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Volume 4, Issue 421: Friday, November 8, 2002
- "In Search of Broad Technological Compatibility"
Los Angeles Times (11/07/02) P. C1; Shiver Jr., Jube
Technology industry observers anticipate regulatory reform soon, and the FCC is meeting this month to consider what many say will be a first draft to a more flexible way of using radio spectrum. Unlike Asia and Europe, the United States supports four cellular protocols as well as a number of other wireless networking technologies. Vendors such as Intel and Microsoft have been calling for the government to free up more spectrum for almost a decade, a development they and other proponents say would spur new wireless technology innovation. Meanwhile, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) has proposed a bill that would increase the amount of spectrum available for unregulated wireless services by more than 100 percent. FCC Chairman Michael Powell is sympathetic with those arguments, though it is unclear how far he is willing to go in tearing down the regulatory framework that has been in place for nearly 70 years. Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association President Thomas Wheeler, whose organization supports reform, warns that the FCC will have to plan the system well, putting safeguards in place to prevent intentional wavelength interference, for example. "We need to see the specifics," he remarks. By making radio waves open like the Internet, proponents say that technologies such as ultra-wideband and Wi-Fi could proliferate rapidly enough to outpace wired technologies such as DSL and cable in fitting the nation with broadband Internet by 2006. More technological breakthroughs add promise as well, such as the software defined radio (SDR) technology that would allow devices to reprogram themselves to work on different bandwidths as needed, instead of staying tuned to just one frequency. University of Pennsylvania professors David J. Farber and Gerald R. Faulhaber say that a one-time "big bang auction" for all U.S. airwaves is one way to jump-start the new wireless paradigm.
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- "Trust or Treachery?"
CNet (11/07/02); Lemos, Robert
The "trusted computing" push into the consumer market has been met with opposition and uncertainty, given the general level of distrust consumers feel toward the companies making the technology. For instance, Microsoft is touting its upcoming Palladium architecture as a technology to make systems more resistant to hacker intrusions, but critics say it could just as easily be used to block users' access to content on their own computers if they do not comply with Microsoft's licensing scheme. Meanwhile, University of Maryland computer science professor William Arbaugh notes that Trusted Platform Computing Alliance (TCPA) technology could bring some security benefits, but describes the current iteration as "unacceptable." Furthermore, advocates admit that systems with such technology could still be vulnerable to piracy stemming from a hardware attack. The incorporation of TCPA or Palladium technology into computers involves small modifications to conventional PC hardware, notably the addition of a chip on the motherboard that features encryption functionality and a digital vault to store the decryption keys. Digital rights management is the real goal of the trusted computing initiative, according to people such as Free Software Foundation founder Richard Stallman and Cambridge University professor Ross Anderson. The suspicion with which people view the initiative has been bolstered by controversial laws such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), as well as proposed laws such as Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) bill to make copyright controls a design requirement of all new consumer electronic devices. Columbia University law professor and Free Software Foundation attorney Eben Moglen adds that the trusted computing initiative could impede the progress of Linux and other open-source technologies.
- "Senate Shift Could Mean New Tack on Tech Issues"
Computerworld Online (11/06/02); Thibodeau, Patrick
A Republican-controlled Senate with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) replacing Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) as Senate Commerce Committee Chairman is seen by many technology advocates as a positive development, because McCain is thought to be more sensitive to tech-related issues, according to AEA President John Palafoutas. Hollings drew fire from the tech industry because of his efforts to force hardware manufacturers to install copyright protections into their products, as well as his support of an "opt-in" approach for privacy legislation, which prohibits companies from gathering personal information on customers for marketing purposes without their prior consent. McCain, by contrast, favors opt-out legislation supported by technology associations and business trade groups. However, Palafoutas notes that McCain will still need Hollings' support to get any Commerce Committee initiative off the ground. Meanwhile, if Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) is replaced by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, a shift in strategy is less likely: The state preemption provisions of the privacy safeguards in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) will probably be renewed, since both senators strongly support privacy protections. A growing negative reaction to financial privacy protections will be a major issue that the new Congress will be forced to deal with. Information Technology Industry Council President Rhett Dawson reports that Republicans "are even less enthusiastic about having Congress get in the middle of technology choices" than Democrats. In the meantime, Ari Schwartz of the Center for Democracy and Technology says the debate over bipartisan privacy legislation, which McCain has long advocated, will likely continue.
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- "Valley Execs, Politicians Launch Women's Networking Group"
SiliconValley.com (11/07/02); Ostrom, Mary Anne
The West Coast chapter of the Women's High-Tech Coalition was inaugurated Thursday at a gathering of top female Silicon Valley technology executives such as Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and Autodesk CEO Carol Bartz, as well as such California politicians as Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). Organizers say the coalition will focus on building positive relationships between business and political leaders, rather than making political contributions or pushing specific issues. The purpose of the group is to act as a platform for rising female valley executive stars, and give the technology industry's agenda more weight in Washington. "We aren't always going to agree, but we can be supportive of helping women build technology careers," declared Lofgren. Among the initiatives the coalition is pursuing is the education of female legislators on technology-oriented issues, such as digital rights and broadband. Another effort involves the promotion of Girls for a Change, a nonprofit organization that seeks to have female business leaders act as mentors for middle- and high-school girls. "I think they want to show they can crack 'the old boys network' a bit," noted Democratic fundraiser Wade Randlett, who added that the group's formation comes at a fortuitous time. Politicians are having a harder time collecting high-tech campaign donations because of the economic slump, while increasing fundraising depends more and more on boosting interest in public policy.
For more information on ACM's Committee on Women in Computing, visit http://www.acm.org/women.
- "Holograms in Motion"
NewsFactor Network (11/07/02); Freedman, David H.
Scientists, doctors, military planners, product designers, and others who use flat 2D displays will have their work transformed with the advent of 3D holographic video displays that allow them to interact with computer-generated images without needing to wear cumbersome, eyestrain-inducing accoutrements. Furthermore, multiple persons will be able to view the holograms at any angle, and change the images on the fly using interfaces such as styluses. Leading the charge toward this technology is New York University's Media Lab with its 3D autostereo display, and MIT Media Lab's Spatial Imaging Group, which has devoted 13 years to the effort so far. Chief sponsors of the latter group include Honda, which hopes the technology being developed will allow designers to quickly create 3D images of proposed vehicles, and the U.S. Navy, which thinks that 3D battlefield representation will offer significant advantages for war planners. The Spatial Imaging Group is dedicated to producing true holographic video, which represents the most formidable technical challenge. Meanwhile, Holographic Imaging, a joint company run by Ford Motor and QinetiQ, aims to build interactive imaging workstations for automobile designers. Nihon University, Sony, and NHK Laboratories in Japan are pursuing their own holographic video projects. The initial applications yielded from these projects will likely focus on car design and surgical planning, but cheaper versions for home entertainment should debut shortly afterwards.
- "The Noah's Ark of the Web, 7,000 Characters at a Time"
New York Times (11/07/02) P. G9; Selingo, Jeffrey
The Scientific and Technical Information Exchange (STIX) is a project that aims to relieve scientists and mathematicians of the headache of being unable to precisely reproduce symbol-laden equations on the Web because not all computers are capable of rendering the font used. Symbols that use the STIX font will adopt the Times font model, and their appearance will not change even if users switch to different fonts, according to Tim Ingoldsby of the American Institute of Physics, one of six publishers collaborating on the project. He says the font will include the alphabet, numbers, and other common characters in order to eliminate the need to switch between fonts. The STIX font library, which should be finished in fall 2003, will contain over 7,000 characters that will be freely distributed among publishers, scholars, and software manufacturers. About half have been completed thus far, and Ingoldsby reports that designers are averaging roughly 200 characters a month. Symbols will likely fit into type or subject categories that users can choose from drop-down menus, enabling them to view a grid of characters so they can find the ones they want. Ingoldsby says the STIX database will be updated every time a new character is created. William H. Mischo of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign notes that most math equations are published on Web pages as static images, which severely limits search capabilities; furthermore, many equations are usually composed of a combination of fonts, which makes text unattractive.
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- "Engineering Researchers are Designing the Ultimate Fabrics"
E-textiles--fabrics that feature interwoven electronic components--are being designed by engineers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University through several federally funded projects. Mark Jones and Tom Martin of Virginia Tech are collaborating with colleagues at the University of Southern California's Information Sciences Institute (ISI) on STRETCH, an e-textile project financed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). STRETCH involves the creation of fabrics that resemble military gear, equipped with sensors and wires that can detect the sounds of distant enemy vehicles and map out their location through software. Furthermore, sensors can also be programmed to pick up the presence of chemicals and satellite signals. "The goal of the project is to develop a low-cost, flexibly deployable e-textile system that has low power requirements and doesn't rely on radio waves," explains Jones; a 30-foot-long STRETCH prototype is slated to be tested by the researchers in November. Meanwhile, the National Science Foundation has apportioned $400,000 to Jones and Martin to develop wearable computers based on e-textiles. Such computers would feature sensors that would provide an awareness of the wearer's movements and environment, according to Martin. They would also be less cumbersome than other wearable computing gear. In addition, the researchers are working to make the power source for e-textile electronics smaller and more compact, and building software that will help scientists pinpoint the exact location of the electronics in the apparel.
- "Internet2 Pumps Streaming Media"
Wired News (11/08/02); Patrizio, Andy
Attendees at the recent Internet2 Member Meeting at the University of Southern California (USC) experienced the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, Fla., perform Aaron Copland's Symphony No. 3. They watched the performance on a 30-by-17-foot screen as it was streamed live across the country over the Internet2 network. Besides the massive bandwidth advantage the Internet2 has over the conventional Internet, the demonstration also highlighted the use of selective retransmission technology, which allows for smoother streamed media. Unlike traditional streamed broadcasts, which are thrown off by isolated network latencies, selective retransmission is smarter in the way it identifies and requests only the missing data packets. In addition, audio and video are sent separately in two different, but simultaneous, streams. As they arrive, the receiving system synchronizes them according to their time stamps. Dr. Sandy Sawchuk, USC professor of electrical engineering and director of the Integrated Media Systems Center, said the streaming technologies being pioneered on Internet2 would lead to more interactive and functional applications in the future, such as in medicine and education. She noted that network latency was the main hindrance to interactivity online. "Some of the backbones are moving to 10 Mb," she explained. "As that happens, then we'll see some of this technology moving over [to the conventional Internet]."
- "Data Transfer Demo Sets Speed Mark"
Technology Research News (11/06/02); Patch, Kimberly
At the iGRID 2002 conference in Amsterdam, researchers from Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago transmitted data between Amsterdam and Chicago at 2.8 Gbps, thus setting a new speed record. They were able to achieve this by blending a trio of communications layers--Photonic Path Services, the Simple Bandwidth Utilization Library (SABUL) network protocol, and Data Space Transfer Protocol (DSTP)--into a software architecture called Photonic Data Services. Robert Grossman of the University of Illinois at Chicago says the networking layer supplies speed that makes large quantities of data rapidly accessible; the data transfer layer allows users to carry out operations on that data; and the photonic path layer allows execution on a per-application basis. Earlier research demonstrated a 622 Mbps data-transfer rate via the combination of the second and third layer, but Grossman says the iGRID demonstration was the first time all three layers were integrated. He adds that connecting computer clusters to a router using 1 Gbps links enabled the data-transfer rate to reach 2.8 Gbps. "What is novel here is the bringing together of all these known technologies and efficiently integrating them to support a meaningful, important application," remarks UCLA computer science professor Mario Gerla. Northwestern's Joe Mambretti believes that bioinformatics, drug design, digital industrial design, and medical imaging industries could initially benefit from the researchers' breakthrough. He adds that the team has undertaken to optimize the method and deploy the protocols in next-generation all-optical networks.
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- "Kofi Annan's IT Challenge to Silicon Valley"
CNet (11/05/02); Annan, Kofi
Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan wants Silicon Valley to become more proactive in the forging of public-private partnerships that will allow developing countries to bridge the digital divide and make the latest information and communication technologies available to everyone, regardless of social or financial status. This development is critical if the new economy is to be successful, and it also dovetails with the Millennium Declaration that UN member states adopted in September 2000, he writes. Initiatives Annan supports include an effort to increase Wi-Fi penetration in developing nations and the creation of an open international university. "Governments need to do much more to create effective institutions and supportive regulatory frameworks that will attract foreign investment; more generally, they must also review their policies and arrangements to make sure they are not denying their people the opportunities offered by the digital revolution," he explains. Cooperation between governments and the private sector is also a critical component, and Annan notes that fostering such cooperation is a chief function of the UN Information and Communications Technologies Task Force. He urges Silicon Valley decision makers to participate in the World Summit on the Information Society, which the UN General Assembly will host under the aegis of the International Telecommunication Union; one of the goals of the conference will be defining a long-term strategy for public-private collaboration. Other UN efforts to close the gap between technology haves and have-nots include the UN Information Technology Service, which supplies IT training to developing countries, and the Health InterNetwork, which builds Web sites for third-world medical outfits.
- "New Chips for Keeping Up with the Joneses"
Wireless Newsfactor (11/06/02); Glick, Bryan
Gartner research director Alexander Linden believes the proliferation and convergence of broadband and wireless networking could lead to devices that will revolutionize everyday life by 2010. One possibility is mobile phones that can make electronic transactions, eliminating the need to pay for items with printed currency. Another application is clothes with embedded chips that transmit data such as where they are sold and how much they cost to shoppers with handhelds. Users could also one day use small Web access devices to order groceries and other goods and services from home through a wireless link. The workplace could be impacted as well: Linden foresees speech recognition technology that can read lips and aid workers in noisy offices, as well as virtual keyboards. "You will see whole different notions of interacting with physical objects," he predicts. Security could also be significantly enhanced with the increasing sophistication of infrared pattern matching. Such technology would facilitate the remote scanning of people's eyes and heads, as well as brain activity to make more effective lie detectors.
- "Wi-Fi, Heading for Air Supremacy"
Washington Post (11/07/02) P. E1; Walker, Leslie
The Wi-Fi standard, also known as Wireless Fidelity or 802.11, is on its way to becoming the primary way devices connect to the Internet wirelessly. Equipment is cheap, transmission speeds are reasonably fast, and it is based on an unlicensed portion of spectrum open to everyone. As a measure of its promise, technology venture capitalists are investing relatively large amounts of new money into Wi-Fi startups, despite the beaten down state of the IT sector. Large technology vendors such as Intel also see promoting the grassroots-born Wi-Fi standard as a way to make their "anytime, anywhere" vision of Internet access a reality. Intel's Sean Maloney says Wi-Fi access will be available in the home and in busy public places where mobile Internet access makes sense, and adds that it will be built into a number of devices, including traditionally non-computerized ones such as TVs and stereos. Next year Intel plans to start producing an integrated Wi-Fi antenna with its microprocessors designed for laptops, and the company has promised to invest $150 million in Wi-Fi startups. There are many new technologies that promise to extend the usefulness of Wi-Fi, including a new transmission antenna from Vivato that boosts the range of Wi-Fi to four miles in open spaces and up to 2,000 feet indoors. Mobile cellular carriers seem to have overcome their initial distrust of the wireless networking standard and are now developing plans that would integrate Wi-Fi access with their lower-speed but longer-range Internet access based on cellular standards.
- "Thanks to IBM, We May Soon Say: 'Computer, Heal Thyself'"
USA Today (11/06/02) P. 3B; Maney, Kevin
IBM is pursuing autonomic computing, a project to make computers capable of self-maintenance, such as being able to detect and fix internal flaws and defend themselves from crashes, viruses, and software bugs. This goal is an important part of the company's mandate to create on-demand computing power that can be supplied as easily as electricity. Some industry experts dismiss the concept as science fiction, while others say the idea has promise, but will take 20 or 30 years to become reality. However, tech experts are convinced that the growing complexity of technology will eventually make it unworkable unless autonomic computing or something similar is achieved. Factors contributing to this trend include more sophisticated hackers, more complicated software, and a doubling of computing power every 18 months. Most autonomic computing research at IBM is laboratory-based, but a few applications are being commercialized, the self-tuning database being one example; the software allows a system to measure changes in hardware and user demands and improve performance accordingly. One of the company's most notable initiatives is eLiza, which is an attempt to make computers self-healing. IBM is devoting most of its research toward the development of groundbreaking algorithms. Similar research efforts include the International Solvay Institutes' Immunocomputing project, which aims to create software using immune networks and proteins as models, and Duke University's software rejuvenation and the University of California, Berkeley's introspective computing projects.
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- "Will We, Should We E-Vote?"
Toronto Star Online (11/04/02); Hamilton, Tyler
Electronic voting systems, whose value was recently demonstrated in Brazil, still remain a hard sell in North America. Brazil pronounced its national election, in which over 406,000 touch-screen machines were employed to cast votes, a triumph, but U.S. officials are much more wary of adopting high-tech solutions, despite initiatives to update voting so that the debacle of the 2000 presidential election is not repeated; technologists are among the critics charging that such voting systems are still unreliable, and offer insufficient security and privacy. ECash inventor David Chaum has devised a solution in which a voter's confidentiality is ensured while supporting accuracy via encryption technology. Votes are cast on a touch-screen terminal, which prints out an anonymous, dual-layer plastic receipt; once the voter confirms the ballot's accuracy, he or she pulls apart the layers, causing text printed on top of the receipt to be erased, and then hands one layer over to the election official. Afterwards, the voter can make sure that the vote was tallied by checking the postings on a government Web site. Meanwhile, Bryn Mawr College's Rebecca Mercuri recommends the use of an e-voting system that prints out ballots, which will provide a paper trail and enable voters to verify their votes instantly. Canada's chief electoral officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley is looking into the possibilities of online voting as a way to get more young people to participate in the electoral process--in fact, he expects Canadians to be voting over the Internet in the next four years. Internet voting initiatives have been announced or are underway in Australia, Europe, Estonia, and other nations, but the United States is exercising caution, given that the security, privacy, reliability, and authentication issues that dog touch-screen voting are even more pronounced online.
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To learn more about ACM's activities regarding e-voting, visit http://www.acm.org/usacm.
- "Quantum Encryption Secures High-Speed Data Stream"
EE Times Online (11/08/02); Johnson, R. Colin
Professors at Northwestern University in Illinois are researching encryption techniques that can encrypt streaming data at 250 Mbps using unbreakable quantum encryption. Professors Prem Kumar and Horace Yuen expect their technology to be made commercially available in five years through partner companies Telcordia Technologies and BBN Technologies. Kumar says, "No one else is doing quantum encryption at these high speeds." Early next year, quantum computing company Magiq Technologies is slated to release the first quantum key distribution product to the market, though that system will only be applied to the encryption key, and will transmit data at 1 Kbps. The Northwestern University system, in contrast, encrypts the entire data stream at a high-speed rate. Hackers trying to eavesdrop on the data stream would inject quantum noise by simply observing the data bits, which have been imbued with quantum properties. Only the intended receiver with the an encryption key would be able to decipher the message by filtering the quantum noise produced once the code is read. Although the most powerful encryption techniques available today work well, such as 256-bit key encryption that are updated in short intervals, they still are conceivably breakable. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) funded the research with a five-year, $4.7 million grant.
- "MIT to Create Digital Library"
Boston Globe (11/04/02) P. C1; Howe, Peter J.
Monday marks the official launch of DSpace, a joint MIT/Hewlett-Packard project to archive virtually all the intellectual material produced by MIT scholars and researchers in a "digital library." The goal of the archive is to relieve conventional libraries of the burden of storing content in formats--Dictabelt recordings, floppy disks, newsprint, etc.--that take up space and are subject to physical degeneration over time. The project was launched with a $1.8 million grant from HP, which could reap millions of dollars in new business if other universities decide to build systems using DSpace technology. England's Cambridge University, Columbia University, and six other universities are expected to adopt DSpace by September 2003. A project is also underway to link DSpace with a similar system based in California universities and at Ohio State. Thus far, more than 2 TB of data has been stored in DSpace, according to DSpace project director MacKenzie Smith. The archive, which is based on open source software and features a Google-like search engine, is expected to cost MIT about $250,000 a year to maintain and operate. Meanwhile, MIT computer science and electrical engineering professor Hal Abelson thinks that DSpace will become an essential medium for recording each year's course material and course Web sites.
- "Search for a Powerful Shared Connection"
Financial Times (11/05/02) P. 10; Harvey, Fiona
Digital powerline communications could make a comeback now that many of the technical issues are resolved, according to proponents of such systems. Nortel and energy firm Norweb launched a joint venture in 1997 to bring the technology to the market, but engineering and business difficulties stymied the project. Now, powerline pioneer Paul Brown says he has solved some of those problems, and demonstrated his work by hooking up a home to the Internet through normal electrical lines and the local power station. Brown sends electricity and data streams over two simultaneously traveling signals, one operating at between 50 Hz and 60 Hz, and the other at over 1 MHz. Transmission speeds reached 1 Mbps, about the normal speed for conventional broadband connections, though experts say the technology can be upgraded in the future to support much faster speeds. A few hindrances linger, including cost, since a powerline connection costs as much as $500 to set up in each home, compared to $250 for DSL and $200 for cable. In addition, cable and DSL are already proven technologies, whereas digital powerline communications work well when data is only received, since there is currently no good way to send signals back to the Internet unless providers work with phone companies to create a loop system. However, some analysts say that powerline installations would be advantageous in certain settings, such as for rural Internet connections and in-building networks, since no new cable needs to be laid down.
- "The Reverse Brain Drain"
Fortune (11/11/02) Vol. 146, No. 9, P. 39; Brown, Eryn; Kirkpatrick, David
Many foreign-born technology personnel who moved to the United States to take advantage of the tech boom are returning to their homelands, either because they were laid off and no longer have visas, or are so disheartened by the economic downturn that going home is a much better option. American Electronics Association lobbyist Thom Stohler notes that the number of H-1B work visas has fallen from 163,000 last year to an expected total of 90,000 this year. Indian-born engineers such as Rama Velpuri have elected to go back to India, where housing is more affordable and running a company is less expensive. Meanwhile, major tech companies are concerned that the U.S. dominance of the tech sector is being threatened. At the recent Agenda technology conference, Intel CTO Pat Gelsinger and Microsoft strategist Craig Mundie appeared to agree that the United States is on track to become "a second-class citizen in the world of IT." Also at the conference, Cadence Design Systems CEO Ray Bingham estimated that the U.S. granted 37,000 graduate degrees in electrical engineering in 2001, while China produces 200,000 electrical engineering graduates annually. He added that 54 percent of U.S. engineering doctorate recipients were foreign students who returned to their native lands upon graduation. Moreover, the low broadband penetration in the United States, compared with other countries, and an apparent reduction in the national commitment to IT research and development is also discouraging news for tech executives.
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- "Rules for a Complex Quantum World"
Scientific American (11/02) Vol. 287, No. 5; Nielsen, Michael A.
True quantum information science research is often masked by a focus on technological applications; it is far more useful to understand the laws of quantum mechanics, which could shed more light on quantum system complexity and lead to a better understanding of the world. Quantum behavior in complex systems can only be observed by separating those systems from the rest of the world (thus retaining quantum states and forestalling decoherence), a process that comes more easily to smaller systems. Applying Benjamin W. Schumacher's information science procedure to quantum information science requires identifying physical resources (superposition states, for example), information-processing tasks that utilize such resources (entanglement manipulations), and appropriate criteria to successfully carry them out. At the root of quantum information science is the quantum bit or qubit, the fundamental data resource; however, although an infinite amount of classical information can be encoded in a qubit, quantum mechanics decrees that only a single bit of data can be retrieved from it. Entangled quantum states exhibit behavior that runs contrary to classical physics--entangled particles remain entangled regardless of distance, and research into this phenomenon has found uses for it in cryptography, classical information transmission, and fundamental teleportation. Researchers are currently trying to decide how best to quantify entanglement, which would help them analyze quantum teleportation and quantum computer algorithms. By combining information science and quantum mechanics, it was proven that quantum error correction can be carried out, something that was once thought to be impossible. Quantum states can thus be shielded from the effects of noise, and it clearly demonstrates that quantum information science can be used to study larger phenomena.
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