Japan Lands Rovers on Asteroid


Ryugu, seen here, is a diamond shape asteroid about 1km across.

In quite an incredible technological feat, Japan has successfully landed two robotic rovers on an asteroid that’s just 1km across.

The MINERVA-II1 rovers were launched from the Hayabusa2 spacecraft which was orbiting, the asteroid dubbed Ryugu. They sent back a few images on their way down, several which were a bit blurry, but a couple of nice ones. Including this one, which clearly shows the asteroid just before the rover touches down:

Photo from MINERVA-II1

The robots are designed to capitalise on the low gravity on the asteroid, by hopping, rather than rolling, along its surface. They will send back data and images that the lead scientists hope will answer questions about the formation of the universe.

Next month the orbiting spaceship will deploy explosives to the asteroid so the rover can look below its surface. Following that, yet another rover, a collaborative effort between French and German scientists will be sent to the asteroid to explore even further.


The Frontier of Computing

The BBC has an interesting piece on the state of quantum computers.

For those of you who don’t know, quantum computers offer to harness the power of the strange ‘magic’ properties of quantum mechanics, and bring about some seriously powerful computing. For example, unlike a traditional binary computer where a switch is either on or off, i.e. a 1 or a 0, a quantum computer can use superposition to be on or off, plus on and off.

The concepts and mechanics of a quantum computer are known in theory, but putting them into practice is proving difficult. The quantum effects of the quantum computer are highly sensitive to interference and are unpredictable which currently results in lots of error. If this issue can be sorted out, then it’s off to the races. There are, as the article discusses, several companies taking different approaches to the problem. IBM for example, is cooling the quantum bits, or qubits, that run the computer down to almost absolute zero to stabilise them.

Moore’s Law, which states that computing power will double, get twice as energy efficient, and half the size, every two years, is finally reaching its limits.  Quantum computing would blow the lid off that law and no doubt change the world as we know it.

Mastering quantum computing will bring serious and fast technological breakthroughs – including no doubt, the long theorised ‘singularity‘.

It’s pretty exciting stuff and an area to keep an eye on!

Read more: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-45273584