Saturday Quotes: A big old black hole, declining polar bears, a prison for electrons

MIT physicists have trapped electrons in a pure crystal, marking the first realization of a flat electronic band in a three-dimensional material. This rare electronic state is due to a special cubic arrangement of atoms (pictured) that resembles the Japanese art of “kagome”. The results offer scientists a new way to explore rare electronic states in 3D materials. Credit: Joseph Checkelsky, Riccardo Comin et al.

This week we covered developments regarding a record-breaking black hole, the continuing plight of polar bears, ChatGPT trying to learn intuition and more. Don’t worry if you missed these stories. We have what you need here.

Retired Singularity

It’s hilarious to think that black holes were once such an extreme concept that Albert Einstein, a man so brilliant that his name would become a sarcastic retort denoting his incompetence, simply couldn’t accept them as a real-world phenomenon even if they were an inevitable consequence. of his own work.

Well, time passed, physics advanced, optics developed, and today we know that black holes have been around for about as long as matter has been in the universe. So who’s laughing now, Einstein? This week, NASA announced the discovery of the most distant (and therefore oldest) black hole ever observed, dating 470 million years after the big bang, when the universe was only 3% of its size. current age.

By exploiting gravitational lensing, the Chandra X-ray Observatory has captured the supermassive black hole in a galaxy called UHZ1, located 3.5 billion light-years from the sun, and provides a window into the early stages of growth black holes.

Retained particles

Electrons are too busy carrying charges through a conductor to mess around with each other. That’s how much they believe in the grind, bro. But when trapped together, they descend into the same energy state and exhibit strange behavior, like teenagers in detention. Unlike adolescents, their exotic behaviors include superconductivity and other quantum phenomena.

This is called a flat band state, which electrons in the wild do not experience. Oh sure, you can trap them in 2D material, but they can quickly escape via the pesky third dimension. But MIT scientists have succeeded in trapping electrons in a pure 3D crystal with highly symmetrical atomic geometry.

Study author Joseph Checkelsky, associate professor of physics, said: “Now that we know we can create a flat strip from this geometry, we are very motivated to study other structures that might have new physics that could provide a platform for new technologies. “.

Arctic Calescent

For decades, researchers predicting the looming climate crisis (now well underway) wondered what would happen to polar bears as sea ice diminished. And the unfortunate answer is that polar bears are dying, often from drowning or starvation. Polar bear populations are declining as melting polar ice reduces their habitat and diminishes the Arctic seal population; a new study shows a major impact on the polar bear population in Greenland over a period of 20,000 years.

Assistant Professor Michael Westbury and Professor Eline Lorenzen of the Globe Institute analyzed the genetic material of polar bears to better understand their development and population history and found that their numbers have experienced several profound declines since the last ice age.

Westbury says: “We see a worrying link between population decline and environmental change. A relatively small increase in water temperature and a slight reduction in the amount of sea ice results in a fairly dramatic decline in the polar bear population. The relationship is not linear. “.


I suppose it’s an unspoken truth that pharmaceutical researchers make many breakthroughs through intuition – for example, they are deep experts in difficult fields like organic chemistry, they spend all day for years doing spinning 3D diagrams of steroid hormones in their heads, and then one day they’re stuck on a problem, so they go take a hot shower and blame it – they have a sudden inspiration to synthesize urea by processing cyanate from silver with ammonium chloride or something.

According to researchers at the Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research and Microsoft Research AI4Science, this kind of thing happens, and they have been exploring methods to train an artificial intelligence system to seek out new pharmaceutical advances while taking a hot shower. Or at least apply intuition to the problem. They trained their system on data they compiled from a survey of 45 chemists, who chose from a list of 220 pairs of chemicals which ones they thought were candidates for new drugs .

The AI ​​system ranked the responses, scoring each pair based on its own estimates that the drug would have useful applications. The researchers used these results to train a second AI system that designs molecules, and while they didn’t cure cancer or anything, they produced results that they say warrant investigation future.

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