It’s alive! Scientists create ‘artificial life’ on a quantum computer

Here is a sentence that sounds like it’s come fresh off the pages of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller: Scientists have created “artificial life” on a quantum computer for the first time ever. And that could turn out to be kind of a big deal.

The work was achieved by researchers from the University of the Basque Country in Spain. With the aid of an IBM QX4 quantum computer, they created tiny simulated life forms capable of carrying out many of the behaviors seen in real-world life forms — including reproduction, mutation, evolution, and death. They hope that doing so will help researchers to better understand the origins of life and whether it can be explained through quantum mechanics. This is something that has been hypothesized for decades, dating back to Erwin Schrödinger’s influential 1944 book What is Life?

IBM Q quantum computer
IBM Q quantum computer IBM

“Our research connects two previously unrelated areas as are artificial life and quantum computing,” Lucas Lamata, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “The former is an extensive research field where the aim is to reproduce biological behaviors in artificial systems, while the latter is an area that is growing fast in the past few years and could revolutionize computation and communication. We mainly posed the fundamental question: Which is the smallest physical system that can undergo self-replication and other biological behaviors attributed uniquely to living beings?”

The researchers were interested in whether these behaviors happen at the macroscopic level of a DNA module or at the few-atom level where quantum physics dominates. In their work, simulated “individuals” were represented using two quantum bits, or “qubits.” These are measures of information which can represent one, zero, or any quantum superposition of the two states. Their demonstration suggests that a small quantum system can reproduce biological behaviors and that the quantum principle of “entanglement” plays a crucial role in this possibility.

“We may easily find several applications, still to be developed, around quantum game theory and optimization problems,” Enrique Solano, another researcher on the project, told us. “The latter are a common place for applications in economy, design, aerodynamics, and complex biological systems. The natural merge of this research with artificial intelligence methods will create a novel paradigm for exploring the growth of complexity, an important asset of present and future studies from molecular systems to astrophysical objects and social behaviors.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Emerging Tech

Watch this lab-grown heart tissue beat just like the real thing

A team of researchers in Germany have used stem cells to create a lab-grown human heart tissue which actually beats, as well as responding to drugs in the same way as the real thing.
Emerging Tech

Quantum-based accelerometer can locate objects without GPS

Researchers have created a quantum "compass" that allows navigation without satellites. The instrument, technically called a standalone quantum accelerometer, is small enough to be transportable and has a very high level of accuracy.
Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'The Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘The Good Place’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Emerging Tech

Alibaba’s Singles’ Day sale smashes online shopping records

The annual online shopping frenzy that is Singles' Day this year raked in $30.8 billion, up from $25 billion last time around. The Alibaba-organized event generates more in sales than Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined.
Emerging Tech

Shipping crate filled with 3D-printing robots may be the future of construction

Autodesk has created a robot-filled shipping container which may represent the future of construction work. The crate contains two robots able to 3D print custom components for building sites.
Emerging Tech

Michigan’s former transportation chief has some advice for wannabe smart cities

After 31 years as Michigan’s transportation director, Kirk Steudle has seen it all, particularly with smart city projects. He spoke with Digital Trends recently about what makes smart cities work, and offers advice along the way.
Emerging Tech

Sticking these tiny needles in your eye may help fight blindness

An eye patch covered in tiny needles sounds like a torture device. In fact, it's a potential new medical treatment for eye diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Bottle-flipping robots may be the most millennial thing we’ve ever seen

Until drones start vaping, you're unlikely to see anything more millennial than a recent contest in Japan in which robots competed to pull off some seriously impressive bottle-flipping feats.
Emerging Tech

New simulation shows how Elon Musk’s internet satellite network might work

Elon Musk has the dream of building a network for conveying internet traffic via thousands of satellites. A new simulation created by a computer scientist looks at how feasible the idea is.
Cars

Car parts maker ZF is using drones to deliver components to its factories

ZF recently became the first entity in Germany to receive approval to use drones to deliver spare parts, and the company now uses them to deliver parts from its central warehouses to its workshops.
Emerging Tech

Meet the 4K selfie drone that folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?