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A quantum drama has a sad ending

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Three years ago, Microsoft excitedly announced that it had jumped into the quantum computing realm with the discovery of an elusive particle that the company said it could harness to build a quantum computer.

Called a Majorana fermion, the particle would be used — in theory, anyway — as individual computational units (called qubits) in quantum computers. It was big news for Microsoft, which was looking to catch up with IBM and Google, who had each already built prototypes.

Sadly for Microsoft, the discovery didn’t pan out. In February of this year, the lead physicist and 21 co-authors of a paper announcing the particle’s discovery published a new article retracting the original findings.

It turns out that the original paper excluded some data, confounding some fellow physicists who wondered whether the oversight was intentional or a confirmation bias-induced oversight.
Either way, it was sad news for Microsoft.


Quantum frontier
Compared to quantum computing, what you do on a regular computer is like a caveman pounding on a rock. Quantum computing massively increases the capabilities of storing and manipulating information. It would supercharge processing and computational speed.

Classic computers currently manipulate individual bits, which are 0 and 1 (no and yes or off and on). In quantum computers, there are no bits. There are qubits, and they can exist as both 0 and 1 at the same time. The traditional laws of physics actually do not apply in the quantum world.

Google’s quantum computer boasts 53 qubits that can store 253 values, or more than 10,000,000,000,000,000 (10 quadrillion) combinations. IBM supposedly is working on 1,000 qubit quantum computers.

The technology is expected to lead to unimaginable improvements in everything from chemistry and emissions to diagnosing illness.

The power of quantum computing
How powerful is this? In 2019, Google’s infant quantum computer solved a problem considered impossible (as a practical matter) for regular machines. According to LiveScience, it completed the complex computation in 200 seconds, while the most powerful supercomputers would have needed approximately 10,000 years. That is a brisk 1.5 trillion times faster.

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August Celebrity Birthdays!

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Tony Bennett meets Stevie Wonder

Tony Bennett, 95, singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, New York, NY, 1926.

 

Do you share a birthday with a celebrity?

1 – Tempestt Bledsoe, 48, talk show host, actress (The Cosby Show), Chicago, IL, 1973

2 – Sam Worthington, 45, actor (Avatar), Godalming, Surrey, England, 1976.


3 – Tony Bennett, 95, singer, born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, New York, NY, 1926.

4 – Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, 40, former actress (Suits), born Rachel Meghan Markle, Los Angeles, CA, 1981.

5 – Jonathan Silverman, 55, actor (The Single Guy), Los Angeles, CA, 1966.

6 – Peter Bonerz, 83, actor (The Bob Newhart Show), Portsmouth, NH, 1938.

7 – Charlize Theron, 46, actress (Mad Max: Fury Road), Benoni, South Africa, 1975.

8 – Roger Federer, 40, tennis player, Basel, Switzerland,

9 – Robert Joseph (Bob) Cousy, 93, Hall of Fame basketball player, former coach, New York, NY, 1928.

10 – Angie Harmon, 49, actress (Law & Order), Dallas, TX, 1972.

11 – Marilyn vos Savant, 75, columnist, claims world’s highest IQ, born St. Louis, MO, 1946.

12 – Cara Delevingne, 29, model, actress (Suicide Squad), London, England, 1992.

13 – Danny Bonaduce, 62, radio personality, actor (The Partridge Family), Broomall, PA, 1959.

14 – Mila Kunis, 38, actress (That 70s Show), Kiev, Ukraine, 1983.

15 – Vernon Jordan, Jr, 86, civil rights leader, Atlanta, GA, 1935.

16 – Taika Waititi, 46, actor (What We Do in the Shadows), comedian, Wellington, New Zealand, 1975.

17 – Julian Fellowes, 72, producer (Downton Abbey), Cairo, Egypt, 1949.

18 – Malcolm-Jamal Warner, 51, actor (The Cosby Show), Jersey City, NJ, 1970.

19 – Erika Christensen, 39, actress (Parenthood), Seattle, WA, 1982.

20 – Donald (Don) King, 90, boxing promoter, Cleveland, OH, 1931.

21 – Kacey Musgraves, 33, singer, songwriter, Golden, TX, 1988.

22 – Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, 54, actor (Lost), London, England, 1967.

23 – Jay Mohr, 51, actor (Jerry Maguire), comedian,Verona, NJ 1970.

24 – Alexander McCall Smith, 73, author, Bulawayo, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), 1948.

25 – Blake Lively, 34, actress (Savages), Tarzana, CA, 1987.

26 – John Mulaney, 39, comedian, writer (Saturday Night Live), Chicago, IL, 1982.

27 – Sarah Chalke, 45, actress (Roseanne), Ottawa, ON, Canada, 1976.

28 – Quvenzhane Wallis, 18, actress (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Houma, LA, 2003.

29 – Lea Michele, 35, actress (Glee), Bronx, NY, Aug 29, 1986.

30 – Michael Chiklis, 58, actor (The Shield), Lowell, MA, 1963.

31 – Marcia Clark, 68, former prosecutor, crime reporter, born Marcia Kleks, Alameda, CA, 1953.

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Quiz: How much do you know about insects?

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Whether you find them fascinating or creepy, insects are interesting creatures to learn about. Here are 12 skill-testing questions to broaden your knowledge.

True or false
1. Ladybugs are part of the Coccinellidae family.
2. When a butterfly is in its cocoon, it’s called a chrysanthemum.
3. Carpenter ants live in dead or rotten wood where they carve out tunnels.
4. Flies rub their legs together as a way to clean themselves.
5. Grasshoppers have longer, thinner antennae than crickets.
6. Fireflies light up because of a chemical reaction in their abdomen.
7. Mayflies usually live for just three or four days.
8. Orchid mantises have legs that resemble flower petals, which helps them remain camouflaged.

Multiple choice
1. This insect is also known as a waterbug or Croton bug. Most people don’t like to have them in their home because they’re considered a pest.
a. A cockroach
b. A bed bug
c. A ground pearl

2. This insect lives in treetops and eats sap. It’s known for its high-pitched buzzing.
a. A tiger beetle
b. A cicada
c. A dragonfly


3. This insect is often confused with other members of the Hymenoptera order, but you can tell it apart by its narrow body and lack of hair.
a. A wasp
b. A bee
c. A hornet

4. Part of the grasshopper family, this insect can grow to be up to four inches long and is the heaviest insect in the world. It lives in New Zealand.
a. A titan beetle
b. A rhinoceros beetle
c. A giant weta

————————–

Answers
1. True
2. False (It’s called a chrysalis)
3. True
4. True
5. False (Crickets are the ones with longer antennae)
6. True
7. False (They usually only live for a few hours)
8. True
9. a)
10. b)
11. a)
12. c)

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With practice, a beginner can learn golf in six months

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Say you’re 35 or 45 years old, and you’ve never played golf. With the right teacher and time to play or practice three times a week, you could be able to make a good showing when you’re out with people who have played casually for many years.

Ron Stepanek, head of business development for the PGA, says almost anyone can learn to break 100 in five or six months. Someone with decent hand-eye coordination and any kind of athletic experience could probably break 90.

With the agreement to take lessons for five or six months, a teacher and student have the time to master the fundamentals in the right order before progressing.

The instructors say committed beginners make faster progress because they don’t have to unlearn as many bad habits.


Beginners start with putting and chipping. Once they understand what well-hit shots feel like at that level, they build up to full-swing shots. The Wall Street Journal’s John
Paul Newport says three of the six instructors he interviewed started with the short game.

He recommends relying on word of mouth to find an instructor, scheduling a trial lesson, and talking about your goals to determine whether the connection is right.

Some good tips:

* Start learning drives at a practice range, not on the course.

* Don’t make your spouse or significant other your main teacher.

* Make sure you learn a proper grip and then proceed to the swing.

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The magical story of Romeo still tugs at Alaska’s heart

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A magical thing happened in Juneau, Alaska, 18 years ago, and as with most magical things, some people loved it and some hated it. But it’s a true story of a solitary wolf who wanted to be friends.

His name was Romeo, a black wolf who is now a legend. He was a rare creature: Wild but friendly, alone and in search of friends, a player of games, a curious visitor and, ultimately, a target.

This story began in 2003 when Nick and Sherrie Jans were walking their dogs across a frozen Alaskan lake. Suddenly, a black wolf appeared. Jans wasn’t surprised. He had seen wolf tracks in the snow. But now their labrador broke free and ran to the wolf. While the couple held their breath, the dog slid across the ice toward the wolf … and then? Wolf and dog sniffed and bowed in that iconic canine way. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

During the next six years, Romeo visited his dog friends, appearing frequently, sometimes disappearing for weeks at a time. The humans didn’t feed him or touch him, but Romeo played with their dogs, dancing with them and chasing — and scaring up a controversy.


Not everyone welcomed a wolf in the neighborhood. Someone tried to trap him, another tried to poison him. Other human friends rallied to protect him.

Speculation arose that he was a wolf without a pack because his mate had been killed. Maybe his mate had been the pregnant wolf killed by a car around the same time Romeo appeared.

Whatever Romeo’s story — no one really knows — in September 2009, he disappeared and never returned.

Romeo’s friend Harry Robinson discovered that Romeo had been shot at point-blank range — easy to get close to a friendly animal. Robinson tracked down the killers, who were arrested, but given no jail time.

Sorrow and anger roiled the community. Jans, a wildlife photographer, and expert on the Alaskan wilderness, wrote a book, A Wolf Called Romeo, detailing the incredible story. (Web: nickjans.com)

Today, after a seven-year struggle, a memorial finally sits at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where you can see Romeo, relaxed and noble and ready to play with your dog.

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3 questions you shouldn’t ask a transgender person

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It’s normal to be curious about transgender people and want to learn more about them. However, certain questions aren’t appropriate to ask and can make the person feel uncomfortable. Here are three to avoid.

1. What was your birth name?
Many transgender people don’t like to share personal details about their life before they transitioned, including their birth name. This may be due to an association with painful memories, or simply because they want to leave that part of their life behind and focus on being their true self. Be respectful, and use the name the person has chosen.

2. Have you had surgery?
Like anyone else, a transgender person likely won’t feel comfortable sharing personal details about their medical history. When you ask about a transition-related procedure, you’re essentially asking the person to describe their genitals. Consider how you would feel sharing that information in a similar situation.

3. What bathroom do you use?
Most people feel uncomfortable answering questions about going to the bathroom. For a transgender person, this topic might also be associated with experiences of harassment or even violence. In general, transgender people use the bathroom that matches the gender they live as or in which they believe they’ll be safest.


Before you ask a transgender person a personal question, consider whether it’s because you need to know certain information, such as their pronouns, to respectfully interact with them. If you’re asking simply because you’re curious, turn to online resources rather than put the person on the spot.

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Dinner! Stop pillaging and come to the table

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Pillagers, crusaders, explorers, and ninjas — those guys needed a good dinner to keep their energy high.

Templars
The Knights Templars famously outlived their fellow humans in the 13th century. Most people lived to about 31, but the Templars lived into their 60s. Their leader, Jacques de Molay, lived until age 70, and he would have lived longer had he not been burned at the stake.

The Templar lifestyle was modest. They ate silently. Meat was limited to three times a week, according to Gastro Obscura. The other days they ate vegetables with bread, milk, eggs, or cheese, except for Friday when there was no dairy, eggs, or meat. All that was washed down with a cup of diluted wine.

Ninjas
Unlike the Templars who rode into battle wielding swords, the ninja of the 1400s was a stealthy assassin. He needed to remain thin and agile, yet strong enough to scale walls. A ninja might even have to wait days for his target, so he carried hunger pills — balls of rice, pine bark, and ginseng. A ninja could also send a message with food. For treachery, send salted fish. For arson, dried fish. To call for reinforcements, sweet cakes.


Vikings
The Viking menu for rampaging and pillaging was full of salted fish (herring), berries, apples, honey, and to drink, mead or beer. On land, flatbreads and porridge of cereals complemented dinner. On the boat, they could carry dried fish or catch something along the way. All this in great quantities, according to natmus.dk.

Explorers
At the turn of the 20th century, there were no dried foods. Antarctic explorers such as Ernest Shackleton were hardy fellows, but they did not dine in variety. The standard fare was pemmican: dried beef and beef fat. That could be mixed with sledging biscuits, flat flour cakes that look like square cookies, but with no sugar. On one rare occasion, there was a surprise. Shackleton saved a ‘Christmas pudding’ with his socks and brought it out on Dec. 25, 1914, to great fanfare.

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