Saudi researchers eye quantum progress from tie-up with US software startup

students at king abdullah university of science and technology will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
Students at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
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Updated 08 June 2021

Saudi researchers eye quantum progress from tie-up with US software startup

students at king abdullah university of science and technology will be trained in quantum computing by the firm Zapata. (Supplied)
  • King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) is at the forefront of quantum computing in the Middle East
  • Quantum computing could allow plane and vehicle manufacturers to test fuel-efficient designs much faster than at present

DUBAI: Scientists believe the solution to designing the fuel-efficient and eco-friendly vehicles of the future could be found in quantum computing. That is why Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) has entered into a partnership with US-based quantum software startup Zapata Computing.

Quantum computers can simulate and optimize the aerodynamic design process for cars and aircraft much faster than any classical computing tools. Through this partnership among other moves, the Kingdom can hope to become a regional leader in quantum technologies.

“Accessing quantum computing capability is critical to being able to process information even quicker and more efficiently in the future,” Kevin Cullen, KAUST vice president for innovation and economic development, told Arab News.

“This partnership with Zapata is KAUST’s first use case with quantum computing and is essential to building our capacity in this space. This partnership could also open the door to finding solutions to other challenges in the Kingdom and the Middle East.”




The Zapata Computing team, based out of Boston, Massachusetts, US. (Supplied)

Using Zapata’s Orquestra system, KAUST is examining various lines of research to determine how quantum technologies could offer an advantage over classical computing tools in a variety of computational fluid dynamics (CFD) use cases for aircraft and automobile aerodynamic design.

CFD computations are time-consuming and expensive to run. The simulation process is inefficient and a lot of time is wasted trying to model air flow around wings and engines more efficiently.

However, boosting work around those designs could allow manufacturers to build more energy-efficient airplanes — lowering carbon emissions and benefiting the environment.

Air travel is responsible for 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. As such, quantum technology could have meaningful financial and environmental rewards for airlines and manufacturers.

The university — home to the KAUST Research and Technology Park and its research and development centers, corporates and startups — has a track record of collaborating with industry partners at a national and international level.

“We are delighted to be the catalyst for bringing quantum capabilities to CFD research in the Kingdom and to the Middle East,” Cullen said.




KAUST Research and Technology Park in Saudi Arabia. (Courtesy: KAUST)

“This partnership establishes Zapata as one of the first quantum computing companies active in the region and will enable KAUST researchers to explore the future of aerospace fluid dynamics.

“KAUST is a leader in the areas of data analysis and artificial intelligence (AI), and we welcome the addition of Zapata’s Orquestra technology to our capabilities in order to accelerate discovery and innovation in these fields.”

The Orquestra system helps run very complex computational tasks, also known as computational workflows.

“This means that when you run something on a quantum computer, you’re not just running the quantum computer, so to speak,” Christopher Savoie, co-founder and CEO of Zapata, told Arab News.

“You need to use a classical computer to preprocess your data and post-process your data. The quantum computer is doing a very specialized task in that workflow.”

INNUMBERS

* 150,000 - Liters of jet fuel consumed by a Boeing 747 over a 10-hour flight.

* 0.8% - Improvement in average fuel consumption by cars in US in 2018 over previous year.

The amount of classical computing needed when running a program on a quantum computer is greater than the amount of work that the quantum computer performs. The advantage of the quantum computer is that it performs specialized tasks at an extremely rapid pace.

“A lot of the work that you have to do before you even send something to the quantum computer is done on a classical computer,” said Savoie. “And everything that comes out of the quantum computer has to be processed and stored.”




Scientists claimed on October 23, 2019 to have achieved a near-mythical state of computing in which a new generation of machine vastly outperforms the world's fastest super-computer, known as “quantum supremacy.” (AFP/File Photo)

Zapata’s Orquestra platform improves data analytics performance, empowering companies and research organizations to build quantum-enabled workflows, execute them across the full range of quantum and classical devices, and then collect and analyze the resulting data.

With Orquestra, organizations can leverage quantum capabilities to generate augmented data sets, speed up data analysis and construct better data models for a range of applications.

More importantly, it provides organizations with the most flexible, applied toolset in quantum computing so that users can build quantum capabilities without getting locked in with a single vendor or architecture for several years.

“It also allows the user to be able to switch among the various different hardware providers,” Savoie said.

“If you’re just on one of those systems, you can’t really compare them and if you find out that your program — for example in this case, the aerodynamic calculations you find are better on (another platform), then you’re going to want to be able to choose.

“Orquestra allows you the flexibility to compare among them and then be able to choose them without getting locked into a particular vendor.”

For KAUST, the immediate use will be for the aerospace industry as one of the biggest consumers of fuel.




A Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which features quieter, more fuel efficient engines, more seating and a redesigned interior. (AFP/File Photo)

“There is a huge effort by companies like Saudi Aramco and all the other oil and gas companies in Saudi Arabia to be aware of the environmental constraints that boards and airline companies are constantly now finding themselves under pressure from shareholders to reduce, for good reason,” Savoie said.

“Climate change is certainly a thing that all of us as humans really have a vested interest in, and as researchers in that area of energy and fuel consumption, KAUST has a huge leadership role.”

Accurately calculating fluid dynamics — how air flows over wings and bodywork, for instance — could help the aerospace industry and carmakers create more aerodynamic electric vehicles.

Such calculations are extremely complex, taking weeks or even months of classical computing time. Quantum computers, by contrast, allow for speedups, various algorithms and differential equations.




Christopher Savoie, co-founder and CEO of Zapata. (Supplied)

“We use them technically to solve these very difficult mathematical problems,” Savoie said. “We’re talking about cutting weeks and months of time off of the supercomputing time budgets, and also, extra literal budgets, by doing this.

“That means faster iterations in these simulations of the surfaces for vehicles, to create more efficient vehicles for the future.”

Although the partnership has no specific timeframe, both parties hope it will grow in the future, starting with initial research problems that have been identified in the aerospace field.

“KAUST is involved in biotechnology and many other fields, like pharmaceutical development, that will benefit from quantum computing in the future,” Savoie said. “Other optimization and automation problems will all be affected by this technology.

“KAUST is a leading research university in the region, and one that we hope becomes what we call a ‘center of excellence for quantum computing,’ where many academic and industrial partners can come out to collaborate on pushing this technology forward.”

The focus is now on research and development, software development and training for graduate students.




KAUST has entered into a partnership with US-based quantum-computing startup Zapata Computing. (Supplied)

“This is going to be a step function in change, just like computers,” Savoie said.

“If you think about how computers have influenced our society in the last few decades, quantum computers are going to be competing (going forward). It’s going to be at least that much, if not more, of an impact on what we’re capable of doing in many areas of human activity.”

Zapata views KAUST as a leader in this area, looking to bring the advantages of quantum computing to the region.

In the initial phase, new graduate students will receive interactive training on an online forum, due to COVID-19 restrictions, with the hope of resuming face-to-face tuition in the near future.

“The immediate next step is for Zapata to train our KAUST users and from there to start running simulations,” said Cullen.

“After that, stay tuned. We could be on the verge of some major breakthroughs.”

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Twitter: @CalineMalek

 


Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
Updated 18 min 29 sec ago

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sends letter to UAE president
  • The message dealt with ways to develop bilateral relations
  • It was delivered by Saudi foreign minister during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Salman sent a written message to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, regarding their strong bilateral relations and ways to support and enhance them, Saudi Press Agency reported on Monday.
The message was delivered by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan during a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai.
During the reception, Prince Faisal conveyed greetings from King Salman to Sheikh Khalifa, wishing him and the Emirati people continued progress and prosperity.
Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE president expressed appreciation for the Saudi monarch, wishing him good health and wellness and the Saudi people further development and growth. 


Saudi crown prince leaves for Oman on first leg of GCC tour

Saudi crown prince leaves for Oman on first leg of GCC tour
Updated 31 min 28 sec ago

Saudi crown prince leaves for Oman on first leg of GCC tour

Saudi crown prince leaves for Oman on first leg of GCC tour
  • The tour is aimed at boosting and strengthening ties with GCC countries
  • Oman says his visit affirms the fraternal ties and historical relations binding both nations

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman left the Kingdom for Oman on Monday, the first leg of multiple stops in his tour of Gulf states.
Prince Mohammed’s visit comes “based on directives from King Salman, his keenness to communicate with the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), and to strengthen ties,” the Royal Court said in a statement issued by Saudi Press Agency.
During his tour, the crown prince will meet with leaders and senior officials in the sultanate, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, to discuss bilateral relations and ways to enhance them in all fields, as well as other issues of common interest.
Expected to be on the agenda when he meets with Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tariq are issues of mutual concern and ways to promote the interests of the two Gulf countries as well as ‘fulfilling the aspirations and hopes’ of their peoples, Oman’s state news agency ONA reported earlier on Monday.
The visit is an “affirmation of the ties of fraternity and kinship, and the historical relations binding the Sultanate of Oman and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” ONA said, adding both countries “are set for a new stage of economic and investment cooperation in all fields.”
Last July, the two countries reaffirmed plans to engage in joint investment in advanced technologies, innovation, renewable energy projects, industry health, real estate, tourism, petrochemical converting industries, supply chains, logistics partnership, information technology and financial technology, the ONA report said.
“The achievements made over the past five months and the active exchange of visits among officials reflect the keen desire of the two countries to work together.” This includes establishing the Saudi-Omani Investment Forum that was held in Muscat in August, where a number of agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed.


Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition

Saudi defenses destroy several drones launched by Yemen’s Houthis toward the Kingdom: Arab coalition
  • Bahrain strongly condemned the attack

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s air defenses destroyed Houthi drones targeting the Kingdom, the Arab coalition said early on Monday.

The drones were shot down in Yemen before they could cause harm.

This follows the downing of several drones launched by the Iran-back militia on Sunday.

The action comes as the Arab coalition forces have been eliminating militia assets in recent weeks, including weapons and personnel.

The militia frequently launch cross border attacks using explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles targeting populated areas in the Kingdom’s southern region.

The group, who seized the Yemeni capital in 2014, have been fighting the internationally recognized government, which is supported by the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Earlier on Sunday, the coalition said Saudi defenses intercepted and destroyed four drones that tried to target the southern region.

The Arab Parliament denounced the attacks and said they constitute a clear violation of the Stockholm Agreement, which stipulates a cease-fire.

It “called on the international community to take an immediate and decisive stance to stop these repeated terrorist acts, and to prevent this militia from acquiring advanced military technology, which the Iranian regime supplies and used to target vital and civilian facilities.”

The UAE strongly condemned the attempts to target the Kingdom and said the continuation of these terrorist attacks by the Houthi militia reflects its blatant defiance of the international community.

Bahrain also strongly condemned the attacks, saying it “reflects the militias’ continued sinister and systematic attacks to target civilians and innocent lives.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed Bahrain’s support for all measures Saudi Arabia takes to ensure the security and safety of its territory, citizens and residents.

The war in Yemen has now raged for seven years, with some of the fiercest fighting taking place this year in the resource-rich and government-held province of Marib.

On Sunday, three Yemeni civilians were wounded when four Houthi missiles landed in residential areas in Marib.

Large explosions rocked the city after the four missiles hit the airport, Al-Shareka and Rawdha neighborhoods, residents said.

Footage on social media showed thick smoke billowing from shelled areas as people fled.

“The Houthi militia’s repeated targeting of the city of Marib, which is crowded with millions of residents and displaced people, with ballistic missiles is part of its attempts to inflict a big number of casualties among civilians. This is a cowardly act of revenge,” said Moammar Al-Eryani, Yemen’s information minister.


Finnish runner to cross Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
Updated 06 December 2021

Finnish runner to cross Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter, the world’s largest sand desert

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. (Shutterstock)
  • Jukka Viljanen will set off on Dec. 6 on a 25-day journey through 1,300 km of desert terrain, with the aim of becoming the first person to run across the massive desert
  • "This dream to run across the Empty Quarter has been my passion. I am very passionate about it because Rub Al-Khali is the biggest and the most beautiful sand desert in the world, it inspires me. My passion keeps me motivated to run for adventure"

RIYADH: A Finnish adventurer has set himself the challenge of joining the ranks of record-breaking pioneers who have made the grueling journey across Rub Al-Khali, Saudi Arabia’s Empty Quarter. Adventure runner Jukka Viljanen will set off on Dec. 6 on a 25-day journey through 1,300 km of desert terrain, with the aim of becoming the first person to run across the massive desert.

The Empty Quarter is the world’s largest uninterrupted sand mass, covering most of the southern third of the Arabian Peninsula. The vast landscape of ever-shifting dunes was explored between the early 1930s and the 1950s by the likes of Bertram Thomas, the first recorded Westerner to cross the desert, and Wilfred Thesiger, and their Arab companions.

More recently, photographer Anna Aiko crossed Rub Al-Khali on camel in 2019, and Italian explorer Max Calderan, a long-time resident of Dubai, completed the first solo crossing of the Empty Quarter in 2020. Previous explorers have crossed shorter sections of Rub Al-Khali on camels or in off-road vehicles.

Given the inhospitable terrain and testing conditions, the journey is a test of endurance however it is undertaken but Viljanen aims to take the challenge to another level by running the whole way, covering about 50 kilometers a day. His challenge has been organized by Delta Adventures, a leader in desert journeys and adventures in Saudi Arabia.

Finnish adventure runner Jukka Viljanen (file photo)

“I started as an adventure runner 15 years ago,” Viljanen said during an exclusive interview with Arab News. “I am very passionate about the sand dunes; they energize me. I love the desert.

“It has become a challenge for me as the Empty Quarter has not been crossed fully yet. I want to make it with my team. I am very passionate about creating history by crossing it successfully.

HIGHLIGHT

Given the inhospitable terrain and testing conditions, the journey is a test of endurance however it is undertaken but Jukka Viljanen aims to take the challenge to another level by running the whole way, covering about 50 kilometers a day. His challenge has been organized by Delta Adventures, a leader in desert journeys and adventures in Saudi Arabia.

“This dream to run across the Empty Quarter has been my passion. I am very passionate about it because Rub Al-Khali is the biggest and the most beautiful sand desert in the world, it inspires me. My passion keeps me motivated to run for adventure. It’s my passion that brought me here.”

Viljanen said he chose Dec. 6 as the start date for his adventure for a special reason: “It’s the Finnish National Day.”

The expedition will be his first experience of running in the Empty Quarter, though has run in other Saudi deserts. In fact he has run in a number of challenging environments around the world.

“In 2007, I went to the North Pole where I participated in a marathon with snowshoes,” he said. “Then I did another marathon with a mountain bike.

“After the North Pole I decided to challenge myself more so I entered another race, which was in the Libyan Sahara in 2008. I did a 200km race over there. Then I went to Antarctica, the southernmost continent and site of the South Pole

"Some years later, I decided to run across (more) deserts. My first event was at the Kalahari Desert in 2010.”

I am very passionate about the sand dunes; they energize me. I love the desert. Jukka Viljanen

Viljanen ran across more than 1,000 km of the Kalahari in 20 days, including some of the most remote wilderness areas in Botswana.

“A few years later I was the first one to run across the Sahara Desert, which was 1,628 km in 31 days,” he added. “Two years ago I was able to run across the second-biggest ice sheet in the world … across the icecap of Greenland. That was approximately 600 km.”

His experiences and achievements are remarkable but he has no intention of stopping any time soon — quite the opposite.

“I want to go further and out of my comfort zone,” Viljanen said. “I want to raise the bar for myself, and that’s the reason I am here in Saudi Arabia: I want to be the first person to run across the Empty Quarter.”

He will run alone but will be accompanied by a backup team consisting of Saudis and a friend from Finland. The team leaders are Mohammed Al-Khamis and Ady Al-Khamis, the owners of Delta Adventures.

“I have known them since 2014, when I was here in Riyadh for the first time,” said Viljanen “They have been to the Empty Quarter before. I consider them my extended family.”

The climate in Saudi Arabia is a lot different to his native Finland but Viljanen is taking it all in his stride.

“Yes, it’s a lot warmer but I am quite used to it because of my experiences in the Sahara and Kalahari deserts,” he said. “I like that it’s warm, I take that as a bonus.”

He said he hopes he will have a chance to talk to young people in Saudi Arabia to share his experiences and help inspire them in their own lives and ambitions.

“I would like to speak to the Saudi people after the voyage,” Viljanen said. “I will be back here to share my story. People should raise their bar and they should have new goals in their lives, coming out of their comfort zone. It cannot be achieved sitting in their comfort zone. People have lots of potential but they don’t know it; we should motivate them to become role models for others.

“The main message is ‘challenge yourself.’ I am a motivational speaker and will give motivational talks to Saudi students and people to inspire them to accept the challenge and get out of their comfort zone, because the magic happens outside of the comfort zone. The Empty Quarter is not a comfort zone; the magic will happen there.”

This visit is Viljanen’s fifth to Saudi Arabia, and he said he is always impressed by Saudi traditions and the reception he receives.

“Besides my passion to run, I want to learn about new cultures,” he added. “I am amazed by the warm hospitality of the Saudi people. I attended a Saudi wedding ceremony on Wednesday. It was a blessing. I joined them in traditional dance and enjoyed it.”

It remains to be seen how his Empty Quarter challenge will compare to previous tests, but he is clear about what has been his most difficult undertaking so far.

“It was Greenland,” Viljanen said. “Crossing the ice sheet in 2019 was very difficult. It was full of snow and very cold. The terrain was really very difficult but it was very rewarding. I realized that I have potential, and here I am because of my North Pole experience.”

If running across the ice was his most challenging test, deserts present their own challenges.

“Sand makes it tough,” he explained. “It can ruin your legs so you really need to focus on taking care. Hot weather is another challenge but I keep myself very much hydrated. I drink every 20-30 minutes. I keep myself energized by eating every hour so my sugar level does not drop.”


Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail
Updated 06 December 2021

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail

Saudi and Bahraini naval forces launch joint exercise in Jubail

RIYADH: The Royal Saudi Naval Forces and their Bahraini counterparts launched a mixed bilateral naval exercise in the Eastern Province on the Arabian Gulf, the Saudi defense ministry announced on Sunday.

The JISR-22 exercise was held at King Abdul Aziz Naval Base in Jubail.

Vice Admiral Majid bin Hazza Al-Qahtani, commander of the Eastern Fleet, said that the exercise will enhance the capabilities that ensure the security and stability of the region, and develop operational compatibility and tactical efficiency.

The exercise will also strengthen capabilities in naval operations, with the participation of the Royal Saudi Air Force in close air support.

Al-Qahtani added that the exercise is an extension of the JISR (bridge) exercises, which are carried out periodically between the two countries, and aims to enhance security cooperation, secure territorial waters, and unify concepts and joint work.