Elon tweets via Starlink internet satellite, Google claims "quantum supremacy" & More News
This week in tech news: Elon Musk's SpaceX will start providing US customers with broadband from its Starlink satellites from 2020. Google announced to the world it had attained Quantum Supremacy with its 53-bit quantum computer, codenamed “Sycamore”. German company Volocopter has showcased its “flying taxi” during a test flight in Singapore.
Tech news you need to know, in three minutes or less.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter yesterday to herald a milestone in the development of Starlink, a satellite mega constellation that intends to beam high-speed internet across the globe. The inaugural tweet was made from Musk’s house using a Starlink terminal at 11:03 PM PST on Oct. 21st (or 02:03 AM EST, on Oct. 22nd). Just two minutes later, Musk followed this up with a second tweet indicating success (saying “Whoa, it worked!”).
Elon Musk's SpaceX will start providing US customers with broadband from its Starlink satellites from 2020. The California company also said it plans to launch six to eight more batches of the satellites over the next year in order to realize that goal. The Northern U.S. and Canada will be the first to receive the service. If Starlink's development continues to proceed as planned, it could be a massive boon for the world's population; particularly those in unserved or underserved rural areas where internet options are limited, overpriced, or otherwise unreliable.
Google said on Wednesday it had achieved a breakthrough in computer research, by solving a complex problem in minutes with a so-called quantum computer that would take today’s most powerful supercomputer thousands of years to crack. The claim is significant and serves as major milestone for the company and its 53-bit quantum computer, codenamed “Sycamore”.
Computer scientists have for decades sought to harness the behaviour of sub-atomic particles that can simultaneously exist in different states - in contrast to the “real” world that people perceive around them. So, whereas traditional computing relies on bits, or ones and zeros, quantum computing uses quantum bits, or qubits, that can be both one and zero at the same time. This property, called a superposition, multiplies exponentially as qubits are connected to each other. The more qubits that can be strung together, the vastly more powerful a quantum computer becomes.
But for all the fanfare, which saw Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, compare the feat to building the first rocket to reach space, the claim has sparked a bunfight. The tech firm’s rival, IBM, was swift to dismiss the excitement. Google has not, it asserts, achieved the highly prized goal of quantum supremacy. “Google’s experiment is an excellent demonstration of the progress in superconducting-based quantum computing,” the IBM scientists argue. “But it should not be viewed as proof that quantum computers are ‘supreme’ over classical computers.”
German company Volocopter hopes that its air taxis can make their debut in Singapore as early as 2021. Volocopter’s three-minute test flight was not the first time the German aircraft manufacturer has flown its full-scale prototype publicly. But today’s demonstration was momentous in other ways. It marks the first official test flight in Asia, and the first time the aircraft was put through its paces in an urban environment.
Volocopter's spokesperson, Ms Helena Treeck, said that the company is currently in “introductory talks” with the Singapore Government to bring its air taxis, which are named after the firm, here. While there are concerns about the safety and viability of air taxis as a mode of transport, Volocopter says it is doing everything it can to continue its 100 per cent safety rate. “We are absolutely aware that any kind of accident will be a drawback to our efforts of introducing a new mode of transportation,” Volocopter chief executive Florian Reuter told reporters in Singapore
Volocopter also plans on opening a “VoloPort” in Singapore by the end of the year. VoloPort will function similarly to an airport where passengers can check into their flights and spend time in lounges while waiting to enter the takeoff and landing grounds. There will also be an operations and services center where the air vehicles can be maintained.