Quantum technology is hot right now and every week it seems that we get a press release about a new university spin-out company. Not surprisingly, the names of many of those companies contain the letter Q – and often have a dearth of vowels, as is the current fashion.
So, I was so pleased to discover that there is a quantum company called Alice & Bob. The eponymous pair are the protagonists often used in descriptions of quantum key distribution (QKD). This is a way of using photons to exchange a cryptography key such that the laws of quantum mechanics prevent an eavesdropper (called Eve) from intercepting it.
Based in Paris, Alice & Bob doesn’t seem to be in the QKD business, but rather makes superconducting “cat” quantum bits (qubits). Cat is an allusion to Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment that illustrates the bizarre concept of quantum superposition.
It’s not clear to me what cat qubits are. Perhaps they support Schrödinger’s cat states, which are superpositions of two diametrically opposed states. An example would be an ensemble of atoms in which all the atomic spins point up, or all the spins point down. Apparently, these cat qubits do a good job at quantum error correction, which allows quantum calculations to be done using less than perfect qubits.
Perhaps Eve will launch a rival company.
From the sublime to something much more practical. The sports equipment manufacturer Wilson has unveiled a prototype basketball that never needs to be pumped up. Made using a 3D printer, the ball looks a bit like a spherical sieve comprising a rigid frame with lots of holes in it.
The company says the ball nearly matches the “performance specifications of a regulation basketball, including its weight, size and rebound (bounce)”. It was debuted last weekend at a National Basketball Association (NBA) event, but apparently the league has no plans to use it in league play.
The ball was manufactured in collaboration with a company called EOS and you can read more about it and watch a video on Gizmodo.
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