Every year at Superconference, Editor-in-Chief Mike Szczys gets the chance to talk about what we think are the biggest, most important themes in the Hackaday universe. This year’s talk was about science and technology, and more importantly who gets to be involved in building the future. Spoiler: all of us! Hackaday has always stood for the ideal that you, yes you, should be taking stuff apart, improving it, and finding innovative ways to use, make, and improve. To steal one of Mike’s lines: “Hackaday is an engine of engagement in engineering fields.”
Although quantum computing is still in its infancy, enough progress is being made for it to look a little more promising than other “revolutionary” technologies, like fusion power or flying cars. IBM, Intel, and Google all either operate or are producing double-digit qubit computers right now, and there are plans for even larger quantum computers in the future. With this amount of inertia, our quantum computing revolution seems almost certain.
There’s still a lot of work to be done, though, before all of our encryption is rendered moot by these new devices. Since nothing is easy (or intuitive) at the quantum level, progress has been considerably slower than it was during the transistor revolution of the previous century. These computers work because of two phenomena: superposition and entanglement. A quantum bit, or qubit, works because unlike a transistor it can exist in multiple states at once, rather than just “zero” or “one”. These states are difficult to determine because in general a qubit is built using a single atom. Adding to the complexity, quantum computers must utilize quantum entanglement too, whereby a pair of particles are linked. This is the only way for any hardware to “observe” the state of the computer without affecting any qubits themselves. In fact, the observations often don’t yet have the highest accuracy themselves.
There are some other challenges with the hardware as well. All quantum computers that exist today must be cooled to a temperature very close to absolute zero in order to take advantage of superconductivity. Whether this is because of a reduction in thermal noise, as is the case with universal quantum computers based on ion traps or other technology, or because it is possible to take advantage of other interesting characteristics of superconductivity like the D-Wave computers do, all of them must be cooled to a critical temperature. A further challenge is that even at these low temperatures, the qubits still interact with each other and their read/write devices in unpredictable ways that get more unpredictable as the number of qubits scales up.
So, once the physics and the refrigeration are sorted out, let’s take a look at how a few of the quantum computing technologies actually manipulate these quantum curiosities to come up with working, programmable computers. Continue reading “Quantum Computing Hardware Teardown”
One of the great things about the human intellect is that we have the ability to build machines of varying complexity to do our bidding. As a major proponent of technology, the Chevrolet automobile corporation once dreamed of a future where the American housewife’s most mundane tasks are handled with the push of a button—one that sets a robot butler into action.
Chevy shows us what this future might look like in this short film, which they presented at the 1940 World’s Fair. A housewife’s faithful ‘robot’, pronounced throughout the picture as ‘robe-it’, has gone on the fritz. Naturally, she calls for a repairman. We see from the console controller that Roll-Oh the Robe-it can take care of all kinds of housewifely duties: he can answer the door and the phone, wash dishes, clean house, make beds, fetch hats, get dinner, and fix the furnace (and only the furnace). And that SCRAM! function? That’s never explained. We like to think it has to do with getting kids off the lawn, or could be used in conjunction with ‘get door’ to chase away would-be burglars. We get a glimpse of this when Roll-Oh answers the door and scares the daylights out of a young [Gary Sinise*] delivering flowers in a cop uniform.
Roll-Oh’s upper limbs have several Swiss Army knife-like implements in them. He uses a sharp one to cut the ribbon off of the flower box. Upon seeing the flowers, he gives them a gentle misting with his sprayer attachment. Dropped petals are no problem for Roll-Oh. He promptly vacuums them up from the thin industrial sound stage carpet with his big metal feet. Roll-Oh is then tasked with getting dinner. This amounts to him painstakingly opening a couple of cans and lighting candles with the torch hidden in his face.
While Roll-Oh the large ductwork butler is only a dream, Chevy wants you to know that smaller robe-its are all around us already. They’re regulating the heat in our stoves, browning our bread without burning it, and brewing our coffee in cool double-globe glass percolators. These tiny servants are capable of performing other tasks, like shutting off machinery when humans are too close, or sensing heat and engaging fire suppression systems. There is brief mention of something called the Petomat, an automatic dog feeding system which is essentially a bowl of food hidden in a latched box. The latch opens rather violently when the alarm clock connected to it goes off.
Robe-its are also performing more serious tasks, like keeping airplanes level and headed in the right direction. Of course, they’re also abundant in Chevrolet automobiles. A small one in the carburetor administers the proper mix of “gasoline calories and fresh air vitamins” to the engine. It’s rare to get to this level of technical detail, you know. Others watch over the spark, the intake manifold, and the voltage regulation. Up in the cab, friendly robe-its will happily traverse the AM dial at the push of a pre-set.
*Probably not actually [Gary Sinise].
Through the years, our reader base has grown like we never could have imagined. We thank everyone for reading, and owe our gratitude to all who have sent in submissions. We live for them. The more high quality submissions you send in, the more we’ll post. Along with you, we’ve taken part in some really great projects and enjoyed the writing of some really great people.
Now it is time to share our plans for the future with you. We have two announcements that we would like to get your thoughts on.
Hack a Day first started as an offshoot of Engadget. It was a place where we were able to look at things from a hacker perspective. Contrary to what some people believe, it wasn’t all hardcore electronic engineering. It wasn’t even all projects. We had fun, and discussed our thoughts on many things that weren’t that complicated.
As we move forward, we will be covering a wide variety of posts. From simple things, like teardowns to the amazingly complex projects that inspire us all. We intend to get you original content from the perspective of people who are not just consumers, but hackers of all different skill levels.
We are working to make it easier to browse the site, with your specific interests in mind. Our first motion was to add the “Classic Hacks” category which gathers up the more complicated projects. We’re open to other ideas of how to best categorize the content to make your experience better.
#2. Social Interaction:
Since the beginning of Hack a Day, we have been inundated with questions and requests. People are asking for help on existing projects as well as trying to break into the complexities that can lay in front of a beginner. We’ve seen unofficial Hack a Day forums come and go, but we think it is time that we did something ourselves. We’ve been working behind the scenes on a really slick system which allows people to ask questions, get answers, and even rate and give feedback.You will hopefully see this appear in a matter of weeks as we finish up the last bits.
We look forward to seeing some of you shine, sharing your knowledge with the hacker community.
We aren’t exactly sure how or even why you would need to RepRap in space, but we guess their team needed something to do while designing and printing their next version. They figure that if they can print completely upside down in -1G and then upside up in 1G, that 0G hopefully wont be a problem; hopefully being the keyword.
Even if it isn’t true space printing, the concept opens several new doors. Instead of having risky rocket or shuttle launches when the secondary air oscillator on the IIS is struck by an asteroid, print a new one. Or perhaps, the ocean floor research facilities’ external hull is punctured by an asteroid, print a new one. Or the HaD office chair breaks because [Mike] was hit by an asteroid, print a new one.
Lets not get ahead of ourselves here. But alongside circuit board printing, perhaps in-home fabrication is the way of the future. What would you like to print? Before you answer, yes, we will release the [Mike©] plans.