A Quantum Bank Comes to New York

Conceptual art to create "nearly infinite" cash via quantum superposition

2 min read
A Quantum Bank Comes to New York

Conceptual artist and self-described experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats has previously snapped up San Francisco real estate in extra dimensions, exhibited paintings based on the average color of the universe (beige, in case you were wondering), and created television programming for plants.

Next week, he will install what could (very very arguably) be called the world's first quantum ATM. It will be available from 1:00 pm EST on June 11 through June 14 at the Engineer's Office Gallerya tiny alcove in the basement of 20 Rockefeller Plaza that once housed a water fountain. According to Keats' press release for the project, the concept has the potential to "fix the world economy by bolstering finance with quantum physics." This quantum bank, it continues, "will be the first financial institution with the technological means to make money quantum, resulting in a nearly infinite proliferation of wealth."

How would it do that? The ATM consists of two areas - one for deposits and one for withdrawals (which, Keats says, will be stocked with bills bearing the word "quantum" on them). These will sit near an enclosure containing a small sphere of uranium, which will periodically emit an alpha particle. These particles can in principle hit any one of 7 billion boxes—corresponding to 7 billion accounts—that have been inscribed on a plastic cylinder surrounding the sphere. Like Schrödinger's Cat, so long as the ATM remains insulated from the outside world, the deposit exists in a superposition of many possible states: it is effectively credited to all seven billion accounts at once. 

In reality, of course, this is a conceptual piece. Deposits don't trigger anything in the ATM (the uranium will keep spitting out particles quite happily even if no one deposits any money) and even if the ATM were recording deposits and alpha particle hits in some way, if you went so far as to open up the box and measure what's inside, you'd find only as much money as had been put in (the delicate superposition of states would collapse). 

But I like this project. It's another way to think about the abstraction of money and a reminder of how modern currency has diverged from physical measures of wealth, such as gold. It's also a nice, macroscopic way to think about the fundamental strangeness of quantum mechanics. And it might be the closest we get to real, uncounterfeitable quantum money for a while yet.

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​​Why the World’s Militaries Are Embracing 5G

To fight on tomorrow's more complicated battlefields, militaries must adapt commercial technologies

15 min read
4 large military vehicles on a dirt road. The third carries a red container box. Hovering above them in a blue sky is a large drone.

In August 2021, engineers from Lockheed and the U.S. Army demonstrated a flying 5G network, with base stations installed on multicopters, at the U.S. Army's Ground Vehicle Systems Center, in Michigan. Driverless military vehicles followed a human-driven truck at up to 50 kilometers per hour. Powerful processors on the multicopters shared the processing and communications chores needed to keep the vehicles in line.

Lockheed Martin

It's 2035, and the sun beats down on a vast desert coastline. A fighter jet takes off accompanied by four unpiloted aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a mission of reconnaissance and air support. A dozen special forces soldiers have moved into a town in hostile territory, to identify targets for an air strike on a weapons cache. Commanders need live visual evidence to correctly identify the targets for the strike and to minimize damage to surrounding buildings. The problem is that enemy jamming has blacked out the team's typical radio-frequency bands around the cache. Conventional, civilian bands are a no-go because they'd give away the team's position.

As the fighter jet and its automated wingmen cross into hostile territory, they are already sweeping the ground below with radio-frequency, infrared, and optical sensors to identify potential threats. On a helmet-mounted visor display, the pilot views icons on a map showing the movements of antiaircraft batteries and RF jammers, as well as the special forces and the locations of allied and enemy troops.

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