Quantum information research is one of the hottest areas in 21st-century science, leading to dramatic improvements in computation speed and secure communication. To help drive this field forward, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has recruited an interdisciplinary team of over 20 researchers from the fields of physics, computer science, mathematics, chemistry, philosophy and engineering for its newly-founded Quantum Information Science Center (QISC).

The research group is set to advance understanding of quantum information science – which is based on the wave-like nature of matter and light and our growing ability to create and control advanced structures – and the development of quantum technologies.

The center is headed by Dr. Nadav Katz of the Racah Institute of Physics and includes theoretical physics Prof. Jacob Bekenstein, who won the 2012 Wolf Prize in physics and whose groundbreaking ideas were originally contested and later confirmed by British Prof.

Stephen Hawking; mathematics Prof. Gil Kalai, who won the 2012 Rothschild Prize; and Prof. Elon Lindenstrauss, winner of the 2010 Fields Medal in Mathematics.

Others are computer sciences Profs. Michael Ben-Or and Dorit Aharonov, considered among the founders of the field, for proving that quantum computation is possible in real-world devices via special error-correction methods.

According to Katz, “We believe that the only way to fundamentally deepen our understanding in the field of quantum information is through the integration of a variety of research areas and different languages of science.

This is the only way to achieve significant breakthroughs in the field. HU already has an excellent cadre of researchers examining different aspects of quantum information, and the new center will serve as a shared gathering point and help accelerate their research.

“Alongside promoting and funding quantum information research, the center will establish a training program for graduate students, recruit leading researchers and conduct collaborative cooperation with similar centers around the world.”

The center marked its launch with an international conference featuring leaders in the field of quantum information from Europe, Canada, China, Singapore, the US and Israel. A team headed by center researcher Prof. Hagai Eisenberg recently made waves in the scientific world by demonstrating for the first time a quantum link between photons that don’t exist at the same time. The study was published in Physical Review Letters.

MICE IN ‘BIG BROTHER’ SETUP How does a social animal such as a mouse or human gain dominance over his or her fellow creatures? A unique experiment conducted by Dr. Tali Kimchi and her team in the Weizmann Institute of Science’s neurobiology department provides some unusual insight into the social behavior that enables a social hierarchy to form.

Kimchi and her research team – Aharon Weissbrod, Genady Wasserman and Alex Shapiro, together with Dr. Ofer Feinerman of the Rehovot institute’s department of the physics of complex systems – developed a system that enabled them to observe a large group of animals living together in semi-natural conditions.

This setup was a sort of mouse version of the TV show Big Brother.

Different strains of mice were placed in the “house” – a four-meter-square pen – and allowed to go about their lives with no intervention from the human team.

To automatically track the mice day and night, each mouse was implanted with an ID chip similar to those used in pet cats and dogs, and video cameras were placed strategically around the area with infrared lighting that enabled nighttime filming.

With the combined chip reporting and continuous video footage, the system could automatically keep tabs on each individual mouse, knowing its precise location down to the half centimeter, in measurements that were recorded 30 times a second for days and sometimes even months on end.

Because the information they obtained was so precise, the team was able to identify dozens of individual behaviors – eating, drinking, running, sleeping and hiding, as well as social behaviors – seeking out specific companions for activities or rest, avoiding certain individuals and attacking others. The researchers found that it was possible to isolate and identify typical behaviors of individuals, pairs and groups. In fact just by sorting out behavioral patterns, the automated system was able to differentiate between the various genetic strains of the mice in the mixed groups, as well as predicting mating, with over 90 percent accuracy.

These close observations revealed, among other social features, how one of the individuals became “king” of the group, attaining dominance over the others, both male and female.

In further experiments, the “house” inhabitants comprised one of two strains of mice, the first more “social” and the second “autistic” (exhibiting little social engagement and rigid behavior patterns). The system automatically identified the “autistic” mice by identifying their patterns of movement and public behavior.

In a paper that appeared recently in Nature Communications, Kimchi and her team describe the emergence of the dominant leader and the development of a class system in a group of normal mice – within a mere 24-hour period. Surprisingly, when they conducted a similar experiment with the autistic-like mice, either no leader emerged or, if one did, it was quickly overthrown.

The precise, automatic and semi-natural system the scientists have developed is enabling a deep, systematic study of the mechanisms for regulating social behavior in animal models; it may be especially useful for providing insight into the societal aspects of such disorders as schizophrenia and autism.

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