Microsoft teams up with Sydney University

Sydney is in the running to build and operate the world’s first quantum computer in what experts are calling this generation’s space race.

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Microsoft and the University of Sydney have teamed up to research and develop a quantum computer capable of solving problems current computers can’t.

At the announcement of the multi-year partnership in Sydney on Tuesday, the tech giant said the potential for the science was endless and could solve global issues including climate change and medicine.

Quantum computers promise to deliver a massive increase in processing power over conventional computers by using a single electron or nucleus of an atom as the basic processing unit – a quantum bit, or qubit.

By performing multiple calculations simultaneously, quantum computers could be applied to economic modelling, fast database searches, modelling of biological molecules and drugs, and encryption and decryption of information.

The university’s Professor David Reilly is in charge of the project, named Station Q Sydney, and said while current computers allow scientists to analyse atoms inside of materials, they can’t create materials from specific elements.

“What we can’t do at the moment in our technology is we can’t go in reverse,” Prof Reilly said.

“I can’t give you the periodic table and say, there, choose any element you like on the periodic table (and) assemble them in a combination I want.”

With the quantum computer, he said chemical properties such as the strength of magnates could be combined with thermal or electrical properties to design and build entirely new materials.

“Having a quantum computer gives us the computational power to start to attack quantum chemistry problems and quantum materials problems that reverse that whole process,” Prof Reilly said.

The tech giant had the luxury of picking a “dream team” of academics from across the world and chose the team at the University of Sydney.

“Sydney represents this very unique capability of spanning physics through engineering,” said Microsoft’s head architect of their quantum computation team Doug Carmean.

The partnership with Microsoft will join Purdue University in the US, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Denmark’s University of Copenhagen.

But Prof Reilly said Sydney was best placed to get the computer running.

“It’s going to come together here in this country, in this city, I think is where we switch on the quantum machine.”

Sickies and poor sleep linked: study

Poor sleep and sick days are cosy bedfellows with more than one in four Australians taking a day off a month because they’re too tired, researchers say.

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The study of 551 working adults found 27 per cent missed one or more days of work in the past month because of sleep problems.

“Surprisingly, we discovered that you don’t need to be an insomniac or a severe snorer to have sleep problems that stop you going to work,” Sleep Health Foundation researcher Professor Robert Adams said.

Young well-educated men and women, many experiencing financial stress, are taking the most days off, with work demands appearing to be the main driver.

But their lifestyles should not be discounted either, Prof Adams said, with young people “trying to pack an awful lot into their week day life”.

“We certainly know the younger generation sleep a lot more on the weekends, they sleep in more as weekend catch up sleep,” he said.

This imbalance and their busy lifestyle, coupled with work demands, was causing sleep problems for the under 45s other generations hadn’t reported.

The study found working late into the night, along with computer, tablet and smartphone use, were the main disruptors of quality sleep, although financial stress was also reported as a factor leading to poor sleep.

Prof Adams said this cumulative effect of overwork, too much play and financial stress not only had the risk of becoming a vicious cycle resulting in a continued lack of quality sleep, it also resulted in grumpier, less resilient workers who were increasingly unable to cope with stress.

“Those sort of people tend to end up taking time off or make errors at work or are less productive,” he said.

Although employers can’t be held responsible for people’s lifestyles and behaviour, with $32.5 billion lost each year to sick days, the workplace may be the right place to begin talking about it.

“People need to start thinking about sleep health and recognise along with good diet and exercise, and not smoking and moderating alcohol intake, sleep health may well be an important factor,” Prof Adams said.

Yowie shares drop on weak US sales growth

Confectionery maker Yowie Group’s stocks have fallen to a three-and-a-half year low after it posted full-year sales revenue growth of 51 per cent – short of its forecast of 55 per cent – and suffered near-flat sales in its key US market.

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Yowie said sales growth in the US was “essentially flat” at one per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016/17 at $US3.48 million ($A4.39 million) as a rise in convenience and grocery store sales was offset by a drop in sales in its largest retailer.

But the company said sales of Yowie products in Australia have continued to exceed expectations since they returned to shelves in February, with $US755,000 ($A952,735) in local sales in the fourth quarter.

The figures, revealed in a statement of Yowies fourth quarter results on Tuesday, bring the company’s unaudited sales for the year to June 30, 2017, to $US19.48 million ($A24.58 million).

Yowie reaffirmed it expects total sales growth for 2017/18 to be between 55 and 70 per cent.

Chief executive Bert Alfonso says the company still plans to grow by expanding its distribution in the US and entering other key markets.

Its US growth will include it launching a new brand of chocolates in its largest retailer in the first quarter of 2017/18, after the launch was delayed from the fourth quarter of 2016/17, he said.

“We remain confident regarding the prospects for the Yowie brand in both the US and selective international markets,” Mr Alfonso said.

Yowie Group shares finished Tuesday down five cents – a 16.7 per cent drop – at 25 cents, their lowest level since January, 2014.

Heinz denies misleading marketing

Food giant Heinz has denied misleading consumers over the nutritional value of a snack food for kids.

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The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has taken the company to the Federal court alleging it engaged in false and misleading representations in relation to its Little Kids Shredz products.

The ACCC claims the snacks, made from dehydrated fruits and vegetables along with concentrated fruit juice, were suggested to be nutritious for children aged one to three by the use of certain statements and images on the packages.

But counsel for Heinz, Rowena Orr, told the court on Tuesday that none of the packs contained anything like the representations alleged by the consumer watchdog.

“The ACCC case has to fail at the threshold level,” Ms Orr said.

She said it would require an “unrealistic” interpretation of the wording on the packs to reach the conclusions alleged.

Heinz dietitian Kathryn Hodson told the court that while the Shredz snacks contained a relatively high proportion of sugar, she did not consider they were a discretionary food.

The snacks did not pass some internal company dietary guidelines but Ms Hodson said those guidelines were “never developed with Shredz in mind” and were more appropriate for baked goods.

She said the guidelines were only a “first security check” and a dietitian would always make a more detailed assessment before a product was brought to market.

Also on Tuesday, Justice Richard White rejected a request from the ACCC for him to taste one of the products, ruling that any conclusions he reached would be subjective and not capable of being analysed or scrutinised.

He said the application was asking the court to “carry out some form of experimentation.”

In evidence for the ACCC on Monday, nutritionist Rosemary Stanton told the hearing in Adelaide that while the Heinz snacks contained a number of nutritious ingredients they were more like confectionery.

Dr Stanton said in her opinion the Heinz products should be placed in the discretionary category, only to be eaten occasionally.

The ACCC case centres on allegations Heinz made three representations on its packaging including that the snack had the same nutritional value as fresh fruit, that it was a nutritious food for children aged one to three and that it would encourage healthy eating habits.

The commission is seeking pecuniary penalties, corrective notices and costs against the company.

Kushner returns for second day of grilling

US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner will return to Capitol Hill for a second day of private meetings with congressional investigators, this time for a closed-door conversation with the House intelligence committee.

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Kushner answered questions on Monday from staff on the Senate’s intelligence panel, acknowledging four meetings with Russians during and after Trump’s victorious White House bid and insisting he had “nothing to hide”.

He emerged smiling to publicly declare: “All of my actions were proper.”

Kushner is the first top Trump lieutenant to be quizzed by the congressional investigators probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

Hours before the Senate meeting, Kushner released an 11-page statement that was billed as his remarks to both the Senate and House committees.

He acknowledged his Russian contacts during the campaign and in the following weeks, in which he served as a liaison between the transition and foreign governments.

He described each contact as either insignificant or routine and he said the meetings, along with several others, were omitted from his security clearance form because of an aide’s error.

“Let me be very clear,” Kushner said afterward in a rare public statement at the White House, “I did not collude with Russia nor do I know of anyone else in the campaign who did so.”

Kushner’s statement was the first detailed defence from a campaign insider responding to the controversy that has all but consumed the first six months of Trump’s presidency.

US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia sought to tip the 2016 campaign in Trump’s favour.

Congressional committees, as well as a Justice Department special counsel, are investigating whether Trump associates co-ordinated with Russia in that effort and whether the president has sought to hamper the investigations.

Kushner said on Monday he “will continue to co-operate as I have nothing to hide”.

Trump watched on TV as Kushner made his appearance outside the West Wing and “thought Jared did a great job”, said White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

She said his House testimony on Tuesday would show “what a hoax this entire thing is”.

In the statement for the two committees, Kushner provided for the first time his recollection of a meeting at Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer who was said to have damaging information about Trump’s Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

Emails released this month show the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, accepted the meeting with the idea he would receive information as part of a Russian government effort to help Trump’s campaign.

But Kushner said he had not seen those emails until recently shown them by his lawyers.

He called the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya such a “waste of time” he asked his assistant to call him out of the gathering.