Best of Last Week: Hawking's black hole theorem, computer generated lyrics, five-minute workout

July 5, 2021 by Bob Yirka
black hole
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

It was a good week for space science as a team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the U.S., one in Canada and one in Israel discovered the most massive white dwarf ever observed—it was also the smallest, at just the size of the moon. Also, a team of astronomers studying data from the WIYN 3.5-meter Telescope and the Gemini Observatory reported that there could be many more Earth-sized planets than has been previously thought—perhaps twice as many. And a team with members affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. observationally confirmed Stephen Hawking's black hole theorem for the first time.

In technology news, a team at the University of California, Berkeley, created insect-sized robots that were able to navigate mazes with the agility of a cheetah. Also, a combined team from the University of Maryland, College Park and the Baidu Research Robotics and Auto-Driving Lab, developed an autonomous excavator for real-world deployment—the system was able to conduct digging and loading tasks for long periods of time with no human intervention at speeds equivalent to human operators. And a team at the University of Waterloo announced that they had developed a computer system able to generate lyrics for live instrumental music—called LyricJam, the system was designed to help artists more easily compose songs. Also, a team at Rice University developed a new method for indexing DNA databases much faster. The group claims their method cuts indexing from weeks to hours and also reduces search times to mere minutes.

In other news, a team with members affiliated with multiple institutions in the U.S. found a potential path to a broadly protective COVID-19 vaccine based on T cells—possibly leading the way to vaccines that could protect against future variants. Also, the United Nations announced that a new record high temperature had been recorded on the Antarctic continent—18.3 degrees Celsius—yet another sign of a warming planet.

And finally, if you suffer from , you may want to check out a research effort conducted by a team at Colorado University, Boulder—they found that exercising just five minutes a day, in a certain way, could lower blood pressure as well as prescribed medications.

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