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Astronomers Gear Up to Grapple with the High-Tension Cosmos

Scientifc America - Mon, 2022-04-18 06:45
A debate over conflicting measurements of key cosmological properties is set to shape the next decade of astronomy and astrophysics

-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com

Researchers break world record for quantum-encrypted communications

Engadget - Mon, 2022-04-18 06:43

Researchers in Beijing have set a new quantum secure direct communication (QSDC) world record of 102.2 km (64 miles), smashing the previous mark of 18 km (11 miles), The Eurasian Times reported. Transmission speeds were extremely slow at 0.54 bits per second, but still good enough for text message and phone call encryption over a distance of 30 km (19 miles), wrote research lead Long Guilu in Nature. The work could eventually lead to hack-proof communication, as any eavesdropping attempt on a quantum line can be instantly detected. 

QSDC uses the principal of entanglement to secure networks. Quantum physics dictates that entangled particles are linked, so that if you change the property of one by measuring it, the other will instantly change, too — effectively making hacking impossible. In theory, the particles stay linked even if they're light-years apart, so such systems should work over great distances. 

The same research team set the previous fiber record, and devised a "novel design of physical system with a new protocol" to achieve the longer distance. They simplified it by eliminating the "complicated active compensation subsystem" used in the previous model. "This enables an ultra-low quantum bit error rate (QBER) and the long-term stability against environmental noises." 

As a result, the system can withstand much more so-called channel loss that makes it impossible to decode encrypted messages. That in turn allowed them to extend the fiber from 28.3km to the record 102.2 km distance. "The experiment shows that intercity quantum secure direct communication through the fiber is feasible with present-day technology," the team wrote in Nature

Researchers in China previously made a secure quantum-enabled video call by satellite, but fiber poses a different set of challenges. "If we replace parts of the internet today, where more eavesdropping attacks happen, with quantum channels, those parts will have the added ability to sense and prevent eavesdropping, making communication even safer," said Long. 

Applications Surged After Colleges Started Ignoring Standardized Test Scores

SlashDot - Mon, 2022-04-18 04:04
What happened when college admissions offices started ignoring the standardized test scores? NBC News asked college administrators like Jon Burdick, Cornell's vice provost for enrollment: When the health crisis closed testing sites in 2020, four of Cornell's undergraduate colleges decided to go test optional, meaning students could submit a test score if they thought it would help them, but didn't have to. Three of Cornell's colleges adopted test-blind policies, meaning admissions officers wouldn't look at any student's scores. The effects were immediate, Burdick said. Like many other colleges and universities, Cornell was inundated with applications — roughly 71,000 compared to 50,000 in a typical year. And the new applications — particularly those that arrived without test scores attached — were far more likely to come from "students that have felt historically excluded," Burdick said. The university had always looked at many factors in making admissions decisions, and low test scores were never singularly disqualifying, Burdick said. But it became clear that students had been self-rejecting, deciding not to apply to places like Cornell because they thought their lower SAT scores meant they couldn't get in, he said. Other colleges also saw a similar surge in applications.... At Cornell, managing the surge in applications wasn't easy, Burdick said. The university hired several admissions officers and about a dozen part-time application readers — paid for in part by the additional application fees.... In the end, Cornell enrolled a more diverse class, including a nearly 50 percent increase in the share of first-generation college students. "It showed me that these students, given the opportunity, can show really impressive competitive credentials and get admitted with the test barrier reduced or eliminated," Burdick said. Research on colleges that went test optional years ago shows that students admitted without test scores come from more diverse backgrounds and do about as well in their classes once they arrive as peers who did submit test scores.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ultra-Rare Black Hole Ancestor Detected at the Dawn of the Universe

SlashDot - Mon, 2022-04-18 01:05
"Astronomers have discovered a dusty, red object 13 billion light-years from Earth that may be the earliest known ancestor of a supermassive black hole," reports Live Science: The ancient object shows characteristics that fall between dusty, star-forming galaxies and brightly glowing black holes known as quasars, according to the authors of a new study, published April 13 in the journal Nature. Born just 750 million years after the Big Bang, during an epoch called the "cosmic dawn," the object appears to be the first direct evidence of an early galaxy weaving stardust into the foundations of a supermassive black hole. Objects like these, known as transitioning red quasars, have been theorized to exist in the early universe, but they have never been observed — until now.... Prior research has shown that quasars existed within the first 700 million years of the universe, the study authors wrote; however, it's unclear exactly how these supermassive objects formed so quickly after the Big Bang. Simulations suggest that some sort of fast-growing transition phase occurs in dusty, star-dense galaxies. "Theorists have predicted that these black holes undergo an early phase of rapid growth: a dust-reddened compact object emerges from a heavily dust-obscured starburst galaxy," study co-author Gabriel Brammer, an associate professor at the Niels Bohr Institute, said in the statement. In their new paper, the researchers claim to have detected one of these rare transitional objects — officially named GNz7q — while studying an ancient, star-forming galaxy with the Hubble Space Telescope. The team caught the early galaxy in the midst of a stellar baby boom, with the galaxy seemingly churning out new stars 1,600 times faster than the Milky Way does today. All those newborn stars produced an immense amount of heat, which warmed the galaxy's ambient gas and caused it to glow brightly in infrared wavelengths. The galaxy became so hot, in fact, that its dust shines brighter than any other known object from the cosmic dawn period, the researchers said. Amid that brightly glowing dust, the researchers detected a single red point of light — a large, compact object tinged by the enormous fog of dust around it. According to the researchers, this red dot's luminosity and color perfectly match the predicted characteristics of a transitioning red quasar.... [T]here are likely many, many others like it just waiting to be discovered by telescopes that can peer even further back, into the earliest eras of the universe. NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, which launched on Dec. 25, 2021, will be able to hunt for these elusive objects with much greater clarity than Hubble, the researchers wrote, hopefully shedding a bit more light onto the dusty cosmic dawn.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Is GitHub Suspending the Accounts of Russian Developers at Sanctioned Companies?

SlashDot - Sun, 2022-04-17 21:39
"Russian software developers are reporting that their GitHub accounts are being suspended without warning if they work for or previously worked for companies under U.S. sanctions, writes Bleeping Computer: According to Russian media outlets, the ban wave began on April 13 and didn't discriminate between companies and individuals. For example, the GitHub accounts of Sberbank Technology, Sberbank AI Lab, and the Alfa Bank Laboratory had their code repositories initially disabled and are now removed from the platform.... Personal accounts suspended on GitHub have their content wiped while all repositories become immediately out of reach, and the same applies to issues and pull requests. Habr.com [a Russian collaborative blog about IT] reports that some Russian developers contacted GitHub about the suspension and received an email titled 'GitHub and Trade Controls' that explained their account was disabled due to US sanctions. This email contains a link to a GitHub page explaining the company's policies regarding sanctions and trade controls, which explains how a user can appeal their suspension. This appeal form requires the individual to certify that they do not use their GitHub account on behalf of a sanctioned entity. A developer posted to Twitter saying that he could remove the suspension after filling out the form and that it was due to his previous employer being sanctioned. A GitHub blog post in March had promised to ensure the availability of open source services "to all, including developers in Russia." So Bleeping Computer contacted a GitHub spokesperson, who explained this weekend that while GitHub may be required to restrict some users to comply with U.S. laws, "We examine government sanctions thoroughly to be certain that users and customers are not impacted beyond what is required by law." According to this, the suspended private accounts are either affiliated, collaborating, or working with/for sanctioned entities. However, even those who previously worked for a sanctioned company appear to be suspended by mistake. This means that Russian users, in general, can suddenly find their projects wiped and accounts suspended, even if those projects have nothing to do with the sanctioned entities.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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