Reader’s Scigest – 27/02/2013

Macro Fly

by Jonny Bowers

Drunk with success

In order to avoid their larvae being infected with parasitic wasp eggs, a species of fruit fly has been found to smother its eggs in alcohol-laden food. A paper published recently in Science Magazine found that the female Drosophila melanogaster would change the alcohol content of the food source specifically when a female larval endoparasitoid (ie. One who would lay their eggs within the larvae) was seen nearby. This was said to show that the flies could recognise specific types of wasps – male wasps did not produce the same response. Other species within the genus Drosophila showed similar behaviour.

Some solace for computing

The quest for quantum computing has been reported to have taken a considerable step forward. Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and Delft University of technology have found a way to hold the quantum bits responsible for the lightning-fast electronics in the same physical state for ten times longer. By considering the hole spin of the units rather than the electron spin, the scientists were able to reduce the effect of interactions with the other particles present. Quantum computing offers a huge increase in the power of current computers; a quantum unit – or qubit – has more potential for computing power over a normal unit of processing. Let’s consider a ‘bit’ within a computer as a switch – currently it can only be off or on; a quantum switch can not only be off and on, but can be both! This allows for each bit to hold more information – allowing for an exponential increase in power.

Mars mission

If the rumours are true then by the time you are reading this the Dennis Tito foundation will have announced their plans to fly the first manned mission to the red planet. The foundation, set up by a millionaire who became the first space tourist in 2001 is expected to announce plans to for a 2018 trip. Tito himself, now 72, is rumoured to be one of the passengers making the trip.

Photograph: Flickr.com

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