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Taking Measure

Just a Standard Blog

Top 6 NIST News Stories of 2019

graphic showing the number six with a radar dish, a quantum logic clock, arrows representing magnetic spins, a magnifying glass, a baggie of white powder, and a group of cubes in a hexagonal shape
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

Measurement is a subject that touches upon just about everything, from the food we eat and the medicines we take to our investigations of the fundamental phenomena of the universe, so naturally, the news from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is widely varied. That’s what makes NIST so fascinating; every day you have the chance to learn something new.

Last week, we revealed the top five blog posts of 2019. This week we’re doing the top six news stories of 2019. We hope you find them as interesting as we do!

blue background. Robotic head with overlay of 3 radar icons
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

6. AI May Be Better for Detecting Radar Signals, Facilitating Spectrum Sharing

The problem is this: Telecom companies want to improve coverage and data speeds by sharing part of the electromagnetic spectrum with the Navy, which sometimes uses the band of frequencies for radar. When the Navy is using radar, companies cannot use the band. So, how do you know when it’s OK to use that part of the spectrum? Artificial intelligence, of course.

Credit E. Sisco and M. Staymates/NIST

5. A Safer Way for Police to Test Drug Evidence

As drugs of abuse become more and more powerful, police officers are finding themselves increasingly at risk of exposure to them, with potentially deadly consequences. What if there was a way for the police to test for the presence of these drugs without coming into close contact with them? There now is, thanks to NIST and its collaborators.

Computer-generated image showing a cross-shaped gold metal cutout on a red mount in between two metal posts, with an inset magnifying the cutout to show blue and yellow balls at the center.
Credit: S. Burrows/JILA

4. NIST’s Quantum Logic Clock Returns to Top Performance

NIST has been known for its atomic clocks since the 1950s. Since then, we’ve gotten pretty good at atomic timekeeping, and we have the Nobel Prizes to prove it. While our current standard clock, the NIST-F2 is so accurate that it wouldn’t gain or lose a second in 300 million years—not too shabby—we do have clocks that are even better. How much better? Read on and find out.

A cartoon of two islands in a blue sea. Each island has mountains and explorers. At bottom are clouds and a pot of gold.
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

3. Newfound Superconductor Material Could Be the ‘Silicon of Quantum Computers’

Quantum computers have the potential to solve some problems that classical computers can’t touch, at least not in a reasonable amount of time. Silicon is the bedrock upon which the classical computer age was built, so people should take note when we say that a new superconductor could be the “silicon of quantum computers.” What’s so special about this superconductor, which was once considered a “boring vegetable”? Click on the link and see.

Illustration of the 4-step manufacturing process with blockchain involvement
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

2. Blockchain Provides Security, Traceability for Smart Manufacturing

Blockchain rose to prominence as the enabling technology for bitcoin, but its applications are wide ranging. One of them is smart manufacturing. In particular, blockchain can build trust into the platform used for exchanging and processing electronic information during manufacturing known as the digital thread. For more on the digital thread and blockchain, you know what to do. And check out the cool videos, too!

A magnifying glass with "2019" in its lens hovers over a green field of math equations, with circles suggesting the magnifying glass has located some of the information.
Credit: N. Hanacek/NIST

1. NIST Reveals 26 Algorithms Advancing to the Post-Quantum Crypto ‘Semifinals’

Factoring large prime numbers is among the problems that quantum computers will solve better than classical computers. The problem with that is that many of today’s computer encryption schemes, the codes used to secure your email and online banking transactions, are based on factoring large prime numbers. This means that your email and bank transactions might no longer be safe from prying eyes once an advanced quantum computer is unleashed on them. The good news is we don’t have to wait for powerful quantum computers to be built before making our data quantum proof. A NIST competition has stimulated dozens of candidates for the algorithms we need to do just that.

About the author

Mark Esser

Mark is a writer in the NIST Public Affairs Office and the editor of Taking Measure (this blog). He also writes speeches. When he's not struggling to cleverly turn a phrase, he enjoys playing...

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