Inverse Daily: Google reaches quantum supremacy

In a report found (and since removed) on the NASA website, Google has claimed that its newest quantum computer, “Sycamore,” has just surpassed a benchmark called quantum supremacy.

Welcome to Inverse Daily, everyone! Today, it’s full of practical science, dazzling innovation, and tender-hearted cats. That’s right, I said cats! We’re balancing out our extensive dog coverage with some feline facts.

I’m Sarah and here’s the news. Also, here’s a joke.

This article is an adapted version of the Inverse Daily newsletter. Subscribe for free and earn rewards for reading every day.

INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

”It was not a cataclysmic event, but a gradual one.

— Samuel Márquez, Ph.D., an associate professor at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University.

Zero-G, zero carbon

Elon Musk wants spaceflights to go zero-carbon, but it’s not entirely because he wants to make SpaceX more eco-friendly. Carbon capture is likely a necessity for some of the company’s long-term plans, like sustainable Mars-bound flights.

The plan is to use the technology to fuel the Starship rocket — a stainless steel ship designed to take humans to Mars and beyond. That’s vital for ensuring that the first humans that get to Mars can build a propellant depot, and then use it to refuel and return home. SpaceX plans to use the Sabatier process, used by NASA on the International Space Station, to help produce liquid oxygen and methane.

Will it work? It kind of has to, especially if SpaceX is serious about its goal of building a city on Mars by 2050. With the project projected to cost up to $10 trillion, capturing carbon from rocket launches isn’t even the most ambitious aspect of the plan.

Find out why carbon capture is essential for the future of SpaceX.

The more you know:

The quantum leap

In a report found (and since removed) on the NASA website, Google has claimed that its newest quantum computer, “Sycamore,” has just surpassed a benchmark called quantum supremacy.

In a nutshell, this means that in just over three minutes, it was able to solve a computational problem that would’ve taken the world’s fastest classical computer 10,000 years to solve. Not to mention, it has at least one qubit more computing power than any other quantum computers to date. The Sycamore system contains 54 quantum entangled supercomputing qubits, while Intel’s machines have 49. An upcoming IBM system is expected to have 53.

Are we standing at the dawn of a new quantum age? Some warn that it’s too soon to say. But if the rumors are true and Sycamore really is all that, the machine could represent the first steps towards scaling the technology and enabling data-heavy fields like pharmaceuticals and machine learning to make significant advances.

Learn what it means to crunch numbers at this scale.

The more you know:

Flee triple E

Eastern equine encephalitis, generally known as EEE but also known as “triple E,” is a virus that’s spread by mosquitoes that infects the brain and causes it to swell. To date, it’s been quite rare, with just an average of seven Americans infected annually.

But in 2019 alone, there have been 27 reported cases across six states. That’s the highest spike in recent history. Massachusetts has seen the most with nine cases, and Michigan follows behind with seven.

In a warming world, which may make these vector-borne diseases more common, knowing how to defend against the rare and deadly disease, EEE, will be critical. There are a few easy and affordable ways to protect yourself and your family: Use EPA-approved insect repellent, wear long sleeves and pants, and avoid being outdoors from dusk to dawn, when mosquitoes are most active.

Go to Inverse to find out what you need to know about EEE.

The more you know:

Musk Reads

Elon Musk is pushing the boundaries of where we can go and what we can do. Don’t miss a beat by signing up for Musk Reads, our newsletter about all things SpaceX, Tesla, and The Boring Company.

Sign up here.

Put your brain in drive

Car accidents happen on the road, but research suggests that they start in the brain. Scientists recently proposed that differences in working memory development could explain why some teens get into crashes more than others. Now, research released Monday further highlights the role of memory. Scientists discovered that some drivers literally forget there’s an obstacle coming in the milliseconds between seeing a motorcycle coming and deciding that it’s safe to cross an intersection.

After evaluating a series of three simulated driving experiments, the team discovered that in 15 to 18 percent of cases, drivers had no memory of a motorcycle after they crossed the intersection — even if they had literally stared at it before they crossed. This is reasoned to be because our visuospatial memory runs a deficit when we drive because of the constant flow of visual information.

If you want to be a more cautious driver, a better way of encoding information is to bring in the power of sound. That means literally saying “bike” when you see a bike. It may sound a bit silly, but it also means a safer world for drivers, cyclists, and motorcyclists alike.

Read on to learn why car accidents are so common.

The more you know:

Cat’s out of the bag

Around 10,000 years ago, cats decided to domesticate themselves after realizing it was a good trade to do a little rodent hunting for some scraps and snuggles. But while dogs make it clear how they feel about their people, what cats think about their humans has historically been more murky. Sure, they’ve hung out with us for a decamillennium, but have they liked it?

On Monday, scientists validated cat-lovers everywhere with the announcement that, yes, cats do form positive attachment bonds to their owners. Furthermore, this level of attachment rivals, and sometimes surpasses, how attached dogs are to their people and babies are to their parents. Lead author Kristyn Vitale explains that when cats live in a state of dependency with people, the majority of cats use humans “as a source of comfort.” That means that the stray down the street probably doesn’t care about your existence — but your Russian Blue at home very likely does.

Discover why scientists know cats actually enjoy us.

The more you know:

Today’s good thing

Today, that’s Greta Thunberg’s passionate speech at the United Nations Climate Summit.

Meanwhile …

  • George Lucas “felt betrayed” by Star Wars sequels, says Disney CEO.
  • Star Wars IX leaks say a dead character’s surprise return redeems Kylo Ren.

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Thanks for reading, everyone! Come back tomorrow for more weird, mind-expanding stuff.

Until then, I’ll be thinking about that time Inverse got really into fan-casting.