The so-called second quantum revolution is in full swing, with scientists not only able to understand what happens at a sub-atomic level but also control this quantum behaviour enough to develop new technologies. Six months after the launch of the EU’s €1 billion quantum flagship initiative to kickstart a European quantum technologies industry, we take a look at the potential of quantum to revolutionise our future. We speak to one researcher who is helping to build a quantum computer about the global race to do this and how Europe is faring. We take a look at the threat and promise of quantum technologies in the field of cryptography and find out how quantum simulators can be used to solve non-quantum problems. And finally, we speak to the scientists who are using quantum mechanics to improve the performance of brain scanners and better diagnose medical conditions.
When you hear the word ‘quantum’, you may imagine physicists working on a new ground breaking theory. Or perhaps you’ve read about quantum computers and how they might change the world. But one lesser-known field is also starting to reap the benefits of the quantum realm – medicine.
A powerful new form of computing could help scientists design new types of materials for nanoelectronics, allow airlines to solve complex logistical problems to ensure flights run on time, and tackle traffic jams to keep cars flowing more freely on busy roads.
Quantum computers pose a big threat to the security of modern communications, deciphering cryptographic codes that would take regular computers forever to crack. But drawing on the properties of quantum behaviour could also provide a route to truly secure cryptography.
European scientists have spent 100 years developing the field of quantum mechanics – a branch of physics dealing with the atomic and subatomic scale – and we need to reap the profits now that quantum computers and other technologies are becoming a reality, according to Dr Thomas Monz from the University of Innsbruck, Austria.
As commutes dropped during coronavirus lockdowns, many of Europe’s city-dwellers breathed cleaner air. In July, Horizon takes a look closer look at our air pollution problem, what it is, how it affects human health and whether now is the time to make the move to greener transport. We spoke to social epidemiologist Dr Basile Chaix about what it will take to capitalise on the post-coronavirus calls for greener cities to really change our urban spaces – and transport habits. We dissect the properties of particulate matter to understand how characteristics such as particle size or number relate to toxicity, and what they do to human cells. With wildfires known to strike particularly in the summer, we look at how scientists are tracking this lesser-known source of air pollution to better understand the impact on human health. And we find out how a soybean-related asthma outbreak in 1980s Spain is influencing air pollution research today.
In June, against a backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic, a climate emergency and an uncertain future, Horizon takes a look at anxiety. Are we becoming more anxious? What do we really know about the condition and who suffers from it? And how can we best treat it? We speak to anxiety disorder expert Professor David Baldwin about when anxiety turns from a normal response into a long-term problem and what we know – and don’t – about why this happens. We take a look at one particularly vulnerable group – teenagers – to understand how anxiety affects them and how they can best be treated. We explore the link between anxiety and our awareness of bodily sensations to understand, for example, why breathing can calm the mind, and we also talk to the researchers who believe the key to improving anxiety therapies is to look at how different people respond when under threat.
Building façades and pavements in Dutch and Italian cities are being turned into smart, energy-harvesting surfaces and equipped with sensors to power, heat and cool spaces and even monitor roads.
People in cities experienced cleaner air during lockdowns, but a permanent shift to greener modes of transport and habits is ‘extremely complex to achieve’ given how much space is devoted to cars and the groups resisting change, says Dr Basile Chaix, who studies the health trade-offs we make as we travel.
Everyday urban spaces can help heat and cool our homes.
The red planet may be our best bet for finding out whether we’re alone in the universe.
Dr Basile Chaix says mobility changes are 'extremely complex' to achieve.