Science News #012

In Today’s Science News, we will learn about a new development in quantum technology; that our ancestors who lived over 100,000 years ago had a higher cognitive intelligence and how to recognize predatory publishers. (Important Addendum added)

Quantum System (source: Flickr)

Article 1: Researchers set record by preserving quantum states
for more than 5 seconds

SD-Date: 2nd February, 2022
Et-Date: 5th February, 2022
Science-Daily Summary: „A team of researchers has maintained a qubit coherence time for a record five seconds. The qubits are made from silicon carbide, widely found in lightbulbs, electric vehicles and high voltage electronics.“

Background

The one or other reader certainly already heard about quantum science and its potentials – from hacker-proof communication networks to quantum computers that could accelerate new drug discovery. However, until now there have been two common challenges:
1) researchers have grappled with how to easily read the information held in the qubits;
2) the short-term memory time which is usually between microseconds or milliseconds.

Research & Problem Solving

The material chosen by the researchers was silicon carbide, as the ScienceDaily summary already points out. Since it is a material that is already widely used, scaling it up is easier.
Now to the two challenges that were solved by the research team.

1) The usual procedure to readout qubits is by addressing them with lasers and measure the light emitted back. However, it requires to detect single particles of light (photons) very efficiently. The researchers decided to use carefully designed laser pulses in order to add single electrons to the qubits, depending on their quantum state either 0 or 1. Afterwards, the qubit was readout as before – with a laser.

This approach is explained by the co-author of the paper, University of Chicago graduate student Elena Glen: „By converting our fragile quantum state into stable electronic charges, we can measure our state much, much more easily. With this signal boost, we can get a reliable answer every time we check what state the qubit is in. This type of measurement is called ’single shot readout,‘ and with it, we can unlock a lot of useful quantum technologies.“

2) Another problem with qubits is the fragility of their quantum state. The qubits easily lose information due to noises in their environment. Now that they had the single-shot readout, they focused on making their quantum state last as long as possible.

First the researchers purified the silicon carbide to reduce said noises in the environment.
Then they applied a series of microwave pulses to the qubit and were able to extend the amount of time the qubits preserved their information (concept known as ‚coherence‘).
In simpler terms, as it is explained in the article as well: it is like hitting the undo button on qubits which erases any error that may have happened between the pulses.

5 seconds, while a record in this field, sound extremely short to us. Unlike us, however, the information would travel at the speed of light and that’s enough to send a signal to the moon and back (that’s 384,400 km back and forth). Moreover, over 100 million quantum operations can be performed before the quantum state is lost.

And in case anyone is interested, here’s the 3D-structure of silicon carbide:

Molecular Formula: SiC or CSi

Source

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220202153853.htm

Article 2: Early humans placed the hearth at the optimal location in their cave — for maximum benefit and minimum smoke exposure

SD-Date: 1st February, 2022
Et-Date: 6th February, 2022
ScienceDaily-Summary: „A new study provides evidence for high cognitive abilities in early humans who lived 170,000 years ago. Researchers discovered that the early humans who occupied a cave had placed their hearth at the optimal location — enabling maximum utilization of the fire for their activities and needs while exposing them to a minimal amount of smoke.“

Method of Research

In this study, the research team around PhD student Yafit Kedar and Prof. Ran Barkai used their smoke dispersal model on an extensively studied prehistoric site – the Lazaret Cave in southeastern France. Early humans inhabited the cave around 170,000 and 150,000 years ago. Said software that was used in this study also includes the air circulation in caves and a simulator of smoke dispersal in closed space.

a) shows the location of the Lazarat cave in France; b) the yellow arrow points to the cave in Nice, France; c) excavated part of the cave, AU 28 marked with a yellow rectange – the section that is now exposed; d) illustrates the different layers and the excavated floor
(source: Archaeozoological analyses of large mammals from the prehistoric cave site of Lazaret, France: A case study of Archaeostratigraphic Unit 28)

In order to understand why our pre-historic occupants have chosen the spots in the cave, the researchers conducted smoke simulations for 16 hypothetical hearth locations inside the 290 m² cave. For each scenario they analyzed the smoke density throughout the cave by using thousands of simulated sensors placed 50 cm apart from the floor to a height of
1.5 m. Additionally, to understand the health implications, the team used the average smoke exposure recommendations by the WHO.

Four activity zones were mapped in the cave for each hearth:
„a red zone which is essentially out of bounds due to high smoke density; a yellow area suitable for short-term occupation of several minutes; a green area suitable for long-term occupation of several hours or days; and a blue area which is essentially smoke-free.“

Findings

  • At the back of the cave, the exposure to smoke is minimal
  • However, the area with slow smoke density was relatively distant from the hearth
    An explanation was given why: the early humans needed a balance between a place to work, cook, eat, sleep and get together while being minimally exposed to smoke; based on this, the hearth chose the optimal place
  • In the 25 m² that are optimal for the location of the hearth in the cave, the early humans did place their hearth at the optimal location

Professor Barkai concluded, that the early human’s ability to chose the optimal location reflects their ‚ingenuity, experience, and planned action, as well as awareness of the health damage caused by smoke exposure‘. Furthermore, the simulation program used for this study can assist archaeologists at excavations sides to look for the optimal location for hearths and activity areas.

Source

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2022/02/220201074539.htm

Article 3: Predatory journals: no definition, no defence

Nature-Date: 11th December, 2019
Et-Date: 6th February, 2022
Introduction: As you can tell from date of the article, it is not ’news‘ per se. Due to the importance for the scientific community and its readership, I included it in this entry.
Until then, there was a lack of a clear definition which was troublesome. Consequently, a discussion was set up to reach a definition in order to tackle this problem.
It took 12 hours of discussion, 18 questions and 3 rounds to reach. Here the results.

Threat of Predatory Journals

There’s a threat for both scientists who seek to publish their works and readers who seek information. While they accept articles for publication, they don’t perform any promised quality checks for issues like plagiarism and ethical approval. However, naive readers are not the only victims of this scheme. One study in Italy that focused on 46,000 researchers found that 5 % of them (2,300 researchers) published their works in such outlets.
A separate analysis showed that these predatory publishers collected millions of dollars in publication fees that are ultimately paid for by funders such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Part of the problem is the mentioned ‚publish-or-perish culture‘, as well as a ‚lack of awareness of predatory publishing and difficulty in discerning legitimate from illegitimate publications‘. These problems create an environment for predatory journals to exist.

While it has been known for some time when the article of Nature was published, the predatory journals have proven to be quite adaptable and penetrated existing lists
(see graphic below).

Definition

The definition reached after the long discussion was as follows: “Predatory journals and publishers are entities that prioritize self-interest at the expense of scholarship and are characterized by false or misleading information, deviation from best editorial and publication practices, a lack of transparency, and/or the use of aggressive and indiscriminate solicitation practices.”

Details

These predatory journals are characterized by the following criteria:

  • False or misleading information
    Meaning: contradictory statements, fake impact factors, incorrect addresses, misrepresentations of the editorial board, false claims of indexing or membership of associations and misleading claims about the rigour of peer review.
  • Deviation from best editorial and publication practices
    Meaning: the standards set out in a joint statement by the Principles of Transparency and Best Practice in Scholarly Publishing, issued by the DOAJ, the Open Access Scholarly Publishers Association, COPE and the World Association of Medical Editors.
    Instances: no retraction policy, not specifying a Creative Common license in an open-access journal or an unprofessional looking website (e.g. grammar mistakes).
  • Lack of transparency
    Meaning: predatory publishers often fail to provide contact information or details about their processing charges (more detailed explanation in the article).
  • Aggressive, indiscriminate solicitation
    Meaning: repeated e-mails with an excessively flatterning tone, and a clear warning sign is when the invitee’s expertise is outside the journals scope.

Note: Only summarized, for the full explanation see article which I linked to at the end.

Steps to the Solution

While the threat has already been recognized and counter-measures have been taken, there’s still much to do.

„Efforts to fight predatory publishing require collaboration and support. Organizations, researchers and governments have started to respond. To name just a few, in 2017, the NIH released a statement encouraging researchers it funds to publish in reputable journals. India’s University Grants Commission has created a reference list of respectable journals and is currently working to revise academic publication incentives and develop a training course to reinforce the message. In November 2018, COPE held a forum on predatory publishing to examine problems and solutions.“

Nature explains in the article also their next steps:
1) Present definition and make educational resources available in multiple languages and how to get involved
2) Establishing an international observatory to compile data on the problem (tracks the number of publications in predatory journals by discipline and geography)
3) Cooperation with funders, institutions, patients and other stakeholders to assess journal quality
4) A digital tool is sought to achieve these goals (funding)

And, of great importance: the efforts to counter predatory publishing need to be constant and adaptable.

Source

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03759-y

Addendum 2022-03-29

On February 27, 2022, the approved version of the Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC was released. As you know as well, three days after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia began. Hence it wasn’t on my radar. Retroactively, I want to correct this and thus add it as an addendum (for now, later on the report will be matter of new blog entries).

As it is stated by the scientists who have written and finalized the report: „The cumulative scientific evidence is unequivocal: Climate change is a threat to human well-being and planetary health. Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all. (very high confidence)“ (p. 37, SPM.D.5.3.)

You can download the ‚Summary for Policymakers‘ here:
https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-ii/
It is 37 pages long and easy to read.

Should the website not load or you experience otherwise problems, then you can download the PDF file from here:

Thank you for your time. Due to the importance of said topic, I wanted to include it so that it gains traction. Climate change can be mitigated, and it must be mitigated.
Information is key, knowing what faces us is the first step to effectively combat it. Consequently, it is of great importance to spread the knowledge.

We still have time to prevent the worst, future generations who do not have a say are just as important as those who exist now. Without a doubt is it going to be an enormous challenge, however, as it is with climbing a mountain, you do it step by step – wandering from one lodge to another until you reach the summit. By internalizing the intermediate objectives and focusing on them, the overall goal of climbing the mountain can be achieved.

Until next time, have a nice day!

Veröffentlicht von thomasbaroque

Ich schreibe über politische, wirtschaftliche und wissenschaftliche Themen. Meine eigenen politischen Ziele ebenso. / I write about politics, the economy and science (my English isn't that good, though). My own political goals and ideas as well.

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