March 2023

What's new in exploration

Dinosaurs, CO2 and Quantum
William (Bill) Head / Contributing Editor

Supercomputer: what we attributed to a Cray or Wang in the 1970s, or to the IRS’s secret accountants, who processed your tax return. Wang’s FLOPS could not compete with a laptop from the mid-90s, except for storage. The onboard computer of Apollo 11 was nowhere near a basic TI calculator of 1975 or your current wristwatch, assuming you still wear one. 

Quantum: a theoretical idea that is supposed to supersede computing, based on avoiding the limits of speeding electrons [equals speed of light] in message-passing of compute instructions within a computer “chip,” or between “chips” of either vector or parallel processors.  

In a very difficult place to travel to, my physicist wife just returned from a quantum seminar at the University of Waterloo, Canada, the leading proponent of quantum ideas, at least in pushing the theory. (I take exception to her observation in that the Avengers already proved to me that quantum is a great concept.) While all geologic and geophysical exploration concepts and tools are structural physics-based (EM, gravity, acoustics, density, velocity, etc.), deductive calculations of terabyte data may take a giant leap forward if any of the quantum ideas prove out in practice. While I seriously doubt that quantum will deliver a 1012 increase in speed over the IBM Blue Gene/9, I do note that seismic processors are playing with the concept for 3D data. (Caution is due on quantum AI leading to “Terminator” scenarios.)

A. 2019, The potential applications of quantum computation in exploration geophysics:

“Recent advances in quantum computer hardware and software have led to a jump in the number of discipline areas of pure and applied science identifying themselves as stakeholders in quantum computation technology. Areas such as chemistry, biology, machine learning and finance are clearly on this list, and it is the purpose of our research to advocate that geophysics should be, too. In seismology, simulation is critical; ultimately, we would like to use quantum computation for numerical modeling of seismic wave propagation, for earthquake modeling and reservoir characterization. Seismic exploration and monitoring practitioners and researchers, in particular, stand to gain an enormously powerful tool when quantum computers come online. Meaningful advances in seismic exploration methods depend on progress in computer hardware and software technology. In our view, it is essential for geophysicists to start to become familiar with the ideas and the potential within the computers and algorithms in the quantum regime, in order to properly take advantage of these tools as they become available...” Shahpoor Moradi, University of Calgary, lecture at the Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo.

B. 2022, Quantum computational intelligence for travel time seismic inversion:

“Quantum computing is in its early stage of implementation. Its capacity has been growing in the last few years, but its application in several fields of sciences is still restricted to oversimplified problems. In this stage, it is important to identify the situations where quantum computing presents the most promising results, to be prepared when the technology is ready to be deployed. The geophysics field has several areas which are limited by the current computation capability; among them, the so-called seismic inversion is one of the most important ones which are strong candidates to benefit from quantum computing. In this work, we implement an approach for travel time seismic inversion through a near-term quantum algorithm, based on gradient-free quantum circuit learning. We demonstrate that a quantum computer with thousands of qubits, even if noisy, can solve geophysical problems. In addition, we compared the convergence of the method with the variational quantum algorithms.” Anton Simen Albino, Otto Menegasso Pires, Peterson Nogueira, Renato Ferreira de Souza and Erick Giovani Sperandio Nascimento, Cornel University.  

A long time ago and far, far away, dinosaurs proved that CO2 is a good molecule. We need it to survive, since our food source is plant-dependent. The dinosaurs knew that millions of years ago.  In a Columbia University paper entitled, CO2 Dip May Have Helped Dinosaurs Walk from South America to Greenland, Climate shift may have aided herbivores on a 6,500-mile trek author Dennis Kent says, “We know that with higher CO2, ‘the dry gets drier and the wet gets wetter. [So,] 230 million years ago, the high CO2 conditions could have made the arid belts too dry to support the movements of large herbivores that need to eat a lot of vegetation to survive. The tropics, too, may have been locked into rainy, monsoon-like conditions that may not have been ideal for sauropodomorphs. There is little evidence they ventured forth from the temperate, mid-latitude habitats they were adapted to in Argentina and Brazil. But when the CO2 levels dipped 215-212 million years ago, perhaps the tropical regions became more mild, and the arid regions became less dry.”  

Meaning, they migrated without the influence of humans. Humans still can muddy up the conversation. Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED, est. 1984) is a global educational organization that reaches out to your children through their teachers and is supported by Al Gore. I present a real, “fairy tale” spokesperson on climate change and her message on evil fossil energy supporters, (me and maybe someone you know). Please remove objects at hand, take some decaf and watch this link (Editor’s note—he’s not joking): 

I cannot make this stuff up. “Everything in the universe is connected to everything else”—Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, 1769. Ignore that relationship or create false flags, and the rest of the universe will run over you. 


About the Authors
William (Bill) Head
Contributing Editor
William (Bill) Head is a technologist with over 40 years of experience in U.S. and international exploration.
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