For the first time, Australian scientists have demonstrated the protection of correlated states between paired photons—packets of light energy—using the interesting physical concept of topology. This experimental breakthrough opens a new way to build a new type of quantum bit, which are the building blocks for quantum computers.

The research, developed in conjunction with Israeli coworkers, was recently published in the prestigious journal, Science, a recognition of how important this foundational work is.

Dr. Andrea Blanco-Redondo from the University of Sydney Nano Institute and lead author of the study explained that they can now propose a pathway to building robust entangled states for logic gates by employing protected pairs of photons.

Moreover, the US placed an order for four Russian-built engines which will be used to launch NASA’s massive Atlas V rockets.

Russia’s NPO Energomash, who manufactures the four RD-180 rocket engines said they were authorized for the US buyers despite possible sanctions.

Before the exchange, Pratt & Whitney and United Launch Alliance (ULA) verified the engines alongside experts from NASA and the US Air Force to ensure they were in proper working order.

Three more engines are expected to be handed over later in November, and Energomash has also confirmed that another order for four more engines was placed in April.

In other news, making fuel on Mars may be more feasible than previously thought. Kurt Leucht, a NASA team lead has explained how the agency might use Martian soil to make the fuel astronauts need to get home after a mission.

As per Leucht, it’s best to make whatever you can at the destination due to the inescapable realities of physics. The “gear-ratio” for Mars is 226:1, which means every kilogram of material sent requires a rocket to burn 225 kilograms of fuel. That’s true for any material, be it water, food, scientific equipment, people, and even reserve fuel for the return trip.  Since payloads are so expensive, it makes sense to produce whatever you can on Mars. This is called in situ resource utilization (ISRU).

In order to make fuel on Mars, one requires a source of water. Water molecules are made up of hydrogen and oxygen, which you can split up to make fuel. Although it will be hard to fine many large chunks of water ice on Mars (the poles are mostly carbon dioxide ice), the soil might contain more than enough. Under the dusty surface layer, many areas of Mars have significant deposits of water. For example, according to Leucht gypsum sand dunes in the lower latitudes are about 8 percent water.

How close are we to quantum computing? Do you think making fuel on Mars will be possible? If so, how soon? 

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