SciDevNet: Egypt’s new constitution calls for support of science, but some science supporters worry that it fails to link science to development, that it depicts science as a luxury, and that it calls unwisely for science’s “Arabization.” The constitution guarantees “freedom of scientific and literary research,” requires that the “autonomy of universities, scientific and linguistic academies, and research centers . . . be safeguarded,” and mandates that the state “provide them with a sufficient percentage of the national revenue.” However, it also requires the state to “foster the Arabization of education, science and knowledge.” Ehab Abdul Rahman, director of the Yousef Jameel Science and Technology Research Center at the American University in Cairo, warns that Arabization “would isolate Egypt from global scientific progress.” Cairo University medical professor Omaima Kamel is a member of both the Constituent Assembly and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. She approves of translating research and scientific knowledge into Arabic, but opposed the explicit Arabization provision.
Ars Technica: A week before Superstorm Sandy struck the coast of New Jersey, the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) predicted the storm would indeed make landfall, whereas the US National Weather Service (NWS) had the storm veering off into the Atlantic Ocean. The NWS model fell into line with the ECMWF model three days later and enabled the NWS to issue timely, life-saving warnings. Still, the apparent shortcoming of the NWS model has highlighted a gap in investment between the US and Europe, writes Scott Johnson for Ars Technica. Not only does the ECMWF model run on a faster supercomputer than the NWS model does, but the European model has finer spatial and temporal resolution. Both advantages enhance accuracy. Comparisons aside, the ECMWF and NWS models rely on data gathered by Earth-observing satellites. If that fleet is not replenished, the accuracy of weather prediction will suffer. Indeed, after Sandy had dissipated, the ECMWF reran its model with data available five days before the storm’s landfall but omitted data from NASA’s polar-orbiting satellites. Without those data, the ECMWF model failed to predict Sandy’s destructive path.
Euronews: The record for the world’s lightest material has been claimed by a new material called aerographite. Fabricated by Matthias Mecklenburg of Hamburg University of Technology and his colleagues, aerographite consists of interwoven threads of carbon nanotubes, each about 15 nm in diameter. With a density of just 0.2 mg/cm2, the mesh-like material is so light that the slightest movement in the lab stirs up currents that can blow it away. Mecklenberg envisions using aerographite for applications, such as filtration and catalysis, for which both lightness and a large surface area are needed.
Science: Four groups have recently demonstrated the feasibility of a new form of quantum computation known as photonic boson sampling. The technique entails sending photons through a network of criss-crossing channels and observing which of several exits they emerge from. Thanks to the photons’ quantum mechanical interactions and to the network’s topology, the number of photons recorded at each exit correspond, together, to a matrix function known as the permanent. By using three input channels, the four groups determined the permanents of 3 × 3 matrices. That’s hardly a feat of computational power, but if the technique could be scaled up to 25 × 25 and bigger matrices, it could be used to determine permanents faster than a classical computer could. The four groups that demonstrated photonic boson sampling are those of Andrew White at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, Ian Walmsley of the University of Oxford in the UK, Philip Walther of the University of Vienna, Austria, and Roberto Osellame of the Polytechnic University of Milan, Italy.