What Do NASA Computers and Your Mom Have in Common?

They’re both easy to get into! Ha! Although NASA computers appear to be giving your mom a run for her money:

NASA had 5,408 computer security lapses in 2010 and 2011, including the March 2011 loss of a laptop computer that contained algorithms used to command and control the International Space Station (ISS), the agency’s inspector general told Congress Wednesday.

“These incidents spanned a wide continuum, from individuals testing their skill to break into NASA systems, to well-organized criminal enterprises hacking for profit, to intrusions that may have been sponsored by foreign intelligence services seeking to further their countries’ objectives,” Inspector General Paul Martin said in written testimony before the House Science, Space and Technology Committee investigations panel.

Apparently, these wham-bams add up; NASA reports that the intrusions may have cost the agency up to $7 million. One particularly egregious incident involved the theft of an unsecured laptop that contained operational code for the International Space Station. Hugo Drax, eccentric billionaire and radical libertarian utopianist was the leading suspect until he mysteriously disappeared.

In other news, when your mom sits around the house, she apparently sits around the house. Also, your mom is apparently so uneducated that she thought a quarterback was a refund; sources blame growing property tax losses and unfunded mandates for her lapsed academic achievement.

Twisted Transistor

Today’s science news is equal in awesomeness to airbrushing a topless Amazonian warrior princess fighting a dragon on your van. “That’s crazy talk!” you’ll surely say. But behold: Australian and American physicists have laid the groundwork for quantum computing by creating a transistor from a single atom embedded in silicon crystal.

In contrast to conventional computers that are based on transistors with distinct “on” and “off” or “1” and “0” states, quantum computers are built from devices called qubits that exploit the quirky properties of quantum mechanics. Unlike a transistor, a qubit can represent a multiplicity of values simultaneously.

The incredibly powerful processor will be able to factor huge numbers and model complex molecular structures with relative alacrity; basically, it will change the entire infrastructure of computing.

Apparently, scientists have been able to place a transistor since 2002, but this new transistor is by far the most precise attempt, and moreover it allows for read/write capability.

While this is extremely exciting news, there are still significant hurtles in place. The transistors currently operate at very low temperatures, so unless you’re a Batman villain it’s unlikely you’ll have the necessary equipment to maintain a home model. Also, the current equipment used to design the transistor is not a viable manufacturing tool. But despite those obstacles, some predict we could be looking at viable quantum computers within two decades.

In other words, hold out for 20 years and you’ll be rewarded with quantum pornography. If that doesn’t make you want to quit smoking, I don’t know what will!

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