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'Laser Tweezers' Used to Sort Atoms 92

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the like-plucking-nosehairs-only-less-painful dept.
luckyguesser writes to tell us that Physicists at the University of Bonn are claiming to have knocked down one more quantum computing hurdle. Utilizing what they term "laser tweezers" they were able to sort and align seven atoms while capturing it on film. The plan is to construct a quantum gate using atoms imprinted with data.
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'Laser Tweezers' Used to Sort Atoms

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  • "The plan is to construct a quantum gate using atoms imprinted with data."

    Does that mean SG1 will now be shown on the History Channel instead of SciFi?

  • Finally... (Score:5, Funny)

    by MickDownUnder (627418) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:44PM (#15744227)
    Something to get at even the most stubborn nasal hairs.
  • A little more detail (Score:5, Informative)

    by grapeape (137008) <mpope7NO@SPAMkc.rr.com> on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:45PM (#15744238) Homepage
    There is a bit more detail here, including a picture:

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/The-Atom-Sorting-Ma chine-29616.shtml [softpedia.com]
  • by jellomizer (103300) * on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:45PM (#15744239)
    Young Einstin.

    Now Where is that chissel? ...BOOM...

    Then Yahoo Serious (as Einstine) Runs out with Beer with bubbles in his beer, chared from the Nuclear explosion.

    Which makes me wonder Could mass production of Nano Tools could lead to acedental Nuclear Explosions?
  • Tiny (Score:5, Funny)

    by Umbral Blot (737704) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:45PM (#15744241) Homepage
    That may very well be the world's smallest achievement.
  • One more step to kissing NP Complete good bye, and one more step to invalidating all current forms of encryption. W00t W00t. I for one welcome our new Quantum Overloads (and their ESP capabilites ;))
    • You don't program Quantum Computers, Quantum Computer Program You. Unless you are in Soviet Russa where you Program Quantum Computers.
    • Re:Niiiiiiiice (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jerry Coffin (824726)

      One more step to kissing NP Complete good bye, and one more step to invalidating all current forms of encryption.

      Nonsense. First of all, nobody's really figured out much of a way to apply quantum computers to symmetric encryption, only to most public key cryptography. There are some ideas around that the fast database lookup you can do with a quantum computer should translate to some way to break symmetric encryption faster, but most current algorithms support long enough keys to combat that already.

      • Nonsense? Keep in mind that Quantum computing can do an expontial amount of work per step. So the doubling of the problem space size requires one additonal qubit to operate over all extra space and does so in a single operation.

        Maybe you should read up on what you're talking about before you call 'Nonsense' ;)

        P.S. I have an MS in CS, so I don't need an explanation as to what exponential growth is.

        • Nonsense? Keep in mind that Quantum computing can do an expontial amount of work per step. So the doubling of the problem space size requires one additonal qubit to operate over all extra space and does so in a single operation.

          With the best algorithms known at the present time, searching an unsorted set is O(N) on a classical computer, and O(sqrt(N)) on a quantum computer. That means the key needs to be twice as long to give (roughly) the same number of steps. Right now, actual speed is harder to gue

          • Given the nature of Quantum computing, you can encode 2^n states in n qubits (quantum bits). Given the ability to encode an exponetial number of states and the ability to operate over each state simutanously, you could simply decrypt a given set of information for each key (one step) and validate which one is the correct one (most likey using some language recongnition, or other well-known method). The choice of an algorithm isn't really an issue, because of the pure brute force power provided. Here are s
      • by Anonymous Coward
        128 bits (or even a bit less than that)

        A very roundabout way of saying 127 bits.
    • I hope you're not holding your breath. I suspect the first usable quantum computer will debut right after we all get our flying cars.
    • How would this kiss NP Complete goodbye? All I can see now is being able to brute force a larger problem set faster, but the problem would still be in the exponential running time category.

      Solving the P vs NP problem relies on a breakthrough in mathematical thinking, not computing power/speed.

      The only way I can see quantum computing solving the P vs. NP problem is if it presents a radically different model of computation than what we currently use today. IANAQCS, so if this is the case, please correct me!
      • This becomes more a matter of definitions. The ability to operate over an exponetial number of inputs simutanously would allow us to solve NP Complete problems in a realistic time period (linear to polynomial instead of exponential). Would it change the fact that we have no better solution to the inital problem? No. I agree that some other method of computation or problem solving would be required to actually prove P = NP. See my reply above for references if you don't quite catch the difference.
    • A properly implemented One-time pad [wikipedia.org] system is unbreakable, even with a 'quamputer':

      [Claude Shannon] proved, using information theory considerations, that the [Vernam-Mauborgne] one-time pad has a property he termed perfect secrecy: that is, the ciphertext gives absolutely no additional information about the plaintext. Thus, the a priori probability of a plaintext message M is the same as the a posteriori probability of a plaintext message M given the corresponding ciphertext. And in fact all plaintexts are

      • Reminds me of the French car in Tom McCall's "Zany Afternoons" -- the car that was "so exclusive that none will be built!" The only way to secure information is to not send it. That works, generally. Encase the computer in concrete after removing the wireless connection, wrapping the box in lead foil and unplugging the cables. Data is safe. The frog is deaf...
      • Seems more like psychic paper to me (Dr who reference) You'll be able to brute force a standard symetric encryption instantly the way i see it,
  • Hoo Boy... (Score:5, Funny)

    by blcamp (211756) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:48PM (#15744269) Homepage

    Being able to sort and manipulate things down to the atomic level?

    This is going to make already messy divorce proceedings... even messier.

  • Where's the video? Remember: a picture/video is worth 1000 mis-informed comments...
  • At last! Fricken' tweezers with fricken' laser beams attached!
  • Now if they could only make a version of them with pieces of zircon encrusted in them, I know a few people who might be interested in these tweezers.
  • quantum fuzzy logic (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Quadraginta (902985)
    I'm damned if I can see how this is jumping an "important" hurdle along the way to a quantum computer. I don't think anyone is going to build a quantum computer with moving parts, i.e. with laser "conveyor belts" and "tweezers" that are constantly shuffling atoms around (and at a mere 0.5 sort operations per second at that).

    I'm guessing the hurdle jumped here has something to do with construction techniques. But...there are already many ways to get atoms perfectly lined up with each other. Using a crysta
    • I think you might be getting a little confused. For Quantum Computing you need the atoms/qbits to be entangled with each other and then seperated and for them to remain that way. You can't achieve this in a crystal (well you might achieve entanglement, but it'll be hard to remove the entangled atom and make it interact with a completely different atom without destroying the existing entanglement).

      Its not about getting them "aligned perfectly", rather its about controlling the atoms without introducing no
      • Nonsense. The obvious way to create, alter or remove entanglement would be altering the many-body wavefunction through some kind of interaction with photons. You can do that as fast as you can switch the field -- gigahertz at least. Moving the atoms is about as clumsy and screwball a method for changing a wavefunction as I can imagine. You might as well turn your car around by stopping it by the side of the road, dismantling it piece by piece, and rebuilding it facing the other direction. Pfui.
  • by MECC (8478) * on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @12:59PM (#15744368)
    Before anyone gets all righteous on me and mods me to death, I'm borderline OCD.
  • so wheres the film?
  • for G.W's brain cells
  • if u read it closely (Score:2, Informative)

    by kasgoku (988652)
    if you read it closely, it is not exactly the normal tweezer you and me use(not really.) its kinda like throwing an atom somewhere, instead of actually lifting it and moving somewhere. you cant guarantee that it will land at the same target all the time.
  • I thought I remembered reading that these quantum level gates would need to be redundant to get stable state information - something on the order of 1k quantum gates per transister based gate. If this is true, how long would it take to produce a computer? Years? Not a knock against the results - just a question.
  • by karlandtanya (601084) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @01:06PM (#15744420)
    I mean, really--is Previous position: "Maxwell's Daemon" going to impress the HR department?
  • ..."Laser Tweezers used to Scott Adams". I couldn't figure out what the hell that meant. Did someone publish a holographic collection of Dilbert toons?
  • queue penis jokes.
  • Has anyone else noticed that the ads on the informative article page:

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/The-Atom-Sorting-Ma chine-29616.shtml [softpedia.com]

    are about industrial conveyor belts? (I got "Belt Conveyors From the Industry Leader, QC Solutions") I can certainly understand it, given that the article has the text "'conveyor belt' consisting of lasers", but it's still wrong and funny!
  • by VoidEngineer (633446) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @01:40PM (#15744664)
    for at least 5 years.

    Granted, it seems like their tweezers might be slightly more precise than Chicago's, but as far as I can tell, the article is little more than University of Bonn's press-release saying that they're playing in the same league. Granted, Chicago now has 5 years of experience patenting the process and developing applications with it.

    http://mrsec.uchicago.edu/Nuggets/Holographic_Opti cal_Tweezers/ [uchicago.edu]

    It should be noted Chicago's method is a little more "rubic's cubish" than Bonn's "conveyor belt" setup. Coupled with what is probably a different setup for the optical trap and laser mesh, and the 5 year difference in publications, I would doubt that there would be any patent conflict and that this will wind up being a competing product.

    Also, my guess is that these laser tweezers are going to play a part in the design of the first functional general nanoassemblers (of the style of Enterprise's 'replicators', not of the style of a grey goo assembler).
    • You're right, laser tweezers are nothing new. My understanding is they're a standard tool used now days in nanoscale research.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      What chicago is doing, is again not very different from what Hannover has been doing
      for 5 years with micro lens array. The point is that both these experiments have little
      to do with the Bonn experiment. What the Bonn guys do, is actualy sort the atoms out, so
      that the have exactly one atom in every well of the standing light wave they use as a
      conveyer belt. Chicago and Hannover have only limited control of how many atoms are in
      each micro trap. Furthermore, the whole conveyor belt is just the start. Now, the
  • These also make great roachclips for bacteria.
  • OB OCD (Score:4, Funny)

    by surfcow (169572) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @01:50PM (#15744740) Homepage
    Well, that aughta keep the obcessive comnpulsives busy for a while.

    "Did anyone see my isotope of Boron?"

  • sed/tweezers and magnifying glass/laser tweezers and scanning tunneling microscope/
  • by Salsaman (141471) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @02:05PM (#15744858) Homepage
    The researchers also announced that the first full program for their quantum computers would be entitled "Duke Nukem Forever".

    "The game will be amazing", stated the researchers, "with state of the art graphics and the ability to play in multiple universes simultaneously."

    The first beta release was expected some 25 years from now.
     
  • Yes, but can they be used to sort tiny screws in space?
  • by XchristX (839963) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @02:26PM (#15745007)
    The research group of Mark Raizen of the University of Texas at Austin has been working on similar techniques of 'tweezing' and 'laser culling'. Theoretically, in quantum tweezing, Gaussian lasers would sweep over a Bose-Einstein Condensate of ultracold atoms. The velocity of the sweep can be tuned in such a way that Landau-Zener tunnelling criterion is only satisfied for one atom in the reservoir and it tunnels into the sweeping beam.

    http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v89/i7/e070401 [aps.org]

      In addition, 'laser culling' is a process by which a doppler-cooled set of atoms, kept in a MOT trap, can have the nuber of atoms whittled down by lowering the trap height. This can be done until a sub-poissionian regime is achieved and a definite number state is in the trap.

    http://www.utexas.edu/opa/news/2006/01/physics04.h tml [utexas.edu]

    http://www.colorado.edu/physics/2000/bec/index.htm l [colorado.edu]
  • Mini Me, stop humping the "laser". Maybe you and the laser should go get a frickin' room.
  • Can someone explain how this differs from what IBM did in 1990?

    http://www-03.ibm.com/ibm/history/exhibits/vintage /vintage_4506VV1003.html [ibm.com]
  • by Flying pig (925874) on Wednesday July 19, 2006 @03:20PM (#15745478)
    I think my intelligence is possibly being insulted by the original article. The analogies described seem to be a massive exaggeration of the capabilities of the process, intended to attract the attention of people with funding. "Hey, we can move atoms around on little conveyor belts. And we can write on them. Please give us lots and lots of money so we can build everything from a computer that can read the encrypted emails of a million terrorist suspects in one millisecond, down to free hard drives holding petabytes which have to have RFID tags attached so you can find them if you sneeze." Of course, how this is going to do anything which connects to the real world is quite another matter.

    Yes, it is interesting (I don't think I am a Luddite) but attempts to make leading edge practical physics understandable by governments and the great unwashed seem doomed to founder in misunderstanding. This is not a conveyor belt, this is not a tweezer, and nobody is writing anything on atoms. It's about as helpful as saying that I've succeeded in using a matter transfer process to increase the potential energy of a car (I've driven up a hill.)

    This may be a slightly excessive rant, but I do think that any attempt to popularise or spread understanding of science by proceeding from reality to an extremely high level analogical overview while completely missing all the science in the middle - is doomed to failure and symptomatic of a society with growing scientific illiteracy.

    • I agree wholeheartedly. This physorg article was a convoluted mass of steaming dung. I couldn't begin to understand what the author was trying to say, or what the large improvement was over techniques that have been done for years already (some noted in comments already). I'm a physical chemist for Christ's sake! I hopped over to 'Nature,' skimmed the real article, and came to the conclusion that the author of the PhysOrg piece didn't have a firm handle on the quantum chemistry and or techniques utilize
  • When I first read the headline I thought it said "Laser Tweezers Used to Snort Atoms"

    wow. that would've been tough.
  • The latest commercial about Adrian Monk (on the USA Network) came to mind. He's in a restaurant arranging exactly 100 corn kernels in a perfect 10 x 10 square, and moving the remainder to a separate bowl.
  • I read that at first as "'Laser Tweezers' Used to Short Atoms" (like shorting a circuit), which in my opinion would have been a much more amazing accomplishment than sorting atoms.
  • I remember that an IBM researcher wrote IBM with gold atoms using an atomic force microscope, quite a long time ago..
    Why brings using laser tweezers to do the same thing?

    It doesn't seem simpler.. Maybe the temperature used can be higher? Or maybe it works with different atoms that can be used with an AFM? Or maybe it's easier to automate?

    Frankly this article is poor, what is so interesting about using lasers instead of an AFM??
    • The main difference is that since these atoms are essentially isolated from any environment, they can be used for quantum computing. The thing about uantum states is that they are disturbed if you , or anything else, interacts with them. To build a quantum computer, you must make sure that you can controll, or at least influence, how they are disturbed, and what they will interact with. If you simply stick the atoms onto a metal plate ( as IBM did ) they will constantly interact with the metal plate, and si
  • For chrissakes don't drop one of those atoms - if it rolls off onto the floor - you'll *NEVER* find it again.
  • Ah, there they are. Right next to the sonic screwdriver.
  • Can this technique be used to shrink digital circuits even more? for the short term, it would be more useful to increase performance of digital computers.

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