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Physicists Invent a Chip That Stores a Photon's Quantum State

A step toward the "quantum repeaters" needed to make long-distance quantum-cryptography networks

3 min read

16 December 2008—Physicists in Switzerland led by Nicolas Gisin of the University of Geneva reported last week in Nature that they have made a solid-state device capable of storing photons for as long as 1 microsecond. The invention will aid in the development of light-based quantum-cryptography networks, which are theoretically impervious to hacking but are currently limited in range to a few dozen kilometers, primarily because of a lack of a suitable way to store the quantum state of photons.

”Photons are very fragile,” Gisin says. ”We are now able to play with a photon, put it in a quantum fridge, and retrieve it a bit later.”

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This CAD Program Can Design New Organisms

Genetic engineers have a powerful new tool to write and edit DNA code

11 min read
A photo showing machinery in a lab

Foundries such as the Edinburgh Genome Foundry assemble fragments of synthetic DNA and send them to labs for testing in cells.

Edinburgh Genome Foundry, University of Edinburgh

In the next decade, medical science may finally advance cures for some of the most complex diseases that plague humanity. Many diseases are caused by mutations in the human genome, which can either be inherited from our parents (such as in cystic fibrosis), or acquired during life, such as most types of cancer. For some of these conditions, medical researchers have identified the exact mutations that lead to disease; but in many more, they're still seeking answers. And without understanding the cause of a problem, it's pretty tough to find a cure.

We believe that a key enabling technology in this quest is a computer-aided design (CAD) program for genome editing, which our organization is launching this week at the Genome Project-write (GP-write) conference.

With this CAD program, medical researchers will be able to quickly design hundreds of different genomes with any combination of mutations and send the genetic code to a company that manufactures strings of DNA. Those fragments of synthesized DNA can then be sent to a foundry for assembly, and finally to a lab where the designed genomes can be tested in cells. Based on how the cells grow, researchers can use the CAD program to iterate with a new batch of redesigned genomes, sharing data for collaborative efforts. Enabling fast redesign of thousands of variants can only be achieved through automation; at that scale, researchers just might identify the combinations of mutations that are causing genetic diseases. This is the first critical R&D step toward finding cures.

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