Tag Archives: control

Team finds hidden state of matter in superconductive alloy

Using the physics equivalent of strobe photography, researchers have used ultrafast spectroscopy to visualize electrons interacting as a hidden state of matter in a superconductive alloy.

It takes intense, single-cycle pulses of photons—flashes—hitting the cooled alloy at terahertz speed—trillions of cycles per second—to switch on this hidden state of matter by modifying quantum interactions down at the atomic and subatomic levels.

“We are creating and controlling a new quantum matter that can’t be achieved by any other means.”

And then it takes a second terahertz light to trigger an ultrafast camera to take images of the state of matter that, when fully understood and tuned, could one day have implications for faster and heat-free quantum computing, information storage, and communication.

The discovery of this new switching scheme and hidden quantum phase was full of conceptual and technical challenges.

To find new, emergent electron states of matter beyond solids, liquids, and gases, today’s condensed matter physicists can no longer fully rely on traditional, slow, thermodynamic tuning methods such as changing temperatures, pressures, chemical compositions, or magnetic fields, says Jigang Wang, professor of physics and astronomy at Iowa State University and a faculty scientist at the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.

“The grand, open question of what state is hidden underneath superconductivity is universal, but poorly understood,” Wang says. “Some hidden states appear to be inaccessible with any thermodynamic tuning methods.”

The new quantum switching scheme developed by the researchers (they call it terahertz light-quantum-tuning) uses short pulses of trillionths of a second at terahertz frequency to selectively bombard, without heating, superconducting niobium-tin, which at ultracold temperatures can conduct electricity without resistance. The flashes suddenly switch the model compound to a hidden state of matter.

In most cases, exotic states of matter such as the one described in this research paper are unstable and short-lived. In this case, the state of matter is metastable, meaning it doesn’t decay to a stable state for an order of magnitude longer than other, more typical transient states of matter.

The fast speed of the switch to a hidden quantum state likely has something to do with that.

“Here, the quantum quench (change) is so fast, the system is trapped in a strange ‘plateau’ and doesn’t know how to go back,” says Wang, corresponding author of the paper in Nature Materials. “With this fast-quench, yet non-thermal system, there’s no normal place to go.”

A remaining challenge for the researchers is to figure out how to control and further stabilize the hidden state and determine if it is suitable for quantum logic operations, Wang says. That could allow researchers to harness the hidden state for practical functions such as quantum computing and for fundamental tests of bizarre quantum mechanics.

It all starts with the researchers’ discovery of a new quantum switching scheme that gives them access to new and hidden states of matter.

“We are creating and controlling a new quantum matter that can’t be achieved by any other means,” says Wang.

Source: Iowa State University

The post Team finds hidden state of matter in superconductive alloy appeared first on Futurity.

New trial confirms aerobic exercise does improve schizophrenia symptoms

A new study bolsters the body of evidence suggesting aerobic exercise can directly reduce the negative ...

Exercise is good for you. This isn’t news of course, but there is a growing body of research that is starting to suggest that exercise can improve a variety of cognitive deficits in conditions we traditionally wouldn’t think physical activity could affect. A new trial into the effects of aerobic exercise on schizophrenia has confirmed it does indeed lessen negative symptoms associated with the condition.

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Mind-reading robots are no longer science fiction

Meet Baxter, a worker ‘bot built by MIT. If you think he’s made a mistake, he takes notice–and corrects himself.

New research developed at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) lets a person control a robotic arm with brainwaves and subtle hand gestures. It’s the stuff of X-Men, manga robots, and joystick-piloted spaceships–except, in this case, it’s quite real.

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Exciting insight into role gut bacteria play in obesity-related depression and anxiety

A new study has found gut bacteria may play a part in anxiety and depression seen ...

A compelling new study from researchers at Joslin Diabetes Center has shed more light on the mysterious connection between our diet, gut bacteria and mood. The study found that mice given a high-fat diet displayed greater depressive behaviors until microbiome-altering antibiotics returned their behavior back to normal.

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Amazon Prime Video is helping spread misinformation through conspiracy videos

The Telegraph has an interesting report that highlights a growing problem for video streaming providers: the increasing amount of conspiracy videos peddling often-debunked narratives on services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. The report specifically focuses on Prime Video and notes how paying subscribers get access to conspiracy videos by the likes of Alex Jones and David Icke. Jones is notorious for saying the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was a false flag operation to help impose gun control in the U.S.–and the half-dozen videos Amazon Prime hosts of his include ideas like the Obama administration was backed by the New World Order to “attempt to con the American people into accepting global slavery.”

Other videos offered on Prime Video include anti-vaccine conspiracy videos. Critics of such conspiracy videos argue that by appearing on paid-for services such as Netflix and Prime Video the services are lending the videos a sense of accuracy and authenticity as they are available alongside respected, fact-driven documentaries. That’s opposed to the conspiracy videos appearing on a place like YouTube, where viewers know anyone can upload almost anything they want. Of course, if Amazon and Netflix yank the videos from their service, conspiracy peddlers could say that is just another part of the conspiracy to suppress the information their bogus videos are peddling.

My dad taught me how to deal with bullies, because he was one

“Teddy, what’s three times five?” It’s asked in a voice I can’t ignore.

“Fifteen.”

“And what’s four times five?” More demanding now.

“Twenty,” I say, dreading the next question, knowing exactly where he’s going with this. Knowing, too, that tears are about to spill.

They do.

“Okay crybaby, what’s four times six?”

I think the right answer is just four higher than the last one–or is it six higher?–but I can’t think, and instead I feel a yawn coming. The body’s same self-sabotaging illogic that’s got me crying as the worst imaginable moment. Yawning will really piss him off.

I lose out to the yawn.

“Bored stupid, are you? Or just plain dumb? You’ll never get through the fourth grade!” Dad’s voice is rising now. And here it is: “You stupid little shit.”


Bullying is a form of violence. It’s intended to dominate a victim into submission. When we’re under attack, our rational minds shut down, moving into their self-protective “fight-or-flight” modes. (We typically learn about this process in high school biology class, as I’d wind up discovering five years after passing the fourth grade, no thanks to my father.) When we can’t fight or run away, we freeze or surrender. These are normal human responses to being in danger.

My dad was a bully. And experiences like learning my multiplication tables taught me a lot about bullying. His attacks drove away any possibility of remembering what four times anything was. It gave him absolute power over me. It still pains me to write this, to recall the deep well of absolute despair into which he’d plunge me. The whole exercise wasn’t about learning; it was about him being “smarter” than I was, and proving it by emotional blunt force, shattering any hope of returning back into the world as a normal kid.

Bullies bully to be in control because they feel powerless themselves. They bully not to inform, not to help. Theirs is never constructive criticism; it’s destructive criticism. (Even so, I never missed my father’s point: I needed to learn my multiplication tables and hadn’t put the time in.) I came to realize, as well, that bullying is situational; bullies usually only bully under certain circumstances. Somewhere deep down (and among other motivations having nothing to do with me), my father was afraid I wouldn’t be successful. Unfortunately, he didn’t know how to help without demeaning and shaming me. If I resisted or didn’t respond, he could only escalate; for him, there was no gentler approach.

I wasn’t stupid, and I knew it even as he berated me. I was pretty sure I was smarter than most kids in my class. I also knew I was smarter than he was.

I wasn’t a crybaby, either. I knew I was just overwhelmed by my father’s ruthlessness. I’d seen my mother in tears from his cruelty, too.

Bullies follow patterns of their own design, inevitably turning their victims into skilled observers of human behavior. I compiled a mental encyclopedia of all the situations that might trigger my dad and did everything I could to avoid them. Looking back, it’s easy to see that I developed anti-bullying techniques unconsciously, purely out of survival. I couldn’t change my father and I couldn’t leave him. But I learned through trial and error how to reduce my vulnerability. These are a few of the rules I’d cobbled together by age 11 or 12:

  1. Keep your distance. I stayed away from my dad as much as possible, and I made plans to leave home as soon as possible.
  2. Flatter. When I had to spend time with my father, I praised his strengths to keep him from finding fault with me. The flattery, combined with sidestepping sensitive subjects, actually created a workable dynamic between us much of the time.
  3. Tell someone when you can. Once after getting caught running away from home, I asked the priest of our church for help. I knew that using an authority my father would respect could help keep him in check for a while.

My father’s bullying was out in the open, overt and aggressive. There was nothing subtle about it, and my resistance strategies were just as makeshift as you’d expect from a kid weathering that type of crossfire. But they kept me going. In the business world, I later found, bullying is usually (but not always) more masked, and more sophisticated.

Bullying to curry favor

At first I think it’s my fault, but after six months in my first professional position, I realize my new boss is sneaky, deceptive, and mean. He takes credit for others’ work and demeans his staff in public. He invents infractions to accuse his team members of when his superiors are around. He seems motivated to build his reputation as a hard-driving manager focused intently on continuous improvement–the favored leadership style of the moment. Any attempt to protest earns swift humiliation and blame. We staffers resort to total passivity to survive.

“People leave bosses, not jobs,” they say, and it’s true. I quit after nine months.

Bullying to seem smart

It’s years later. I’m running a design firm. No one on my staff is as poised or confident as Gretchen when interacting with clients. But her coworkers are starting to resist joining her on projects. I suspect something is wrong, but Gretchen is responsible for substantial billings. People who can manage clients are hard to find and harder to replace. So I bury my concerns.

Then two designers approach me to speak about her confidentially. “Ted, she gets us to contribute designs on her projects,” Terry starts. “She adds our best ideas to her solutions. Then she presents using our work to get the client to see the benefits of hers.

Sally agrees. “She has an imperialistic style with us. She’s superior and disdainful, and she ignores our comments. She even rolls her eyes when we try to speak up. Once she made me work all night after I’d critiqued her solution.”

I realize that I’ve avoided giving my star player the corrective feedback she needs. I’ve been too afraid of losing her. I make an appointment to speak with Gretchen the next day. When I offer some gentle pointers about working more collaboratively, she seems receptive, and I feel relieved. Duty done.

Months pass, and I turn my attention elsewhere. Then Kay, one of my creative directors, appears at my door.

“Ted, Gretchen has to go, or I’m out of here.”

“What happened?” I ask, fully anticipating the answer.

“I know you spent a bunch of time with Gretchen last fall, but nothing actually changed. She just got sneakier. She’ll never change.”

Gretchen doesn’t use profanity, name call, or raise her voice like my father did. But she uses her position of authority to demean, dismiss, and dominate exactly like he did. Sadly, she’s equally incapable of seeing that she could get better results by working with her team than by bullying them.

I let Gretchen go the next day.

Bullying to hide insecurity

Paul is an account director with a bad habit: He makes creative commitments to clients without consulting his team, earning him the nickname “PowerPoint Paul,” because he once went into a slide deck overnight to change a design to something he thought the client would like better.

I call him on it. He launches into a series of justifications that in his mind made it okay to circumvent his team. Is he bullying them? Not exactly, but Paul’s knack for deceitfully taking control and undermining his colleagues isn’t far off the mark–and I suspect that his own lack of confidence is the culprit. Meanwhile, his coworkers feel powerless, forced to submit to his way of doing things.

When I describe to him a series of similar incidents I’d been made aware of, Paul starts crying. Once he recovers we map out a better way for him to approach the creative team with client concerns. With a bit of coaching and help from his colleagues, he’s eventually able to change tack and gradually rebuilds trust with his team. And I’m able to retain a talented account manager.


In the years since learning my multiplication tables and moving on to tackle Gretchen- and Paul-size problems, I’ve revised my playbook for handling bullies:

  1. Remember it’s not about you. Bullies aren’t bullies out of nowhere. My dad was a war vet. We never talked about it, but he could very well have been suffering from post-traumatic stress. I later came to realize that his bullying, while painful for me, was really far more about him.
  2. Observe, and plan an escape. Whenever my father was bullying me, I was unable to do anything but shut down and take it. But I always knew what was going on. Recognize the behavior you’re experiencing for what it is–and know that the trauma will pass. Then strategically plan your escape from the tyranny, like Kay managed to do. Commit to not weathering abuse indefinitely.
  3. Find support. Bullies can leave you feeling ashamed or unworthy of others’ respect, and the tendency is to isolate yourself so others don’t see that. But seeking help and advice from trusted friends, peers, or a professional can help you find a path forward. Isolation will only drive you deeper into submission. If you decide to report the bully, choose an authority carefully–one who has the resources to assist you, confidentially if need be, and won’t make the situation worse (even unintentionally).

Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic that we’ll ever live in a bully-free world. But understanding bullies’ motivations, tactics, and patterns can help you contain and escape them.

For me, total escape from dad’s bullying didn’t come until I took my first professional position. I’d been slowly distancing myself from home, and him, for years–first with part-time jobs that paid for clothes and cars, and later with full-time summer employment that included room and board. But it was my first job as a design illustrator that allowed me to step away from him completely.

Best of all, my starting salary was more than he’d ever made. I calculated that one in my head without even trying.

Amazon's Fire TV Cube brings voice control to your whole entertainment setup

Amazon's Fire TV Cube lets you bark voice commands at your TV and other devices

Most remote controls are loaded with buttons that you probably never use, and sometimes hide the few you do. Now Amazon has announced the latest in its line of Alexa-enabled streaming devices, the Fire TV Cube, which lets you bark voice commands at the TV and other devices from across the room, and access other Alexa mainstays like weather and sports updates.

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This Planned Parenthood tool tracks Trump’s war on women’s health

“[T]here’s just so much going on that people don’t know what’s happening. But when they find out what’s happening, they’re furious.”

When you think of the Trump administration’s ongoing battle against women’s health, you might envision Mike Pence or Trump himself as the primary players. The name Valerie Huber probably doesn’t come to mind–but Huber, who is the senior policy advisor to the assistant secretary for health, has an outsize influence on who gets birth control in the U.S. That’s because she’s in charge of deciding which healthcare organizations get funding from the nation’s program for affordable birth control. It turns out Huber doesn’t believe in abortion at all, and is a staunch advocate for abstinence-only sex ed. Since she joined the Department of Health and Human Services last summer, funding has been cut to a program meant to help teens safely learn about sex and prevent teen pregnancy.

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New antibiotic silences genes to single out bad bacteria

Researchers at Penn State have developed an antibiotic that targets a specific species of bad bacteria, ...

Antibiotics are effective at killing bacteria (for now, at least), but they aren’t very picky, indiscriminately wiping out both good and bad bacteria. This can upset the fragile balance of your microbiome, which is increasingly being linked to general health and wellbeing. Now, researchers at Penn State have developed a new approach to make a drug that can single out a specific, opportunistic bacteria known as C. difficile.

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