HD quantum encryption gets a step closer to everyday use with world’s first urban trial

Researchers have sent a message secured with high-dimension quantum encryption through the air above a city for the first time in history, bringing practical use of the technology a step closer.

Using photons to encode information, quantum encryption is increasingly being explored as an ultra-secure method of sending information. However, previous real-world tests have only been focused around 2D encryption, where a single photon only encodes one bit: a single one or zero. As a single letter needs eight bits, this severely limits the amount of information that can be sent.

High-dimension quantum encryption, however, allows numerous bits to be stored in each photon, allowing greater quantities of data to be sent, and making it a far more practical option for real-world use.

But as the real world contains considerable ‘noise’ from turbulent air, failed electronics and even attempts by third parties to intercept the data, it is important to demonstrate HD quantum encryption works in an urban setting.

“Our work is the first to send messages in a secure manner using high-dimensional quantum encryption in realistic city conditions, including turbulence,” said research team lead, Ebrahim Karimi, from the University of Ottawa, Canada.

“The secure, free-space communication scheme we demonstrated could potentially link Earth with satellites, securely connect places where it is too expensive to install fiber, or be used for encrypted communication with a moving object, such as an airplane.”

The research, which is published today in the journal Optica, involved sending HD quantum-encrypted data over the city of Ottowa, Canada, over a distance of 0.3km.

The data, which was sent between two buildings at the university, was secured using 4D quantum encryption. This is named as such because each photon encodes two bits of information instead of one, resulting in four distinct possibilities: 01, 10, 00 or 11.

4D quantum encryption is important not only for its ability to send more data on the same number of photons, but because it is also more resistant to noise, making it more practical for real-world conditions.

“This higher noise threshold means that when 2D quantum encryption fails, you can try to implement 4D because it, in principle, is more secure and more noise resistant,” said Karimi.

The messages, which were sent between to rooftops, demonstrated an error rate of 11%, which is considered a key success as it is comfortably below the widely recognised threshold of 19% that is needed to keep a secure connection.

The researchers also found that 4D encryption enabled 1.6 times more information to be sent per photon than 2D encryption.

Image courtesy of SQO team, University of Ottawa

While the research is promising, there is undoubtedly still a long way to go before quantum encryption can be used for commercial applications.

Next the researchers plan to implement their 4D encryption into a network of three links, located 5.6km apart. In the long term, this will be linked into an established network within the city, to further test the use of the technology,

“Our long-term goal is to implement a quantum communication network with multiple links but using more than four dimensions while trying to get around the turbulence,” explained Alicia Sit, an undergraduate student in Karimi’s lab.

Scientists, software developers and artists have begun using VR to visualise genes and predict disease

A group of scientists, software developers and artists have taken to using virtual reality (VR) technology to visualise complex interactions between genes and their regulatory elements.

The team, which comprises of members from Oxford University, Universita’ di Napoli and Goldsmiths, University of London, have been using VR to visualise simulations of a composite of data from genome sequencing, data on the interactions of DNA and microscopy data.

When all this data is combined the team are provided with an interactive, 3D image that shows where different regions of the genome sit relative to others, and how they interact with each other.

“Being able to visualise such data is important because the human brain is very good at pattern recognition – we tend to think visually,” said Stephen Taylor, head of the Computational Biology Research Group at Oxford’s MRC Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM).

“It began at a conference back in 2014 when we saw a demonstration by researchers from Goldsmiths who had used software called CSynth to model proteins in three dimensions. We began working with them, feeding in seemingly incomprehensible information derived from our studies of the human alpha globin gene cluster and we were amazed that what we saw on the screen was an instantly recognisable model.”

The team believe that being able to visualise the interactions between genes and their regulatory elements will allow them to understand the basis of human genetic diseases, and are currently applying their techniques to study genetic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and multiple sclerosis.

“Our ultimate aim in this area is to correct the faulty gene or its regulatory elements and be able to re-introduce the corrected cells into a patient’s bone marrow: to perfect this we have to fully understand how genes and their regulatory elements interact with one another” said Professor Doug Higgs, a principal researcher at the WIMM.

“Having virtual reality tools like this will enable researchers to efficiently combine their data to gain a much broader understanding of how the organisation of the genome affects gene expression, and how mutations and variants affect such interactions.”

There are around 37 trillion cells in the average adult human body, and each cell contains two meters of DNA tightly packed into its nucleus.

While the technology to sequence genomes is well established, it has been shown that the manner in which DNA is folded within each cell affects how genes are expressed.

“There are more than three billion base pairs in the human genome, and a change in just one of these can cause a problem. As a model we’ve been looking at the human alpha globin gene cluster to understand how variants in genes and their regulatory elements may cause human genetic disease,” said Prof Jim Hughes, associate professor of Genome Biology at Oxford University.

Using CRISPR, UK scientists edit DNA of human embryos

For the first time in the UK, scientists have altered human embryos. Using the gene-editing tool CRISPR, the scientists turned off the protein OCT4, which is thought to be important in early embryo development. In doing so, cells that normally go on to form the placenta, yolk sac and foetus failed to develop.

Source: BBC

Tesla and AMD developing AI chip for self-driving cars

Tesla has partnered with AMD to develop a dedicated chip that will handle autonomous driving tasks in its cars. Tesla's Autopilot programme is currently headed by former AMD chip architect Jim Keller, and it is said that more than 50 people are working on the initiative under his leadership.

Source: CNBC

Synthetic muscle developed that can lift 1,000 times its own weight

Scientists have used a 3D printing technique to create an artificial muscle that can lift 1,000 times its own weight. "It can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight. It's the closest artificial material equivalent we have to a natural muscle," said Dr Aslan Miriyev, from the Creative Machines lab.

Source: Telegraph

Head of AI at Google criticises "AI apocalypse" scaremongering

John Giannandrea, the senior vice president of engineering at Google, has condemned AI scaremongering, promoted by people like Elon Musk ."I just object to the hype and the sort of sound bites that some people have been making," said Giannandrea."I am definitely not worried about the AI apocalypse."

Source: CNBC

Scientists engineer antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains

Scientists have engineered an antibody that attacks 99% of HIV strains and is built to attack three critical parts of the virus, which makes it harder for the HIV virus to resist its effects. The International Aids Society said it was an "exciting breakthrough". Human trials will begin in 2018.

Source: BBC

Facebook has a plan to stop fake news from influencing elections

Mark Zuckerberg has outlined nine steps that Facebook will take to "protect election integrity". “I care deeply about the democratic process and protecting its integrity," he said during a live broadcast on his Facebook page. "I don’t want anyone to use our tools to undermine our democracy.”