Best of Last Week: A new state of matter, creating electricity from air, and restrictive diet risks

February 24, 2020 by Bob Yirka
electric field
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

It was another good week for physics as a team of researchers at the University of Chicago used math to propose a theory that predicts a state of matter could exist that conducts both electricity and energy perfectly. Also, a team at the University of Otago conducted a groundbreaking experiment in which they grabbed and held onto individual atoms—using their technique, they were able to observe previously unseen complex atomic interactions.

In technology news, a team working at EPFL's Laboratory for Applied Mechanical Design in Neuchâtel confirmed a 50-year-old theory in mechanics, the so-called "narrow groove" theory has been used in mechanics for more than a half-century despite never having been fully validated. Also, a team at the University of Washington built a simple, fuel-efficient rocket engine that could enable cheaper, lighter spacecraft. And a team at the University of California San Diego developed a new chip that brings ultra-low power Wi-Fi connectivity to Internet of Things devices. They claimed the new chip uses 5,000 times less power than conventional devices. Also, a team with members from Stanford University, MIT and the Toyota Research Institute announced the development of a new machine learning method that could be used to supercharge battery development for electric vehicles.

In other news, a team at the University of Rochester found evidence showing that old carbon reservoirs are unlikely to cause a massive greenhouse gas release—prior studies had shown that as the permafrost melts, huge amounts of methane would be released into the atmosphere. Also, a team at Pontifical University of Salamanca identified some of the main factors that lie behind the mental health benefits of mindfulness meditation practices. And a team at the University of Massachusetts Amherst developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.

And finally, if you have been pondering the idea of severely restricting your dietary intake with the hope of extending your lifespan, you might want to first check out a study conducted by a combined team from the Healthy Lifespan Institute at the University of Sheffield and Brown University—they found that switching fruit flies to a restricted diet and then switching them back to a normal diet shortened their lifespan.

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