Thursday, August 27, 2020

New funding for AI and quantum computing

VentureBeat reports:
The White House today detailed the establishment of 12 new research institutes focused on AI and quantum information science. Agencies including the National Science Foundation (NSF), U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) have committed to investing tens of millions of dollars in centers intended to serve as nodes for AI and quantum computing study.
They are not really new institutes, but funding programs for elite universities and govt labs. Some of the labs may have outlived their usefulness, and are looking for something for their engineers to do.

For info on the AI plans, see

The article mostly complains about how Europe, China, and Korea are passing us up in AI and quantum computing/information.

Monday, August 24, 2020

How IBM lost technology leadership

Dario Gil writes in SciAm:
I am the director of IBM Research. When I speak, I speak with an accent, just like all of my foreign-born colleagues. ...

Take quantum. This technology of the near future is set to revolutionize the world of computing and will likely deeply impact our society and economy. Having been confined to research labs for years, it’s finally emerging as a nascent industry. For specific tasks, quantum computers promise to unlock processing power much superior to traditional, classical, computers. With continued progress, they should be able to perform calculations and generate simulations of unprecedented complexity at a fraction of the time it would take a classical computer. They should even be able to deal with problems a classical computer could never solve. The implications of quantum for security, chemistry, material design, financial markets, AI and machine learning are immense.

And now look at the people driving this quantum revolution in the U.S.; ...

Our country and the world are full of talent. We should embrace diversity and foreign highly skilled workers as much as we embrace the emerging technology that they bring us.

No, this is foolishness. Quantum computers are not going to revolutionize anything.

IBM led the computer industry for decades, and it did it with American workers. Now it hires mostly foreign workers, and it has fallen behind in all the significant sectors.

IBM claims to have proved quantum supremacy, but all they really did was generate some random numbers in a way that is hard to duplicate. They haven't used to machine to solve any problems faster than a classical computers. It is all just useless hype.

Monday, August 17, 2020

WSU: Space, Time, and Einstein with Brian Greene

Brian Greene has a good new expository lecture on Space, Time, and Einstein. He starts off saying it is all due to Einstein, but nothing he says is really original to Einstein. It was all said better and earlier by others.

Friday, August 14, 2020

$100k offered to crack a Zip file

A Wired article alludes to me:
Zip is a popular file format used for "lossless" compression of large files, like the little drawstring sack that can somehow contain your sleeping bag. ...

"The zip cipher was designed decades ago by an amateur cryptographer — the fact that it has held up so well is remarkable." But while some zip files can be cracked easily with off-the-shelf tools, The Guy wasn't so lucky.

That's partly why the work was priced so high. Newer generations of zip programs use the established and robust cryptographic standard AES, but outdated versions—like the one used in The Guy's case—use Zip 2.0 Legacy encryption that can often be cracked. The degree of difficulty depends on how it's implemented, though. "It’s one thing to say something is broken, but actually breaking it is a whole different ball of wax," says Johns Hopkins University cryptographer Matthew Green.

I was that amateur cryptography. The attacks are described in this paper.

Update: You can view the DEFCON lecture on the crack on YouTube, or download the lecture and Q&A from the DEFCON site.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Quantum hype comes to kindergarten

Reuters reports:
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy said on Wednesday the Trump administration is launching a national education partnership to expand access to K-12 quantum information science (QIS) education with major companies and research institutions. The public-private initiative with the National Science Foundation includes Inc’s Amazon Web Services, Boeing Co, Alphabet Inc’s Google, IBM Corp, Lockheed Martin Corp , Microsoft Corp, the University of Illinois and University of Chicago. The National Science Foundation is also awarding $1 million to QIS education. The initiative is designed in part to help introduce students to quantum information themes before college Last month, the White House announced the award of $75 million for new institutes at three U.S. universities to boost quantum information research. Quantum computing aims to operate millions of times faster than today’s advanced supercomputers. Experts have said the promising technology, still in its infancy, could have a major impact on healthcare, communications, financial services, transportation, artificial intelligence, weather forecasting and other areas.
This technology may still be in its infancy a century from now. It is hard to imagine what "quantum information themes" will be taught to K-12 students. Probably just a few buzzwords. There is no demonstrated applicability to any of those subject areas listed above.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

COVID informs us on race

SciAm reports:
Nine Important Things We’ve Learned about the Coronavirus Pandemic So Far ... [8] Racism, not race, is a risk factor. The pandemic should put an end to the common misconception that race, a social construct, is a biological explanation for health disparities. COVID-19 has disproportionately killed people of color in the United States. This is not because of genetic differences but because of systemic racism that has isolated and impoverished many Native American people and made Black and Latinx people more likely to have “essential” jobs that expose them to infection, a greater burden of stress and less access to high-quality health care.
I am just noting how certain racial attitudes now permeate our most respected scientific publications. This is like saying COVID-19 mostly kills old people, and that proves that old people are just as healthy as young people. Or that there must be systematic ageism. The British journal Nature is also politicized. See this letter where three Black Stanford make a political statement.