Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Super Cooling Atoms to Make GPS More Precise
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Nobel Prize in Physics (1997)


Professor Claude Cohen-Tannoudji kicked off Day 3 of GYSS with a talk on how useful light is. “By looking at light from the Universe, we can get information on the Universe in which we live,” he said, referring to background microwave radiation and, more recently, gravitational waves. 

“But light is not only a source of information, it is also a tool for manipulating atoms,” Professor Cohen-Tannoudji said. He outlined how he and other scientists work to make “ultra cold atoms” using light to cool them to the micro Kelvin range. “When you have cold atoms, they are very slow so you can observe them for a long time...and the more precise a measurement can be,” he said. This helps create extremely precise atomic clocks, which in turn improves the accuracy of GPS systems.

Internal Clocks Mark the Passage of Evolution and Time
Sydney Brenner, Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (2002)


“I am going to talk about evolution” is how Dr Sydney Brenner began his much anticipated talk. The eminent biologist traced evolution from the early days of organic molecules in a “primordial soup” to how Man evolved from chimpanzees some six million years ago.

We can measure all this in two ways: by looking at fossils and by sequencing genomes, he said. The latter is useful “especially when we don’t have any fossil evidence and also because we have missing pieces,” he said. Biologists study specific mutations in organisms, which move towards an equilibrium as time goes on. “This clock must tick according to the frequency with which its errors are made,” said Dr Brenner. “This gives us internal clocks that are woven in the entire range of living matter, from microbes to Man.”

Solarising the World
Michael Grätzel, Millennium Technology Prize (2010) 


The final plenary lecture for the day discussed the quest for sustainable energy, with Professor Michael Grätzel asking the question: “What will happen once we run out of oil?” We need to work on future solutions, he said, and harnessing solar energy is one way forward. In particular, there’s growing interest in photovoltaics converters based on light-sensitive dyes or perovskites pigments. “They not only produce electric power, but also offer fuel from light - that’s the future of this field,” he said.

Dye-sensitised solar cells are now used commercially - to charge electric cars, to create energy noise barriers, among other applications. Researchers continue to strive to harness solar energy as efficiently as possible, with the best current rates averaging at 30 percent conversion efficiency. “There’s a race going on in the solar efficiency game,” said Professor Grätzel.


Public Lecture: When Blockchain & AI Come Together: Possibilities & Impacts  
John Hopcroft, Turing Award (1986)
Efim Zelmanov, Fields Medal (1994)
Sopnendy Mohanty, Chief Financial Technology Officer, Monetary Authority of Singapore


Referencing the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS)’s Project Ubin, a collaborative project with the financial industry to explore the use of Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) for clearing and settlement of payments and securities, MAS’ Chief Technology Officer Sopnendu Mohanty posited if artificial intelligence will make blockchain more applicable in the financial world to a panel of speakers that included Professor John Hopcroft and Professor Efim Zelmanov, and the panel moderator, Singapore Management University’s (SMU) Vice Provost (Research), Steve Miller. The panel was a public lecture held at SMU as part of a week of events held under the Global Young Scientist Summit 2018.  

Part of Project Ubin’s aim is to use blockchain to speed up and make cross-border transactions more affordable. He argued that AI can help the financial world make distributed ledger technology (DLT) applications, which would allow for secure transactions as well as protect consumers through a smarter know-your-customer platform.

“When it comes to moving money from one jurisdiction to another jurisdiction, it would take two or 3 days. We are looking to develop a killer application to settle it instantly. We also want to use DLT to  know our customers, without filling in tons of documents,” said Mr Mohanty.

Professor John Hopcroft, IBM Professor of Engineering and Applied Mathematics in Computer Science at Cornell University, said the limits of AI are endless and there is more to discover. “When we first made airplanes fly we didn’t understand aerodynamics, but we studied aerodynamics to make aeroplanes better. For AI right now, we discovered a technology that is very important. Over the years we will figure out how it works and make it work much better. It will have a profound effect on people’s lives.”

Professor Steven Miller noted that there could be roles for other types of AI in blockchain-enabled uses. “Not all AI is deep learning and data driven. Could there be roles for various types of AI for smarter trade finance, payments and identification?”

Professor Efim Zelmanov remarked that, despite the proliferation of blockchain and its decentralised system, it remains mysterious, with its inner workings only familiar to a few. Hence, insiders and blockchain experts could use it for nefarious purposes. “It can be more efficient than centrally-controlled systems. But we have to be careful,” he said.