Inverse Daily: This new material is a "game-changer" for quantum computing

A newly discovered superconducting material may help pave the way to realizing our quantum dreams.

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INVERSE QUOTE OF THE DAY

“As tech creators are able to make their offerings more immersive with fewer natural ‘stopping points,’ we will be even less aware than we are now of how dependent we have become.”

— Psychologist Dr. Doreen Dodgen-Magee, on our growing addiction to tech. Keep reading.

Elon Musk gives a Crew Dragon update

The SpaceX crew dragon capsule will fly in the first three months of next year, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Thursday — assuming nothing goes wrong.

Speaking to journalists at the SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, Bridenstine announced that a Commercial Crew test flight will take place in the spring of 2020.

“If everything goes according to plan, it will be in the first quarter of next year,” Bridenstine said. “There are still things that we can learn, or could learn, that could be challenging and we have to resolve.”

Back in 2014, NASA signed multibillion dollar contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to transport astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station as part of the agency’s commercial crew program. The deal had an initial goal of having one of these spacecrafts up and running by the end of 2017 and, needless to say, it’s suffered some major delays.

Read more about SpaceX and NASA’s plans.

It’s only the future of space travel:

A quantum computing “game-changer”

Quantum computing has gotten a lot of hype in recent years but has nevertheless remained far from a reality thanks to physical limitations of the technologies. But, according to new research from scientists at Johns Hopkins University, a discovery they’ve made about a superconducting material may help pave the way to realizing our quantum dreams.

The new research discusses a superconducting material that scientists have found exists naturally in a quantum state without the addition of magnetic fields or stabilizing “quantum spin liquids.” The comparatively low maintenance of this material makes it a great candidate for building more widespread quantum computers, researchers say.

“This could be a game-changer,” says the study’s first author.

We’re still not quite ready to hit the ground running. The authors write that an investigation into the anti-particle pairs present in the material will still be necessary to determine how effective this material will be in different forms of quantum systems, such as topological quantum computers. Read more about this “game-changer.”

Keep going:

Koalas are evolving in a way we’ve never seen before

We usually think of evolution as a process that occurs on deep timescales over millions of years. But new research on koalas shows that it’s happening right in front of us.

A specific type of virus has invaded the koalas’ DNA over time, making it susceptible to diseases like chlamydia and cancer, and scientists found that new bits of the koala genome are appearing to help combat it.

This process is similar to the way in which many other animals, including humans, hold onto evidence of old infections in their DNA so the body can recognize invaders when they show up again. The major difference with the koalas, though, is that scientists have caught this process in the middle, while it’s still coming to be.

In this way, they give us a glimpse at what evolution looks like while it’s happening, not just once it’s finished. Read more.

Go deeper:

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How does the brain know which memories to keep?

There’s an idea in sleep science right now suggesting that sleep is super important for memory consolidation because it’s a time when the brain prunes unnecessary connections and strengthens important ones. A team of scientists in Europe might have revealed one of the ways that the brain actually achieves that process.

This study zooms way in on synapses in the brain. During the day, microRNAs, which are little bits of genetic material, cycle through those synapses according to our circadian rhythm. But importantly, this team found that these mRNAs tend to spike in the hours right before sleeping and right before waking.

Essentially, that’s the way that the brain is prepping for sleep. When sleep eventually comes, those microRNAs are translated into proteins — and many of those proteins deal with synaptic plasticity, a process related to memory consolidation. But if the sleep doesn’t come, those proteins aren’t translated or phosphorylated in the same way. The result is that the brain is missing an ingredient it may need for memory. Read more.

More sleep science:

Protecting the oceans actually … works

We know that climate change is warming the oceans, and that even a few degrees of temperature rise can affect ecosystems. But what does that actually look like? And can we stop it?

Oceans have already gotten warmer, and a new study looks at what that has meant for marine life over the past 40 years.

Researchers found that infectious diseases have both increased (in corals and urchins) and decreased (in sharks and rays). Those effects may actually both be “bad news,” the researchers say. Decreasing disease suggests overfishing and disrupted ecosystems.

Now for the good news: There may be a way to manage this effect and make marine life healthier, even as climate change persists. Marine protected areas, which manage human-driven effects like over-fishing, seem to be thriving compared to their unmanaged neighbors.

Coral reefs in those protected areas were less susceptible to coral bleaching, researchers have found. (Of course, corals also fare better in colder temperatures, but that’s a bigger battle.) Both studies suggest that better marine management practices, i.e. reducing humans’ impact, can promote healthier marine ecosystems. Keep reading.

The more you know:

Today’s good thing

To keep predators unaware, female Atlantic right whales lower the volume of their calls when verbally communicating with their offspring, researchers reported this week. According to the South China Morning Post, “a team of scientists used microphones attached by suction cups to look at the voice patterns of right whales – an endangered species with only around 500 known specimens remaining.” The recordings of mother whales were much lower in volume than other whales. “These lower amplitude signals may minimise the risk of detection while still allowing mother-calf communication,” write the scientists in a paper on the study, published in the journal Royal Society Open Letters.

Meanwhile …

  • People at risk for depression have these 6 personality characteristics.
  • You are not safe: Being “very online” is killing us and addictive design is making it increasingly difficult to log off.
  • You can finally watch El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie on Netflix starting today.

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Wow, you made it down here to see why you should go outside Sunday night. It’s only the Full Hunter’s Moon, which rises at 5:08 p.m. Eastern.

As the name suggests, the Hunter’s Moon indicates that it’s prime time to not only collect crops, but also bust out a bow and arrow and go hunting, according to the Farmers’ Almanac. (The full moon provides great lighting.)

The Hunter’s Moon, first referenced by the Oxford English Dictionary in 1710, is also called a sanguine or blood moon for the vibrant color of fall leaves — not to be mixed up with the scientific phenomena of a blood moon. This moon follows the Harvest Moon, the full moon that falls closest to the autumn equinox.