Suramya's Blog : Welcome to my crazy life…

September 3, 2020

Electric Vehicles can now be sold without Batteries in India

Filed under: Emerging Tech,My Thoughts,News/Articles — Suramya @ 11:51 PM

One of the biggest constraints for buying an Electric Vehicle (EV) is cost as even with all the subsidies etc the cost of an EV is fairly high and upto 40% of the EV cost is the cost of the batteries. In a move to reduce the cost of EV’s in India, Indian government is now allowing dealers to sell EV’s without batteries and the customer will then have the option to retrofit an electric battery as per their requirements.

When I first read the news I thought they were kidding and what use an Electric car was without a battery. Then I thought about it a bit more, and realized that you could think of it as a dealer not selling a car with a pre-filled fuel tank. We normally get a liter or two of petrol/diesel in the car when we buy it and then top it up with fuel later. Now think of doing something similar with the EV, you get a small battery pack with the car by default (enough to let you drive for a few Kilometers) and you have the option to replace it with the battery pack of your choice. This will allow a person to budget their expense by choosing to but a low power/capacity battery initially if they are not planning on driving outside the city and then later upgrading to a pack with more capacity.

However some of the EV manufacturers are concerned about the safety aspects of retrofitting of batteries and possibilities of warranty-related confusion. Plus they also have questions about the how the subsidies under the Centre’s EV adoption policy would be determined for vehicles without batteries. Basically they feel that they should have been consulted in more detail before this major change was announced so as to avoid confusion after the launch.

The policy was announced mid August and I think time only will tell how well the policy works in the market.

More Details on the change: Sale of EVs without batteries: Ather, Hero Electric, etc. laud policy but Mahindra has doubts

– Suramya

September 1, 2020

Background radiation causes Integrity issues in Quantum Computers

Filed under: Computer Related,My Thoughts,Quantum Computing,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 11:16 PM

As if Quantum Computing didn’t have enough issues preventing it from being a workable solution already, new research at MIT has found that ionizing radiation from environmental radioactive materials and cosmic rays can and does interfere with the integrity of quantum computers. The research has been published in Nature: Impact of ionizing radiation on superconducting qubit coherence.

Quantum computers are super powerful because their basic building blocks qubit (quantum bit) is able to simultaneously exist as 0 or 1 (Yes, it makes no sense which is why Eisenstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance’) allowing it process a magnitude more operations in parallel than the regular computing systems. Unfortunately it appears that these qubits are highly sensitive to their environment and even minor levels of radiation emitted by trace elements in concrete walls and cosmic rays can cause them to loose coherence corrupting the calculation/data, this is called decoherence. The longer we can avoid decoherence the more powerful/capable the quantum computer. We have made significant improvements in this over the past two decades, from maintaining it for less than one nanosecond in 1999 to around 200 microseconds today for the best-performing devices.

As per the study, the effect is serious enough to limit the performance to just a few milliseconds which is something we are expected to achieve in the next few years. The only way currently known to avoid this issue is to shield the computer which means putting these computers underground and surrounding it with a 2 ton wall of lead. Another possibility is to use something like a counter-wave of radiation to cancel the incoming radiation similar to how we do noise-canceling. But that is something which doesn’t exist today and will require significant technological breakthrough before it is feasible.

“Cosmic ray radiation is hard to get rid of,” Formaggio says. “It’s very penetrating, and goes right through everything like a jet stream. If you go underground, that gets less and less. It’s probably not necessary to build quantum computers deep underground, like neutrino experiments, but maybe deep basement facilities could probably get qubits operating at improved levels.”

“If we want to build an industry, we’d likely prefer to mitigate the effects of radiation above ground,” Oliver says. “We can think about designing qubits in a way that makes them ‘rad-hard,’ and less sensitive to quasiparticles, or design traps for quasiparticles so that even if they’re constantly being generated by radiation, they can flow away from the qubit. So it’s definitely not game-over, it’s just the next layer of the onion we need to address.”

Quantum Computing is a fascinating field but it really messes with your mind. So I am happy there are folks out there spending time trying to figure out how to get this amazing invention working and reliable enough to replace our existing Bit based computers.

Source: Cosmic rays can destabilize quantum computers, MIT study warns

– Suramya

August 25, 2020

Using Bioacoustic signatures for Identification & Authentication

We have all heard about Biometric scanners that identify folks using their fingerprints, or Iris scan or even the shape of their ear. Then we have lower accuracy authenticating systems like Face recognition, voice recognition etc. Individually they might not be 100% accurate but combine one or more of these and we have the ability to create systems that are harder to fool. This is not to say that these systems are fool proof because there are ways around each of the examples I mentioned above, our photos are everywhere and given a pic of high enough quality it is possible to create a replica of the face or iris or even finger prints.

Due to the above mentioned shortcomings, scientists are always on lookout for more ways to authenticate and identify people. Researchers from South Korean have found that the signature created when sound waves pass through humans are unique enough to be used to identify individuals. Their work, described in a study published on 4 October in the IEEE Transactions on Cybernetics, suggests this technique can identify a person with 97 percent accuracy.

“Modeling allowed us to infer what structures or material features of the human body actually differentiated people,” explains Joo Yong Sim, one of the ETRI researchers who conducted the study. “For example, we could see how the structure, size, and weight of the bones, as well as the stiffness of the joints, affect the bioacoustics spectrum.”


Notably, the researchers were concerned that the accuracy of this approach could diminish with time, since the human body constantly changes its cells, matrices, and fluid content. To account for this, they acquired the acoustic data of participants at three separate intervals, each 30 days apart.

“We were very surprised that people’s bioacoustics spectral pattern maintained well over time, despite the concern that the pattern would change greatly,” says Sim. “These results suggest that the bioacoustics signature reflects more anatomical features than changes in water, body temperature, or biomolecule concentration in blood that change from day to day.”

Interestingly, while the setup is not as accurate as Fingerprints or Iris scans it is still accurate enough to differentiate between two fingers of the same hand. If the waves required to generate the Bioacoustic signatures are validated to be safe for humans over long term use, then it is possible that we will soon see a broader implementation of this technology in places like airports, buses, public area’s etc to identify people automatically without having to do anything. If it can be made portable then it could be used to monitor protests, rallies, etc which would make it a privacy risk.

The problem with this tech is that it would be harder to fool without taking steps that would make you stand out like wearing a vest filled with liquid that changes your acoustic signature. Which is great when we are just talking about authentication/identification for access control but becomes a nightmare when we consider the surveillance aspect of usage.

Source: The Bioacoustic Signatures of Our Bodies Can Reveal Our Identities

– Suramya

August 21, 2020

Emotion detection software for Pets using AI and some thoughts around it (and AI in general)

Filed under: Computer Software,Emerging Tech,Humor,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 5:32 PM

Pet owners are a special breed of people, they willingly take responsibility for another life and take care of them. I personally like pets as long as I can return them to the owner at the end of the day (or hour, depending on how annoying the pet is). I had to take care of a puppy for a week when Surabhi & Vinit were out of town and that experience was more than enough to confirm my belief in this matter. Others however feel differently and spend quite a lot of time and effort talking to the pets and some of them even pretend that the dog is talking back.

Now leveraging the power of AI there is a new app created that analyses & interprets the facial expressions of your pet. Folks over at the University of Melbourne decided to build an Convolutional Neural Networks based application called Happy Pets that you can download from the Android or Apple app stores to try on your pet. They claim to be able to identify the emotion the pet is feeling when the photo was taken.

While the science behind it is cool and a lot of pet owners who tried out the application over at Hacker News seem to like it, I feel its a bit frivolous and silly. Plus its hard enough for us to classify emotions in Humans reliably using AI so I would take the claims with a pinch of salt. The researchers themselves have also not given any numbers around the accuracy percentage of the model.

When I first saw the post about the app it reminded me of another article I had read a few days ago which postulated that ‘Too many AI researchers think real-world problems are not relevant’. At first I thought that this was an author trolling the AI developers but after reading the article I kind of agree with him. AI has a massive potential to advance our understanding of health, agriculture, scientific discovery, and more. However looking at the feedback AI papers have been getting it appears that AI researchers are allergic to practical applications (or in some cases useful applications). For example, below is a review received on a paper submitted to the NeurIPS (Neural Information Processing Systems) conference:

“The authors present a solution for an original and highly motivating problem, but it is an application and the significance seems limited for the machine-learning community.”

If I read this correctly then basically they are saying that this AI paper is for a particular application so its not interesting enough for the ML community. There is a similar bias in the theoretical physics/mathematics world where academics who talk about implementing the concepts/theories are looked down upon by the ‘purists’. I personally believe that while the theoretical sciences are all well & good and we do need people working on them to expand our understanding, at the end of the day if we are not applying these learnings/theorems practically they are of no use. There will be cases where we don’t have the know-how to implement or apply the learnings but we should not let that stand in the way of practical applications for things we can implement/use.

To quote a classic paper titled “Machine Learning that Matters” (pdf), by NASA computer scientist Kiri Wagstaff: “Much of current machine learning research has lost its connection to problems of import to the larger world of science and society.” The same year that Wagstaff published her paper, a convolutional neural network called AlexNet won a high-profile competition for image recognition centered on the popular ImageNet data set, leading to an explosion of interest in deep learning. Unfortunately, the disconnect she described appears to have grown even worse since then.

What do you think? Do you agree/disagree?

Source: HackerNews

– Suramya

August 20, 2020

Transparent Solar Panels hit Record 8.1% Efficiency

Filed under: Emerging Tech,My Thoughts,Techie Stuff — Suramya @ 5:24 PM

Solar panels for electricity are awesome, however the major issue with deploying solar panels is that you need a lot of space for them. Although the efficiency of the panels has been going up reducing the space requirements but its still a non-trivial amount of space to generate enough power to be useful to power a house, Portable solar panels are well and good but they are slow and expensive. I tried to figure out a way to power my apartment via solar power but it wasn’t possible without having panels setup on the apartment roof.

Which is where the Transparent Solar panels come into play as they allow you to replace your existing windows for solar panel which would make them ideal for Apartments & office buildings. Because you don’t need extra space for the panels and just need to replace the windows. The transparent solar panels were created in 2014 by researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) however the efficiency of the panels was quite low compared to the traditional panels making it less productive and more expensive than the traditional panels so since then the race has been on to make the panels more efficient.

The researches from University of Michigan have made a significant break through in the manufacturing of color-neutral, transparent solar cells achieving 8.1% efficiency by using a carbon-based design rather than conventional silicon. The created cells do have a slight greenish tinge like sunglasses but for the most part appear to be usable as a window pane. More details are available in their release here.

The new material is a combination of organic molecules engineered to be transparent in the visible and absorbing in the near infrared, an invisible part of the spectrum that accounts for much of the energy in sunlight. In addition, the researchers developed optical coatings to boost both power generated from infrared light and transparency in the visible range—two qualities that are usually in competition with one another.

The color-neutral version of the device was made with an indium tin oxide electrode. A silver electrode improved the efficiency to 10.8%, with 45.8% transparency. However, that version’s slightly greenish tint may not be acceptable in some window applications.

Transparent solar cells are measured by their light utilization efficiency, which describes how much energy from the light hitting the window is available either as electricity or as transmitted light on the interior side. Previous transparent solar cells have light utilization efficiencies of roughly 2-3%, but the indium tin oxide cell is rated at 3.5% and the silver version has a light utilization efficiency of 5%.

The researchers are still working on improving the efficiency further and I am looking forward to the new breakthroughs in the field. Hopefully soon we will have panels efficient enough that I will be able to replace my apartment’s windows with Solar panel and break even in a reasonable amount of time. 🙂


– Suramya

October 15, 2019

Theoretical paper speculates breaking 2048-bit RSA in eight hours using a Quantum Computer with 20 million Qubits

Filed under: Computer Security,My Thoughts,Quantum Computing — Suramya @ 12:05 PM

If we manage to get a fully functional Quantum Computer with about 20 million Qubits in the near future then according to this theoretical paper we would be able to factor 2048-bit RSA moduli in approximately eight hours. The paper is quite interesting, although the math in did give me a headache. However this is all still purely theoretical as we only have 50-60 qBit computers right now and are a long way away from general purpose Quantum computers. That being said I anticipate that we would be seeing this technology being available in our lifetime.

We significantly reduce the cost of factoring integers and computing discrete logarithms over finite fields on a quantum computer by combining techniques from Griffiths-Niu 1996, Zalka 2006, Fowler 2012, EkerÃ¥-HÃ¥stad 2017, EkerÃ¥ 2017, EkerÃ¥ 2018, Gidney-Fowler 2019, Gidney 2019. We estimate the approximate cost of our construction using plausible physical assumptions for large-scale superconducting qubit platforms: a planar grid of qubits with nearest-neighbor connectivity, a characteristic physical gate error rate of 10−3, a surface code cycle time of 1 microsecond, and a reaction time of 10 micro-seconds. We account for factors that are normally ignored such as noise, the need to make repeated attempts, and the spacetime layout of the computation. When factoring 2048 bit RSA integers, our construction’s spacetime volume is a hundredfold less than comparable estimates from earlier works (Fowler et al. 2012, Gheorghiu et al. 2019). In the abstract circuit model (which ignores overheads from distillation, routing, and error correction) our construction uses 3n+0.002nlgn logical qubits, 0.3n3+0.0005n3lgn Toffolis, and 500n2+n2lgn measurement depth to factor n-bit RSA integers. We quantify the cryptographic implications of our work, both for RSA and for schemes based on the DLP in finite fields.

Bruce Schneier talks about how Quantum computing will affect cryptography in his essay Cryptography after the Aliens Land. In summary “Our work on quantum-resistant algorithms is outpacing our work on quantum computers, so we’ll be fine in the short run. But future theoretical work on quantum computing could easily change what “quantum resistant” means, so it’s possible that public-key cryptography will simply not be possible in the long run.”

Well this is all for now will post more later

– Suramya

May 27, 2019

Microsoft and Brilliant launch Online Quantum Computing Class that actually looks useful

Quantum computing (QC) is the next big thing and everyone is eager to jump on the bandwagon. So my email & news feeds are usually flooded with articles on how QC will solve all my problems. I don’t deny that there are some very interesting usecases out there that would benefit from Quantum Computers but after a while it gets tiring. That being said I just found out that Microsoft & Brilliant have launched a new interactive course on Quantum Computing that allows you to build quantum algorithms from the ground up with a quantum computer simulated in your browser and I feel its pretty cool and a great initiative. The tutorial enables you to learn Q# which is Microsoft’s answer to the question of which language to use for Quantum computing code. Check it out if you are interested in learning how to code in Q#.

The course starts with basic concepts and gradually introduces you to Microsoft’s Q# language, teaching you how to write ‘simple’ quantum algorithms before moving on to truly complicated scenarios. You can handle everything on the web (including quantum circuit puzzles) and the course’s web page promises that by the end of the course, “you’ll know your way around the world of quantum information, have experimented with the ins and outs of quantum circuits, and have written your first 100 lines of quantum code — while remaining blissfully ignorant about detailed quantum physics.”
Brilliant has more than 8 million students and professionals worldwide learning subjects from algebra to special relativity through guided problem-solving. In partnership with Microsoft’s quantum team, Brilliant has launched an interactive course called “Quantum Computing,” for learning quantum computing and programming in Q#, Microsoft’s new quantum-tuned programming language. The course features Q# programming exercises with Python as the host language (one of our new features!). Brilliant and Microsoft are excited to empower the next generation of quantum computer scientists and engineers and start growing a quantum workforce today.

Starting from scratch

Because quantum computing bridges the fields of information theory, physics, mathematics, and computer science, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Brilliant’s course, integrated with some of Microsoft’s leading quantum development tools, provides self-learners with the tools they need to master quantum computing.
The new quantum computing course starts from scratch and brings students along in a way that suits their schedule and skills. Students can build and simulate simple quantum algorithms on the go or implement advanced quantum algorithms in Q

Once you have gone through the tutorial you should also check out IBM Q that allows you to code on a Quantum computer for free.

– Suramya

August 7, 2015

Books For Non-Physicists Who Want To Understand Quantum Physics

Filed under: Interesting Sites,Quantum Computing — Suramya @ 1:37 AM

If you have ever wanted to understand Quantum Physics but found that all the physics gobbledy gook went over your head then you should check out this list of books by Chad Orzel that try to explain Quantum Physics to non-physicists.

Chad has also written a book on how to How to Teach Quantum Physics to Your Dog (Not sure why you would want to do that, but hey… who am I to judge). The title is interesting enough that I am tempted to buy it to check it out.

Example entry from the list:

How the Hippies Saved Physics by David Kaiser is, as the title promises, a highly readable look at the role counterculture and “New Age” thinking played in sparking the renewed interest in quantum foundations that started in the 1980′s and has exploded into the modern field of quantum information. While none of their colorful attempts to explain ESP through quantum phenomena actually pan out, showing why they can’t work proved surprisingly fruitful.

Check it out if you have some free time and want to learn.

– Suramya

March 23, 2008

Quantum Computing: Hype vs. Reality

Filed under: Computer Security,Interesting Sites,Quantum Computing — Suramya @ 1:23 PM

A lot of you must have heard about quantum computing(QC) and a lot of articles have been written by people on how Quantum Computers could break any crypto in a short time. (Even I have written about it)

So I found the following blog post a really good read. It discusses the possible future of QC in a very interesting fashion with emphasis on how it might affect the world of Cryptology. Check it out over here: Emergent Chaos: Quantum Progress

Thanks to: Schneier on Security for the link.

– Suramya

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