Links for 19th January 2010

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. A tale of two qubits: how quantum computers work

    "Quantum computers are fundamentally different from classical computers because the physics of quantum information is also the physics of possibility. Classical computer memories are constrained to exist at any given time as a simple list of zeros and ones. In contrast, in a single quantum memory many such combinations—even all possible lists of zeros and ones—can all exist simultaneously. During a quantum algorithm, this symphony of possibilities split and merge, eventually coalescing around a single solution. The complexity of these large quantum states made of multiple possibilities make a complete description of quantum search or factoring a daunting task."

    Tagged with: sciencephysicsquantumcomputingsummary

  2. Moscow’s stray dogs

    "“The second stage of becoming wild is where the dog is socialised to people in general, but not personally,” says Poyarkov. “These are the beggars and they are excellent psychologists.” He gives as an example a dog that appears to be dozing as throngs of people walk past, but who rears his head when an easy target comes into view: “The dog will come to a little old lady, start smiling and wagging his tail, and sure enough, he’ll get food.” These dogs not only smell who is carrying something tasty, but sense who will stop and feed them.

    The beggars live in relatively small packs and are subordinate to leaders. If a dog is intelligent but occupies a low rank and does not get enough to eat, he will separate from the pack frequently to look for food. If he sees other dogs begging, he will watch and learn."

    Tagged with: moscowrussiaurbanismferalstraydogspsychologyevolutionanimalsadaptation

  3. SF reading protocols

    "People have been writing science fiction for more than a century, and we’ve had more than eighty years of people writing science fiction and knowing what they were doing. The techniques of writing and reading it have developed in that time. Old things sometimes look very clunky, as if they’re inventing the wheel—because they are. Modern SF assumes. It doesn’t say “The red sun is high, the blue low because it was a binary system.” So there’s a double problem. People who read SF sometimes write SF that doesn’t have enough surface to skitter over. Someone who doesn’t have the skillset can’t learn the skillset by reading it. And conversely, people who don’t read SF and write it write horribly old fashioned clunky re-inventing the wheel stuff, because they don’t know what needs explanation. They explain both too much and not enough, and end up with something that’s just teeth-grindingly annoying for an SF reader to read." Jo Walton knocks this one out of the park.

    Tagged with: sciencefictionliteraturewritingreadinganalysiscomprehensiontoolkitmetaphors

  4. Money in Politics

    "… your nonpartisan guide to money’s influence on U.S. elections and public policy. Whether you’re a voter, journalist, activist, student or interested citizen, use our free site to shine light on your government. Count cash and make change." Interesting, and a useful resource, I'll bet.

    Tagged with: USAmericapoliticsmoneycampaignfundingdonationsstatisticsgovernmenttransparencycorruptionlobbying

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