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New Chip For Square Kilometer Radio Telescope 88

Posted by kdawson
from the little-green-men-using-quantum-computers dept.
An anonymous reader writes "ZDNet Aus reported on a new low-noise chip that could help in building the $1.6B Square Kilometer Array, the world's largest radio telescope. Wikipedia claims the telescope will be 50 times as sensitive as current instruments. It will have a resolution able to detect every active galactic nucleus out to a redshift of 6, when the universe was less than 1 billion years old and way crazy. It will have the sensitivity to detect Earth-like radio leakage at a distance of several hundred to a few thousand light years, which could help greatly with the search for extraterrestrial life. The chip's designer, Prof. Jack Singh, commented on the chip's ability to help with quantum computing research, due to its ability to operate at millikelvin temperatures, necessary to prevent quantum decoherence."
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New Chip For Square Kilometer Radio Telescope

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  • Suddenly we find our local group of stars is host to numerous planets broadcasting loads of porn. The first image of intersteller life will be a happy finish!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:29PM (#21959476)
    Great, I can eat 'em in bed without the wife complaining..
  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:31PM (#21959516)
    I hope they put this toward something useful, rather than blow its time on SETI.

    Even if we find life outside our solar system, the aftermath would not be worth-while. We would most likely not be able to communicate with them, and even if we could, we would have to perfect quantum mechanics and have teleportation working properly before communication is practical.
    • by zappepcs (820751) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:38PM (#21959628) Journal
      No, of course not. SETI will not stand for any of this metric crap, they are holding out for the square MILE version!
    • by kmac06 (608921)
      Quantum teleportation does not allow information transfer faster than the speed of light.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by SixByNineUK (949320)
      The SKA has 5 key science goals, one of them, called 'The cradle of life' is aimed at looking for possible life in other star systems, but I believe it is mainly focusing on studying the formation of earth-like planets (to better understand our own). I think that any real SETI efforts will be done as a sort of 'piggyback' on other projects (Although I don't think the scheduling arrangements are anywhere near ready yet!).
      • by rbanffy (584143)
        After you point the telescope to a nearby rocky planet, it's trivial to record and later analyze possible radio transmission.

        Whatever you get by piggybacking an observation is, by definition, free.
        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          After you point the telescope to a nearby rocky planet, it's trivial to record and later analyze possible radio transmission.

          Whatever you get by piggybacking an observation is, by definition, free.

          At first glance you'd think so, but at second glance you start to see the costs of recording media, transmission of data, etc. Those costs become non-trivial quite rapidly as your volume of "free" observations go up.
          I don't know the current status of the "pipeline" between the Areceibo radio telescope and the SETI

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >> We would most likely not be able to communicate with them, and even if we could, we would have to perfect quantum mechanics and have teleportation working properly before communication is practical.

      "Even if Christopher Columbus discovers something over there, we'd have to perfect a new method of travel which won't take months to take us to the new land. Why bother? Cancel the exploration" - Queen Isabella

      Good thing not everyone has reasons as poorly as you.
    • by evanbd (210358)

      I'd say the question of ETI is not only inherently interesting, but important [gmu.edu] as well, since it has direct implications for our continued survival as a species, and even what we should do to maximize our chances.

      I'll take species survival over a lot of things, including a cure for cancer.

    • by forkazoo (138186)

      I hope they put this toward something useful, rather than blow its time on SETI.

      Even if we find life outside our solar system, the aftermath would not be worth-while. We would most likely not be able to communicate with them, and even if we could, we would have to perfect quantum mechanics and have teleportation working properly before communication is practical.

      Well, I agree that a SETI success is probably very unlikely, how "useful" is anything that a radiotelescope does? It's only purpose is to observe,

    • by Kasis (918962)
      It would be fascinating to be able to detect the radio leakage from another planet. Communication would be nice but if we could decode their radio shows, TV, their own communication among themselves, would that be a complete waste of time? Maybe their version of the discovery channel will air a documentary detailing their geography, or their history.

      Maybe they have good TV with plotlines we haven't already seen!!
  • technically (Score:5, Funny)

    by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:32PM (#21959538) Homepage Journal
    the era of Way Crazy is not the correct term for the billion year old universe. the billion year old universe is known as the You Gotta Be Freakin Kiddin Me Epoch, not to be confused with the You Gotta Be Freakin Nuts Epoch much earlier. Way Crazy is a specific terminology for the time period between supersymmetry breaking and the formation of the quark-gluon plasma, aka the Thats Outta Sight Man era

  • by x1n933k (966581) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:39PM (#21959636) Homepage
    This is a bit off topic but can someone please edit this summary. Did you even read it? Terrible grammar.

    [J]
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Kurous (865517)
      Not only that...but since when did Wikipedia become a valid source?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ExE122 (954104) *
        The same day Roland Piquepaille became a valid source...

        You are getting your news feeds through Slashdot, ya know =P

    • How about this beauty from TFA itself? Science reporting at its finest.

      This is because such quantum circuits "decohere", with even the slightest piece of electromagnetic or thermal noise.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by ScentCone (795499)
      but can someone please edit this summary. Did you even read it? Terrible grammar

      We're always glad to see a new slashdot member here. Your welcome packet is in the mail!
    • by quonsar (61695)
      "It will have a resolution of able to detect..."

      Yep, that's some high ass resolution all right.
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      This is a bit off topic but can someone please edit this summary. Did you even read it? Terrible grammar.

      Sorry, she can't do it for you as she died back in '03. And don't talk about her like that!
  • by ExE122 (954104) * on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:45PM (#21959734) Homepage Journal
    you still need to crank the volume all the way up to get your iPod FM transmitter to work...

  • "Wikipedia claims" (Score:5, Informative)

    by LMacG (118321) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:47PM (#21959776) Journal
    That claim actually comes straight from the Square Kilometer Array website [skatelescope.org].
  • by jhines (82154) <john@jhines.org> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:49PM (#21959794) Homepage
    Cool baby, cool.
  • by jd (1658) <imipak @ y a h o o .com> on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:49PM (#21959800) Homepage Journal
    ....that the chips were actually salvaged from a fleet of BBC television detector vans?
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by crow (16139)
      No, but the BBC is funding the project in the hopes that it can pick up reflected signals from 20+ light years away so that they can recover all the TV recordings that they tossed out thinking that they had no value.
      • by jd (1658)
        I thought they had negotiated a deal with the Pleiedes cluster. We would provide them with instruments of torture (Noel Edmunds, Ken Dodd, Keith Chegwin and Chris Tarrent), and they would provide us with a copy of all transmissions that had been beamed into space (other than those featuring said instruments of torture).
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      I thought they were from the Cat detector [uncyclopedia.org] van [alltooflat.com]?
  • Low noise (Score:5, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:55PM (#21959884)

    It's not explained in the article, but the reason for the very low temperature operation is resistor thermal noise [wikipedia.org]. Basically, any resistor (or anything with vaguely resistor-like properties, for example the radio antenna itself) creates "thermal noise" from the thermally-induced effects of electrons bouncing around. At room temperature (300K), that noise is 4E-21 watts per 1Hz bandwidth -- or about -130dBm on a fairly narrow 10kHz bandwidth. The noise generated varies linearly with temperature, so if the entire input amplifier is operated at 300mK instead of 300K, you get an extra 30dB of signal-to-noise ratio, which is substantial when you're looking for very very weak signals.

    Fun fact: with a $5 op-amp, a few resistors, and an audio amplifier, you can create your own, entirely quantum, true white noise source from the same effect. Guaranteed good for cryptographic random number generation, impressing your friends, and preventing dates!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by imsabbel (611519)
      Thats the same reason why 24bit audio cards for playback (and even for recording if you dont plan any excessive post-processing) is overkill.
      All those SACD players cannot beat the roles of physics, which mean that everything after bit 19 or so is just thermal noice. No matter how expensive the audiophile voodoo happens to be.
      • by evanbd (210358)

        Well, getting better than 16 bits takes work, but isn't exactly that hard. And since computers like to work in 8-bit chunks, it should be no surprise that 24 bits was the next choice. And even if all you plan to do is adjust the volume on the different tracks, apply an equalization curve, and then mix a few tracks together, you should be doing all that in 24 bits. Sure, 24 bits is ovrekill, but it's easily better than 16 bits, and a 19-bit sample size would just be silly.

        Use 24 bits during all the proc

        • by Chmcginn (201645) *

          a clean acoustic environment
          For those of us who live in large cities, this might actually be the most expensive part of the whole deal - or just be outright impossible. If you don't own your own place, it's difficult to keep the outside noises outside.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        But you need that thermal noise in your audiophile setup. That's to give the music that "warm" sound.
        • by evanbd (210358)
          Actually no. The "warm" sound is harmonic distortion. Whether this is a good thing or not I'll leave up to others, but it is distortion in the sense that it's not the same signal that came in, but it's related to it. Noise, on the other hand, is unrelated to the input signal and not coherent. Thermal noise is precisely white noise, aka "hiss".
          • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Thermal noise is precisely white noise, aka "hiss".

            Actually, that hissing noise is the joke flying over your head.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by mentaldrano (674767)
      In addition to radio receivers, this same form of noise affects optical astronomy as well. The CCDs [wikipedia.org] used as sensors in optical microscopes are mostly refrigerated as well, sometimes down to 0.3 kelvin, to get around this noise. When you need to count single photons, noise can kill you - and there is no beating Johnson noise. Your only hope is a refrigerator.
  • by RandoX (828285) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @04:59PM (#21959950)
    Will my taxes go up because of it?
    • by GigG (887839)
      Yes. If you had asked,"Will my taxes go up if this isn't built?" The answer would also be, yes.
  • by mgblst (80109) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @05:03PM (#21960008) Homepage
    would be discovering other life in the Universe, but never the drive to carry us there.
  • What about LOFAR? (Score:4, Informative)

    by StarfishOne (756076) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @05:34PM (#21960644)
    "The world's largest radio telescope"? I think they're somewhat forgetting some of the competition:


    http://www.lofar.org/ [lofar.org]


    But it might depend a bit on how one bends definitions (min/max distance between receivers etc.)..


    "The antennas are simple enough but there are a lot of them - 25000 in the full LOFAR design. To make radio pictures of the sky with adequate sharpness, these antennas are to be arranged in clusters that are spread out over an area of ultimately 350 km in diameter. (In phase 1 that is currently funded 15000 antenna's and maximum baselines of 100 km will be built). Data transport requirements are in the range of many Tera-bits/sec and the processing power needed is tens of Tera-FLOPS."
    http://www.lofar.org/p/geninfo.htm [lofar.org]

    • by Xhris (97992)
      LOFAR is much smaller than SKA - in size bandwidth sensitivity etc. LOFAR is basically a technology demonstrator for SKA
    • by prof_bart (637876)
      LOFAR is a predecessor for the SKA. It is much smaller than the SKA, and has much narrower range of frequencies over which it is designed to operate (but will happen much sooner, and a lot will be learned applicable to SKA). The "Square Kilometer" part of SKA refers to the total collecting area, not to the length of the baselines. In this sense, it will be, by far, the largest telescope ever built. The telescope with the largest baselines that I am aware of is the VSOP VLBI system, which includes an 8m
  • The summary says "a redshift of 6". Six what? Percent, meters, billion years, parsecs?
    • Re:redshift of 6? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Astro Dr Dave (787433) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @06:05PM (#21961126)
      Redshift (z) is a unitless ratio. It used as a (nonlinear) measure of distance in extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology.

      The quantity 1+z is the ratio of the scale of the universe now to the scale of the universe at that redshift. Our local area (Milky Way galaxy) corresponds to z=0. So, for example, the universe was 7 times smaller at z=6, and the density of intergalactic gas is proportional to (1+z)^3.
  • Do you mean to tell me that Roland Piquepaille forgot to log in before he submitted this?
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Tuesday January 08, 2008 @08:04PM (#21962808)

    several hundred to a few thousand light years, which could help greatly with the search for extraterrestrial life.
    I'd hate to hear the conversation if the round trip for communications is over thousands of years..

    Earth: Hi this is Bill from the planet Earth!
    Aliens: Hello Bill this is Zargo from Optimum Prime, what do you want?
    Earth: Hi, this is Ted. We'd like to know more about you!
    Aliens: What happened to Bill?
    Earth: Hi, this is Jane. Bill and Ted are Dead.
    Aliens: What?!

    Surely if Aliens are 1 thousand light years away it would take 6 thousand years to have that conversation. Although we'd probably just spam them all of Earth's Knowledge which would piss off the aliens into believing our planet is full of spammers and destroy us...
  • I saw the "Powers of 10" show at the Hayden Planetarium, and it zoomed out to what's supposed to be an image of the entire Universe (as far as we know). Where can I find that picture, around 1600x1200 resolution? I want my own look at just how "way crazy" it is out there at the edges at space and time.
  • Maybe I'm tripping here, but I remember something in Wikipedia like a "no-original-research" policy...

I tell them to turn to the study of mathematics, for it is only there that they might escape the lusts of the flesh. -- Thomas Mann, "The Magic Mountain"

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