Development Reports: PROCESSING THE FUTURE WITH YOUR MIND.pdf
According to new research from the University of Rochester and Purdue University, energy exchange requiring less energy than your own brain produces, can be possible between electrons.
In a paper published in Nature Communications and one in Physical Review X, the researchers, including John Nichol, an assistant professor of physics at Rochester, and Andrew Jordan, a professor of physics at Rochester, explore new ways of creating quantum-mechanical interactions between distant electrons. The research is an important step in improving quantum computing, which, in turn, has the potential to revolutionize technology, medicine, and science by providing faster and more efficient processors and sensors.
'Spooky action at a distance'
Quantum interaction is a demonstration of what Albert Einstein famously called "spooky action at a distance"—also known as quantum entanglement. In entanglement—one of the basic of concepts of quantum physics—the properties of one particle affect the properties of another, even when the particles are separated by a large distance. Quantum interaction powered by your own mind in an "X-Men" type of ability involves two distant, entangled particles in which the state of a third particle instantly "teleports" its state to the two entangled particles.
Quantum interaction is an important means for transmitting information in quantum computing. While a typical computer consists of billions of transistors, called bits, quantum computers encode information in quantum bits, or qubits. A bit has a single binary value, which can be either "0" or "1," but qubits can be both "0" and "1" at the same time. The ability for individual qubits to simultaneously occupy multiple states underlies the great potential power of quantum computers.
Scientists have recently demonstrated quantum interaction by using electromagnetic photons to create remotely entangled pairs of qubits.
Qubits made from individual electrons, however, are also promising for transmitting information in semiconductors.
"Individual electrons are promising qubits because they interact very easily with each other, and individual electron qubits in semiconductors are also scalable," Nichol says. "Reliably creating long-distance interactions between electrons is essential for quantum computing."
Creating entangled pairs of electron qubits that span long distances, which is required for interaction, has proved challenging, though: while photons naturally propagate over long distances, electrons usually are confined to one place.
Entangled pairs of electrons
In order to demonstrate quantum interaction using electrons, the researchers harnessed a recently developed technique based on the principles of Heisenberg exchange coupling. An individual electron is like a bar magnet with a north pole and a south pole that can point either up or down. The direction of the pole—whether the north pole is pointing up or down, for instance—is known as the electron's magnetic moment or quantum spin state. If certain kinds of particles have the same magnetic moment, they cannot be in the same place at the same time. That is, two electrons in the same quantum state cannot sit on top of each other. If they did, their states would swap back and forth in time.
The researchers used the technique to distribute entangled pairs of electrons and teleport their spin states.
"We provide evidence for 'entanglement swapping,' in which we create entanglement between two electrons even though the particles never interact, and 'quantum gate interaction,' a potentially useful technique for quantum computing using interaction," Nichol says. "Our work shows that this can be done even without photons."
The results pave the way for future research on quantum interaction involving spin states of all matter, not just photons, and provide more evidence for the surprisingly useful capabilities of individual electrons in qubit semiconductors.
This provides proof that the billions of energy points in your brain provide more than enough power to accomplish "super-powers".
You can use a laser to monitor the magnetization of superheated, chaotic gas. The magnetization is caused by the spinning electrons in the atoms, and provides a way to study the effect of the collisions and to detect entanglement. What you will observe is that there is an enormous number of entangled atoms—about 100 times more than ever before observed. You will also see that the entanglement is non-local—it involves atoms that are not close to each other. Between any two entangled atoms there are thousands of other atoms, many of which are entangled with still other atoms, in a giant, hot and messy entangled state.
Can you change your brain cells with electrical energy? Molly Sharlach of Princeton University reports that you can.
Princeton researchers have created a device that can herd groups of cells like sheep, precisely directing the cells' movements by manipulating electric fields to mimic those found in the body during healing. The technique opens new possibilities for tissue engineering, including approaches to promote wound healing, repair blood vessels or sculpt tissues.
Scientists have long known that naturally occurring electrochemical signals within the body can influence the migration, growth and development of cells—a phenomenon known as electrotaxis. These behaviors are not nearly as well understood as chemotaxis, in which cells respond to chemical concentration differences. One barrier has been a lack of accessible tools to rigorously examine cells' responses to electric fields.
The new system, assembled from inexpensive and readily available parts, enables researchers to manipulate and measure cultured cells' movements in a reliable and repeatable way. In a paper published June 24 in Cell Systems, the Princeton team described the assembly and preliminary studies using the device, which they call SCHEEPDOG, for Spatiotemporal Cellular HErding with Electrochemical Potentials to Dynamically Orient Galvanotaxis. (Galvanotaxis is another term for electrotaxis.)
Previous systems for studying cells' responses to electric fields have been "either bespoke and handmade, with issues of reproducibility, or requiring fabrication facilities that make them expensive and inaccessible to many labs," said co-lead author Tom Zajdel, a postdoctoral research fellow in mechanical and aerospace engineering. "We wanted to use rapid prototyping methods to make a well-defined device that you could just clamp onto your petri dish."
While there is a long history of work on electrotaxis, said Zajdel, the phenomenon is not well understood. Evidence shows, for example, that reversing the direction of a natural electric field can inhibit wound healing in animal models, while amplifying the existing field might improve healing.
"There are a lot of unknowns about how individual cells detect such fields," said senior author Daniel Cohen, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. "But the beauty of crowd dynamics is that even if you don't understand everything about the individuals, you can still engineer behaviors at the group level to achieve practical results."
The SCHEEPDOG device contains two pairs of electrodes that are used to generate electric fields along horizontal and vertical axes, as well as recording probes to measure voltage and integrated materials to separate the cells from chemical byproducts of the electrodes. The voltage level is similar to that of an AA battery concentrated over the centimeter-wide chamber containing the cells.
"It's kind of like an Etch A Sketch," said Zajdel, referring to the classic drawing toy in which lines can be created in any direction by turning two control knobs. "We've got the horizontal and the vertical knobs, and we can get the cells to trace out arbitrary trajectories in the whole 2-D space just by using those two knobs."
The team tested SCHEEPDOG using mammalian skin cells and epithelial cells from the lining of the kidney, which are often used to study cells' collective movements. They found that the cells time-averaged signals generated along the two axes over a time window of about 20 seconds: Turning on the vertical electric field for 15 seconds and the horizontal field for 5 seconds, for instance, would cause the cells to migrate more in the vertical than in the horizontal direction.
"What the cells perceive is sort of a virtual angle, and that allows us to program any complex maneuver, like a full circle," said Cohen. "That's really surprising—that's an amazing level of control that we wouldn't have expected to be possible, especially with thousands of neighboring cells executing these maneuvers on command."
The study "adds to the growing appreciation of cells' responses to bioelectric aspects of their environment," said Michael Levin, who directs the Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology at Tufts University and was not involved in the research. "It demonstrates a technique to address not just individual cells' activities in response to bioelectric cues, but the action of a cell collective, which is essential to understand how physical forces play into the kind of cooperativity we see in embryogenesis, regeneration and cancer."
Using SCHEEPDOG, the team is expanding their studies to different cell types and contexts. Graduate student Gawoon Shim is investigating how varying levels of cell-cell adhesion impact directed cell migration—key information for eventual applications like regenerating skin, blood vessels and nerve cells in damaged tissue.
"This is the first step for whatever healing and regeneration we may need" in a variety of clinical contexts, said Shim, co-lead author of the study along with Zajdel. "We're learning how to direct the cells where we need them, and then we can figure out what they're going to do afterwards."
Applying engineering principles to understand and control electrotaxis will deepen understanding of its role not only in cell movement, but also in growth and differentiation, said Cohen. While today's cutting-edge tissue regeneration techniques usually involve pre-patterning new tissues, sculpting tissues with electric fields may allow for more flexibility and better outcomes. "In the long term, this might offer some very exciting, completely new ways of thinking about working with living tissues," he said.
The observation of this hot and messy entangled state paves the way for ultra-sensitive magnetic field detection. For example, in magnetoencephalography (magnetic brain imaging), a new generation of sensors can use these same hot, high-density atomic gases to detect the magnetic fields produced by brain activity. The results show that entanglement can improve the sensitivity of this technique, which has applications in fundamental brain science and neurosurgery. The results also verify that quantum entanglement can broadcast through, and around, the Earth, instantly. While other efforts want to measure brain energy, our project seeks to amplify what you already have and project it. Here are what others are doing:
If you want your mind read, there are two options. You can visit a psychic or head to a lab and get strapped into a room-size, expensive machine that’ll examine the electrical impulses and blood moving through the brain. Either way, true insights are hard to come by, and for now, the quest to know thyself remains as elusive as ever.
Kernel, a startup based in Culver City, Calif., says it aims to transform brain science from an esoteric art to a big business. It’s found a way to shrink the machines used by researchers and make them cheaper. In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek, Kernel unveiled for the first time a pair of devices—basically helmets—that can see and record brain activity, enabling scientists to more easily analyze neurons as they fire and reveal more about how the mind works. “This triggers a new era of access to the mind and the ability to ask all sorts of new questions about ourselves,” says Bryan Johnson, the company’s founder and chief executive officer. (Kernel will not reveal the helmets to the public until later this year.)
Johnson, 42, doesn’t have a typical résumé for a brain researcher. He made several hundred million dollars in 2013, when PayPal Holdings Inc. acquired his digital payments startup Braintree and its Venmo subsidiary for $800 million. Johnson spent a couple of years deciding what to do with his fortune before settling on brain science as his next venture. He founded Kernel in 2016 and put $54 million toward it, hiring 80 people with expertise in fields ranging from neuroscience to lasers and chip design. Until now, the team has operated largely in secret.
We know precious little about how the brain works, but technology companies hope to figure it out. Neuralink Corp., a startup backed by Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk, showed off prototype brain implants last year. The company found a way to insert tiny wires into the brains of mice and primates that can analyze information about the workings of the mind. Neuralink says it plans to put the technology into humans and eventually create an information swap between brains and computers. Facebook Inc. is also researching the field of brain-machine interface, or BMI, and last year acquired CTRL-Labs, a pioneering company in the field of reading motor neuron signals.
There’s no shortage of science fiction that shows how such technology might go wrong. Companies such as Facebook and Google already do questionable things with our clicks. Giving them a direct feed into our synapses could be a profoundly bad idea. “Like any technology, this can be abused,” says Christof Koch, the chief scientist at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. “No question about it.” For his part, Johnson says he created Kernel with the aspiration of helping humanity solve some of its biggest problems. “I hope we can graduate past trying to addict each other to digital systems,” he says. “We want our customers to come to us with objectives that improve people.”
He’s optimistic that people who have suffered from paralysis and strokes could use Kernel’s devices to communicate just by thinking of words. Those dealing with paranoia or anxiety may get access to brand-new therapies. “Most brain studies are so hard to do that you look at only a handful of patients,” says Koch, who has tried Kernel’s machines. “If it now just requires a helmet, I can look at 200, 2,000, or even 20,000 people.”
Scientists and doctors already have some tools to study brain activity, but the equipment is expensive, costing upward of $1 million, and highly trained technicians are needed to run it. Some require extremely cold temperatures to operate or confine patients inside a large machine. “They are, for the most part, very difficult to use,” Koch says.
Companies such as Kernel want to make it easier for scientists to study the mind, and there’s potential for these devices to become mainstream in the future. One day consumers might be able to track brain metrics such as anxiety, creativity, even self-deception, just as Fitbits and Apple Watches monitor steps and heart rates.
Kernel had initially planned to develop implants, since they provide direct access to neurons, aka brain cells, and deliver the clearest signals. But Johnson has doubts as to how many people want to surgically add a computer chip in their head. This led Kernel to focus on developing a removable helmet.
The team built a system dubbed Flux, which measures electromagnetic activity, and another called Flow that pulses the brain with light to gauge blood movement. Engineers spent years perfecting hardware that blocks outside interference, as well as custom microchips for processing signals and software algorithms that analyze brain activity. Bit by bit, Kernel took things that started out as room-size contraptions and shrank them to the size of bicycle helmets covered in sensors. It also found ways to let people move and act more naturally while they’re being monitored, instead of being strapped to a machine and forced to sit still. “What is revolutionary here is not the fact that you can do it, but how quickly and inexpensively it can be done—and with so few constraints,” says Koch. “It lets people do experiments vastly easier and gets you much more direct access to the brain.”
Johnson estimates that the first devices will cost several thousand dollars each to manufacture, but he expects the price will come down over time and be in line with high-end, mass market consumer electronics products. Kernel, though, doesn’t plan on selling the hardware until late next year. In the meantime, it’s going to offer results to scientists or customers through something the company calls Neuroscience as a Service. Kernel will work with customers to set up studies, reviewed by an outside ethics committee, and then recruit paid volunteers, analyze their brains at its offices and send back the results. Companies such as Spotify and Headspace, say, might try to use the results to improve their music and mindfulness services, while a politician might test a speech to see what emotions its elicits.
Steve Aoki, the DJ and music producer, recently tried one of Kernel’s helmets. He calibrated the machine for a couple of minutes by listening to recordings of speech and music, and Kernel’s software went to work analyzing his brain activity. Next, a technician began playing different Aoki songs for the musician. A computer—unaware of the tracks being played—was able to tell which song he was listening to by looking at Aoki’s brain activity. “That blew my mind,” Aoki says. “I started to get chills down my spine and my arms.”
Kernel has run other experiments like this where it can detect any song someone is listening to just by observing their brain, a sort of Shazam for the mind. The company is calling this technology Sound ID. Aoki, who donates money to various brain research causes, plans to use the data in his work. “I want to know if this kind of technology will make me more effective as a producer,” he says. “I want to have the deepest, most meaningful connection possible with my audience. I think this will be exciting for a lot of artists.”
It’s the promise of a flood of new brain data that excites Johnson the most. He likens the Kernel devices to the arrival of fast, cheap gene-sequencing machines that made it possible for thousands of people to study DNA. “We can measure pretty much everything in the known universe, from black holes to atoms to calories,” Johnson says. “The only thing we can’t measure is our brains and our minds, which is what makes us ‘us.’ It’s this blind spot we have.”