computing power, and little tweak of the equation, but the fundamental is solved. hah! who need chemistry when we got super computer. *g*

Re:This is ludicrous. (1)

jflynn (61543) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445376)

If you feel that God's word is to be found in a book written by men rather than in the study of the miraculous universe around you, I feel sorry for you -- you're missing a lot of spiritual wonder and beauty.

meta knowledge (1)

Vryl (31994) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445377)

knowing what to do with it

Re:Scattering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445378)

Sure and we'll only need 5 or 6 computers in the entire world. I'm sure that in 50 years we'll all have quantum computers in our wristwatches to so we can track our highly leveraged derivative portfolios and resulting capital gains taxes

Re:That's a bit unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#1445379)

Unlike the blowhard from BlacklightPower, this sounds like an important breakthrough

You're editorialising again, Hemos! An assessment of the majority reaction to the Blacklight Power story might make it seem safe to do so on this occasion, but public opinion would change pretty quickly if Randall Mills was vindicated. Mills' claims are certainly outrageous but he's only raised enough capital from hardened venture capitalists to fund his research, and is turning would-be investors away in droves. He's obviously not a fraud. Even his critics in the physics community don't deny he is at least sincere. And don't forget he appears to have a better grasp of maths, chemistry and physics than most people - he's not ignorant or even unqualified.

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck...

A better grasp of math, physics, and chemistry indeed. Can you find a single PhD physicist, chemist, or mathematician who thinks Mills is up to snuff ? ? ? The comments on Mills certainly didn't. He is basically a very obsessed individual who went WAY off track a long time ago. If he were properly schooled in mathematics, physics, or chemistry he would have been a handful to get back on track.

Instead, look at what he is proposing. He is reinventing particle physics, without advanced training in particle physics. He is reinventing single hydrogen chemistry, without substantial training in hydrogen chemistry. And the comments of at least one mathematics professor (see book comments at Amazon) indicate his mathematics is merely good enough to prevent his investors from personally double checking him.

One thing is clear - he is one heck of a salesman. Persons which such personalities can often convince large groups of relatively uneducated people to follow them. He smells just like a snake oil salesman to me. PT Barnum was right.

(AC this time)

Re:Scattering (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445380)

this could be done with much less computing power. much more likely would be optical computers. now those, someday, might be commonplace

Re:Scattering and Quantum Computers (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 13 years ago | (#1445381)

yea actually etching is suprisingly inaccurate, something like 2 out of 10 wafers are good, the rest are tossed. can you imagine the price change if the supply went up 3 or 4 times?

Re:This is ludicrous. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445382)

uhhh i think he was being saaar-caaa-stic, check your dictionary

Re:Scattering (2)

ppanon (16583) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445383)

It would be like every home having 2 crays.

Well, your top end Pentium III/Athlon probably has more computing power than an average mid-80's Cray (maybe not necessarily the same I/O throughput although they probably aren't too far off on that either). Since last decade's high-end CPU cores often get migrated into this year's embedded processors, I would expect that in the next decade most homes and cars will contain more than 2 processors which are equivalent to mid 80's Crays.


I would agree that the class of problems which can use the capabilities of quantum computing is currently limited and few seem to be applicable to the average home. However that may change after we have had access to quantum computers for ten years.


Around 1987, I took a class in Biophysics with Dr. Hoffmann (who is more well known for his work in immunology). At the time I told him that I figured in a little over a decade we might have massively parallel processors which would be able to tackle the protein folding problem. He basically told me I didn't really understand the magnitude of the problem. Recently, IBM have announced their project, Blue Gene, whose stated goal is the creation of a computer capable of fully solving the protein folding problem within five years. I was off by a few years but was still fairly accurate as software engineering or physics estimates go :-)


So, you won't need a Cray to run your microwave, but you may want one (or two for backups) 80's Cray equivalent to run your house and have it respond intelligently to your voice commands. High-end cars already have very powerful computers running their active suspensions. Who knows what applications we may come up with for quantum computers. Currently you can't even get one working in a university lab, but if we have molecular nanotechnology in 40 years, it may be quite conceivable for every house to have one. In the latter case the only question is will there be household applications (distributed RC5 doesn't qualify) which require one?

Re:Scattering (1)

alprazolam (71653) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445384)

yea this is what i was trying to say, once we get a couple, well be able to figure out quantum physics, meaning more and/or better quantum computers. i really didnt know how much computing power crays have, just trying to make the point that once we get a few, many of the interesting hard problems (mostly quantum physical/dna/neural net) will fall, and well all end up with some completely different kind of computer on our desktop than pc (if we still have desktop pc at all), but its highly unlikely to be quantum

Re:eye am n eleet physisust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445385)

just for the record, there are 151 pokemon

Please do not disregard the "Feel" (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445386)




While you might be true in saying that we ought to improve on the "Feel" thing - in sinking the 8-ball or in other endeavors - but please do not disregard the _importance_ of feel.

There are times I have done thing by "feel" alone, and those are the times I could have done extensive calculations and such, but there is always that little voice (call it instinct if you may) that tells me to go by "Feel" - yea, sounds like Obiwan's "Feel the force, Luke" thing, doesn't it? :) - and so far (fingers crossed) I haven't have my "Feel" betrays me yet.

I have tried to explain what "Feel" is, but I just can't. It's something you gotta have within yourself.

Anyway, Merry Christmas !!


Re:That's a bit unfair (2)

GFD (57203) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445387)

Salesman, bullshit. The guy came up with a theory that predicted experimental results that were confirmed by experimental data from independent labs. That, my boy, is sterling science.

No one accepts his theory yet but at least the guy has gone out of his way to attempt to get independent experimental confirmation.

Getting 25 million out of conservative utilities and retired investment bankers from Morgan Stanley is gonna take a *little* more than a nice smile and shiney shoes.

I don't think the journalist gets it. (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445388)




This is my own opinion - I personally do not think the journalist who wrote the piece actually gets it.

Most things that we have here, today, from gunpowder to electronic wonders, the ideas behind them all originated not from tweaking equations, but from intuition and inspiration.

Sometimes it requires "clicks" in the mind's eye to find a true "EUREKA!". Tweaking equations, IMHO, just doesn't make it.

After all, tweaking equations require _prior_ equations to exist, or there won't be anything to be "tweaked", right? And most of those prior equations owed their existence from the "clicks" of somebody's mind's eye.

Sorry, I've wandered to far out of topic. Gotta stop when I'm still able to.

Merry Christmas !


Silly little man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445389)

Everyone knows God is dead. Video killed him.....or was it something else?
Anyways, give up religion before it is too late and die without enjoying life.
YOU DON'T KNOW THE POWER OF THE DARK SIDE

Re:eye am n eleet physisust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445390)

So who is the bigger loser? The reaving illiterate little monkey or you for knowing how many Pokemon are available.
BTW how many Barbies are out there?

Exact Solution? (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445391)

Their breakthrough employs a mathematical transformation of the Schrödinger wave equation that makes it possible to treat the outgoing particles not as if their wave functions extend to infinity -- as they must be treated conventionally -- but instead as if they simply vanish at large distances from the nucleus.

I'm confused by this, how did they find an exact solution to the scattering problem if they are using a finite version of the wave function? Wouldn't that be an approximation of the true wave function, which extends to infinity?

A semi educated question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445392)

I understood the article somewhat. It seems to me somewhat that they solved a subset of the three body problem, which was made possible by cancelling out the infinities... Can someone with more knowlege tell me if this does or does not apply to the famouse three body problem? Thanks

Re:Okay, this time for real. (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445393)

Which means our intuition works only for day-to-day experiences. When you get to absurdly small or absurdly large things, you have to invent new reasoning methods, like relativity and quantum mechanics. What's really amazing is that mathematics is the tool that makes both possible.

Re:This is ludicrous. (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445394)

Haven't been to the movies lately, right? Only 007 can beat 666!

Re:eye am n eleet physisust (0)

Last Post! (121290) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445395)

I have to give it props: you've got tight skills. Keep up the good work, my man.

_.......................__
||.....__...._._||_..||-\\..._...._._||_
||......_\\.(/_'..||....||-//.//.\\.(/_'..||
||__((_||_,_/).||_..||....\\_//.,_/).\\_
The final word; anything following is redundant.

Re:It's just amazing... (1)

giggab00 (93602) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445396)

I think what he meant is to have the capability to have a real-time simulation of the Universe from the quantum particles to macroscale galaxies and et al... which, I think is never.

Screw that.. (1)

Skinka (15767) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445397)

..I just want to know if that damn cat is dead or alive.

These guys are due for a Nobel (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445398)

Pretty impressive.

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (1)

chadmulligan (87873) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445399)

It's quite fitting that such breakthroughs be made on the threshhold of a new era of unprecedented cultural return to mysticism. I'm still betting in science's corner, myself.

Funny how so many otherwise well-informed people still think that "mysticism" must necessarily be opposed to science. I agree that the current trend towards unquestioning acceptance of "crystals", horoscopes, channeling, creationism and so forth is alarming, but to extend this trend to argue that "since these things are 'mystic', mysticism is 100% wrong" doesn't follow.

Read some of Fritjof Capra's work to see how scientific insights can have a mystic aspect. Yes, many people jump on that and just start mixing "quantum" and other buzzwords into their tealeaves, but I think it's perfectly possible to study the workings of the universe in a rigorous scientific way and keep a sense of marvel about the whole thing.

Re:Not entirely on topic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445400)

But what does that have to do with the adoption by the general public of the metric system. Science, naturally, should adopt the metric system universally, and has done so. But there is no reason why that must be extended to such things as speed limits or milk cartons.

The English system works just fine for those.

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445401)

A quote seems very relevant today, from mathematician Ian Stewart on Einstein " The very distinction he ( Einstein) was trying to emphasise, betweeen randomness of chance and the deterministism of law, is called into question. Perhaps God canplay dice, and create a universe of complete law and order, in the same breath .... For we are beginning to discover that systems obeying immutable and precise laws do nto always act in predictable and regular ways. Simple laws may not produce simple behaviour. Deterministic laws can produce behaviour that appears random. Order can breed its own kind of chaos. The question is not so much whether God plays dice, but HOW God plays dice" Phil

I have the same problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445402)

This was quantum physics, as if reported by Barbara WahWah. If equations and algerbra are the key to this discovery, why does the reporter hide them, or their main parts.

The BlackLight report by Village Voice was equally senseless, except for the in depth coverage of the international bankers and military big-whigs who are involved in dissing it, or "promoting" it.

Although slightly off topic, I believe the timing of these two articles on "reported events," is related. The BlackLight theory, i.e. a theory that quantum mechanics was flawed by an assumption that counting begins with 0 (0,1,2,.,n), and which offered that, below quantum level n=1, is a whole series of harmonic levels based on 1/n (so that in quantum mechanics counting should be 1/n,.,1/2,1,2,.,n), is a sensible one to me. It comes straight from platonic solids and probable distribution of expansive and contractive forces on a spheroid, and common sense, all dealt with by Kepler, Gauss and Reiman and for number theory Cantor. And, in the BlackLight website, the "bogus wildman" presented both his theoretical mathematical work, experimental examples, and an interesting resolution of a major astronomical anomaly on the functioning of our sun.

It is interesting that soon after the theory of this now /.smeared wildman was swarmed over with international bankers and military black-ops types, the name of his "1/n" energy device was changed to BlackLight, and many of its prototype devices were moved into the Naval Research Labs in Maryland, where under a pretext of functioning as a NASA engine from travel to Mars, this 1/n area of quantum physics will disappear into admiralty law for the next ten years. This much I know from personal knowledge because I was asked to do machine work on the devices at NRL, but I refused to sign the secrecy agreements.

Meanwhile, shortly after the blacklight-blackops piece, /. is serving up a total foofoo piece on Schroedinger's equation, and on the deep philosophical importance of endless number crunching, without any broadening or simplifying advance in quantum theory, from a lab which is famous for sending out disinformation pieces.

Which leads to the next question, is slashdot slowly devolving into a smear platform for the various fronts of the opensource movement, including both computing and physics. Ever since big money moved in, there has been a perceptible change.

Re:Screw that.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445403)

Yes, it is.

Re:Screw that.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445404)

Actually, it's not. It not dead or alive, it's dead and alive.

Re:OOoo .. pretty pictures (1)

13th seer (33836) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445405)

I don't know how to implement that, though.

seems to me you could just put a redirect on the story, instead of a simple anchor. but then, all one would have to do is click it, then quickly click back without reading. oh well

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (2)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445406)

I join you in bemoaning a return to mysticism, but must part ways with you in your condemnation of quantum physics. I feel, with all due respect, that rather than admitting that quantum physics is very difficult to understand, you have dismissed it all as bunk. All societies are woefully suceptible to all manner of trickery and pseudo-science as a substitute for thinking things out for themselves and/or admitting once and a while a simple "I don't know". If Newtonian physics can tell me why light appears as both a particle *and* a wave, then we can chuck quantum physics. Newtonian physics is *lo-res* and works well in that realm. As the resolution gets finer, Newtonian physics breaks down. Don't blame the scientist for looking for answers elsewhere.

Re:Quantum physics and mysticism (1)

Skip666Kent (4128) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445407)

Don't blame the moderators. You'll have to be more skillful in your execution of satire if you don't want your 'masterpieces' to be moderated down as junk.

No problems with quantum physics (2)

/ (33804) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445408)

Except that it tends to break down within schwartzchild singularities, and that problem's being worked on by people much smarter than I. My previous comment was much more facetious than others seem to recognize.

Hemos and Slander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445409)

I think its entirely unappropriate that you label Mills as a blowhard. I doubt you have actually looked into his background at all, nor his credentials, and I am quite sure you are not qualified to evaluate the cliams made by him or BlackLight. This type of commentary is slanderous, especially considering he is seeking VC money right now, and if I were him I would press charges considering this site is heavily visited, even sadly by the scientific community.

QM is the most successful theory of all time. (2)

Paul Crowley (837) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445410)

Sorry, QM is successful because of its breathtaking predictive power. And if you're familiar with experimental results like the Aspect Experiment, it should be clear to you that no theory with the "common sense" deterministic appeal of Newtonian Mechanics can correctly mirror reality. Your social scientific explanations for theories confirmed again and again by empirical results are, as US people like to say, way off base.
--

Important, but not the end by any means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445411)

Unfortunately, they have not solved the problem. They have solved a single instance of it: they "have used supercomputers to obtain a complete solution of the ionization of a hydrogen atom by collision with an electron, the simplest nontrivial example of the problem's last unsolved component." This is like the 3-body problem in gravity. A particular solution to a particular situation can be computed (slowly), but a general solution has never been found (some say it's impossible).

Quantum mechanics itself is still plagued by an inability to account for anything other than the hydrogen atom, and that only as an approximation. This new find will expand its capabilities, but more work needs to be done.

I recommend the excellent book Doubt and Certainty, which deals with some of these topics in depth (and can be handled by almost any audience). Don't let the PR people fool you, quantum mechanics is still a mystery.

Re:It's just amazing... (1)

tomson (100060) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445412)

I was talking to a friend of mine about this, and I didnt think it could be done..

I am not really into QM, but this was my argument:
To simulate the entire universe on quantum level, you would need to simutate the state of every quark(?). To simulate a single quark, you would at least need one quark.. Thus to simulate to whole universe you would need at least every quark in the universe, and the universe would be its own simulation..

If this is bullshit, please let me know.. It sounds pretty solid to me (and my now convinced friend)..

Re:That's a bit unfair (2)

ralphclark (11346) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445413)

A better grasp of math, physics, and chemistry indeed. Can you find a single PhD physicist, chemist, or mathematician who thinks Mills is up to snuff ? ? ?

The academic establishment tends to make things very difficult for anyone who breaks ranks. Sensible scientists will keep quiet until there is irrefutable evidence to support Mills' theory.

He is basically a very obsessed individual who went WAY off track a long time ago. If he were properly schooled in mathematics, physics, or chemistry he would have been a handful to get back on track.

This is pure speculation.

Instead, look at what he is proposing. He is reinventing particle physics, without advanced training in particle physics.

So? Chemists need to know quite a bit of physics (especially including quantum physics). They can't even win their degree without it. Ditto higher maths. Quantum physics itself isn't particularly difficult to master anyway, its certainly no harder than any other branch of chemistry. Particle physics today is just tedious (it's like zoology) and is still 90% speculation.

He is reinventing single hydrogen chemistry, without substantial training in hydrogen chemistry.

Well, he is trained as a chemist, and so am I. Are you? What is "hydrogen chemistry"? anyway? As far as the mainstream is concerned, "hydrogen chemistry" is very straightforward, hardly deserving of a whole branch of chemistry all to itself. It's only got one damn electron for heaven's sake! It's the only element for which solutions have been found to its wave equations.

What's more, your remarks suggest strongly that you haven't even read his published work, from which it's abundantly clear that he does have a very good grasp of "hydrogen chemistry" as it's generally understood. He just happens to have something new to add to it.

And the comments of at least one mathematics professor (see book comments at Amazon) indicate his mathematics is merely good enough to prevent his investors from personally double checking him.

I read Ulrich Gerlach's assassination piece too. His criticisms deserve serious consideration. I'm not really able to assess the criticisms about the maths as it'd take more time than I have. But some of it may well be a failure of interpretation. Both holes in the maths and misinterpretation are likely to occur at this stage as it's a new theory and it hasn't even been submitted to referees yet. The criticisms may not be wholly significant; they don't necessarily kill the theory even if they're valid. If they did, then quantum mechanics, supersymmetry, string theory and inflation theory would never have got past first base (and the Linux kernel would never have got past version 0.1 either ;o). Complex theories generally don't emerge fully formed, they often need a little massage after feedback has been obtained.

Michio Kaku doesn't swallow Mills' theory either, and I respect Kaku (I have a couple of his books). But even eminent scientists are sometimes wrong, especially when defending something. And Kaku doesn't attack the maths. I'd be surprised if he's even bothered to look.

BTW, there's another comment [amazon.com] there now written by former Assistant Secretary of Energy Shelby T Brewer, who is also now involved with BlackLight Power. It lists Mills' impressive credentials as a scientist which must be genuine whatever you think of Brewer's objectivity.

If Mills turns out to be right it will set the whole of 20th Century physics and chemistry on its head. It would mean that people like Kaku have been wrong all their lives. So you have to expect that the establishment would fight it anyway.

Remember that Einstein wasn't believed either until he had verified experimental results.

One thing is clear - he is one heck of a salesman. Persons which such personalities can often convince large groups of relatively uneducated people to follow them. He smells just like a snake oil salesman to me.

I might believe you if Mills showed signs of raking in all the cash he could before someone exposed him. But he's not, he's just taken enough to fund the business. This suggests he expects to make money out of his discovery in a more conventional manner.

Also note that the some of the scientists who've criticised his theory have gone out of their way to state that they believe he is sincere, just misguided. Scientists generally don't do that if they think someone is a fraud, they tend to come out and say so or else just leave it unsaid.

PT Barnum was right.

From the sublime to the ridiculous. Perhaps you understand Barnum's theory better than you understand Mills' theory and thus place more faith in it. Personally I don't think its valid to compare Mills with Barnum.

Consciousness is not what it thinks it is
Thought exists only as an abstraction

Re:That's a bit unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445414)


Salesman, bullshit. The guy came up with a theory that predicted experimental results that were confirmed by experimental data from independent labs. That, my boy, is sterling science.


The only key bit of data is the ability to generate energy at higher rates than predicted by the known chemical energy of the involved reactants, potassium nitrate, hydrogen, and oxygen. The only independent lab to attempt verification failed to do so. His mathematics is intentionally obtuse and laughable. At best he does a nice parlor trick with a calorimeter - and even that is unclear.

Besides, the mere thought that someone who has no in depth understanding of quantum physics could revolutionize particle physics is a joke, and personally insulting to thousands of heavily trained highly intelligent physicists around the world. He claims to have discovered things elusive to scientists in million dollar particle accelerators. To millions of chemists. He is not trained as a chemist. He is not trained as a physicist. About the only thing he does well is separate fools from their money.

Maybe he will prove me wrong. But I would bet the house against it. He has not done science. He has submitted nothing for peer review, nor have ANY established scientists in relevant fields even lauded his efforts or theories. Snake oil, plain and simple.

PT Barnum was right.

Re:eye am n eleet physisust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445415)

All I know is I gotta catch em all or the head of nintendo is going to kill everyone i hold dear.

Re:eye am n eleet physisust (1)

anonymous cowerd (73221) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445416)

Get serious. No one cares about how many Barbies there are, for crying out loud. But Pokemon are important.

Yours Snorlax - WKiernan@concentric.net

Re:Hemos and Slander (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445417)

No peer-review, bogus math, no listing in "his school's" alumni. A few of his claims: new particle physics, anti-gravity, and artificial intelligence. His investors: big money, no science. quack, quack, quack, quack. Always bet on the house son; which is more likely - a super genius who accomplishes so much without any support or machinery, or yet another scam artist? - freehand

Re:That's a bit unfair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445418)

There was this fellow once, didn't have many credentials either. Ended up by shaking up things quite a lot. Never asked that anyone take his theories on blind faith. Once opined that while it was a popular saying that only a few people in the world could understand his theories, why did he seem to know so many? Can't see where Mills is pulling a Pons and Fleischman by keeping everything to himself. I have a healthy dose of skepticism about the whole affair, but appealing to how many PHd's which person may have after their name and how many long grey hairs are growing out of their ears does not sound like a convincing rebuttal. The most common refute seems to be that upsetting the hydrogen atom physics/chemistry we know now is unthinkable. Why? Seems like too many basic assumptions have gone unquestioned for far too long. My experiences with thesis work around the place I work has put me in a position to know that data may very well be fudged to fit with "established" theories if it will guarantee the student gets their sheepskin that much quicker. Sad but true.

QED wins again (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445419)

It's a step forward in computational physics, but it's not a suprise: the theory agrees with experiment. Quantum electrodynamics is right yet again.

The compute power required was large. They had to use Blue Pacific, probably the unclassfied machine, which has 1344 PowerPC604 CPUs. I wonder how much machine time was required, and how tightly coupled the computation is.

Hemos and Slander? Mills. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445420)

Notice that the "Blowhard" part is quoted.

It appears to me that this comment was actually made by the original submitter (notsosilentbob), not Hemos--he only relayed it.

Perhaps an apology is in order? Or at least a good flame of the real poster.

Also, on the Mills topic, Mills didn't go through peer review. An important aspect of Science is having other scientists beat on it (like OpenSource software). Ignoring that is a "bad thing".

And don't give me that "he's oppressed because he disagrees with the majority" crap. Hawking came through that quite nicely. If you're right, scientists start agreeing with you.

Re:Not entirely on topic. (1)

cam_macleod (59140) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445421)

Re how about keeping Imperial for consumer stuff, metric for science applications? "just fine"

Actually, I'm not so sure about that. I mean yes, obviously, any system would be fine, so long as it's consistent and made some sense. But much like different countries working together, there are other issues that might appear.

For instance, when people move from being youth learning to drive into university students in science, this puts extra learning curve on their backs. Or when students in elementary are learning about ... I dunno, maybe percentages or something, and they see ".2 oz fat" on the milk carton (guessing) and their textbook has nothing but examples of "5g fat", and their answer must be in metric... again, why force this on to their heads?

What is actually gained, long term, from maintaining two separate systems? Short term, those who grew up with Imperial will be comfortable, but long term, we'd be maintaining the status quo -- people complaining about metric not being what they're used to. In perpetuity.

That just doesn't make sense to me.

Cam

- Cam MacLeod

Re:Quantum foam. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445422)

Actualy, Chaos _IS_ the highest form of order (though probibilities). Our Brains would not function wihtout chaos. The patterns on the surface of jupiter are a function of chaos but we see patterns. Another example is watching the "Snow" on a TV set to an off channel and spotting patterns in it. Its all chaotic, but through probibility, some order manages to form even momentarily. If you listen to totaly random and chaotic notes long enough you may eventualy hear a familiar tune.

Re:Hmmm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 14 years ago | (#1445423)

Not everything can cater to your needs. The owners/operators of this site didn't make this site by your so-called 'book'. This is their site and they can do as they please. If you seriously have problems with the way this site is ran then go make your own slashdot to cater to your needs and run it BY YOUR BOOK. Many people are quite happy with this site and don't need to read your comments about how you feel about this site.

Re:Scattering (1)

Nyarly (104096) | more than 14 years ago | (#1445424)

I'm unsatisfied with other replies to this posting, and wanted to put in my two cents with stepping on toes. Sue me for discontinuity.

Until now, the Schrödinger equations have been beyond the abilities of physicist to solve for anything but very simple situations. The exceptions have been where they've played tricks on the math and got solutions for more complicated, but very specific, situations.

This article is more descriptive of a more general approach to the problem, which could concievably make the Schödinger equations not just predictive, but also actually useful.

So, the real importance is that QM can now be used much more generally as a predictive tool, which has a number of incredible applications, mostly in high-energy chemistry. Watch for advances in materials, especially in displays, lights, and, I'd wager, explosives.

The mentions of etching silicon and flourescent tube is more to make the ideas more real, AFAICT. Other posts about the feel of pool and whatnot miss the point. Which is the the unfortunate consequence of the "real life" examples that get added to pop sci articles.

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