News/Events

Lase cooling setup

Laser-cooled YbOH molecules could aid the hunt for new physics

May 4, 2020

Physicists at Harvard University and Arizona State University in the US have succeeded in laser-cooling YbOH molecules – a crucial first step towards using these molecules to make precision measurements of the electron’s electric dipole moment (eEDM). Their work was augmented by a related effort, carried out by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Temple University, to enhance the brightness of a beam of cold YbOH. The results appear in separate ...

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Figure 1: a new refrigerator for molecules

Collisional Cooling of Ultracold Molecules

April 8, 2020

A diatomic molecule consists of two atoms, held together by a chemical bond. But these molecules are more than just a pair of atoms: if one atom is different from the other, the molecules become polar. This polarity empowers the diatomic molecules to strongly interact with each other, even at long distance. These molecules can also vibrate or rotate--something that single atoms cannot do--giving us extra-knobs to control their quantum behavior. These special features of the molecules make them important and powerful candidates for quantum computers and quantum simulators as well as a...

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N95 mask

Experts Teaming Up to Evaluate Protocol for Reuse of N95 Masks

April 3, 2020

The growing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges in the supply chain have resulted in severe shortages of N95 masks and reports of frequent mask reuse. This practice poses serious safety risks to healthcare workers. To help decision-makers develop back-up procedures that are as safe as possible, researchers from Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, and other institutions teamed up to evaluate existing N95 decontamination methods and plot a practical course forward for implementing them.

The consortium issued a report detailing the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in...

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figure 1 from the article: Phase diagram of the 2D Rydberg Hamiltonian

Phases of a Two-Dimensional Rydberg Atom Array

March 31, 2020

The ability to fully control coherent quantum many-body systems is an exciting and rapidly developing frontier. Besides quantum information processing, controlled many-body systems can enable new insights into strongly correlated phases of matter. On this front, arrays of neutral atoms trapped in optical tweezers and interacting via controlled excitations into atomic Rydberg states provide an especially promising platform. In fact, their particular properties have allowed for the programmable realization and high-fidelity manipulation of a wide range of effective interacting spin models...

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Figure 1: Sample video, questions, and answers from our CoLlision Events for Video Representation and Reasoning (CLEVRER) dataset.

A Hybrid AI Model Lets It Reason about the World’s Physics Like a Child

March 6, 2020

A new data set reveals just how bad AI is at reasoning—and suggests that a new hybrid approach might be the best way forward.

Questions, questions: Known as CLEVRER, the data set consists of 20,000 short synthetic video clips and more than 300,000 question and answer pairings that reason about the events in the videos. Each video shows a simple world of toy objects that collide with one another following simulated physics. In one, a red rubber ball hits a blue rubber cylinder...

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Book cover for "The Second Kind of Impossible"

Harvard Science Book Talk: Paul Steinhardt, "The Second Kind of Impossible"

March 5, 2020

THE SECOND KIND OF IMPOSSIBLE tells one of the strangest scientific stories that you will ever hear – a thirty-five year quest for new forms of matter, known as quasicrystals, that violate scientific principles that had been established for centuries. The talk will describe the scientific odyssey that unfolds over the ensuing decades, first to prove the validity of the idea, and then to pursue Steinhardt's wildest conjecture: that nature made quasicrystals long before humans discovered them. Along the way, his team encounters clandestine collectors, corrupt scientists, secret...

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A "discharging capacitor" demo performed in Physical Sciences 3, taught by Louis Deslauriers

From YouTube to Your School

February 28, 2020
YouTube has become the go-to for quick tutorials on almost any topic, from how to replace a zipper to how to install a water heater. But could some of the most memorable parts of a STEM course — live demonstrations — be brought to the screen effectively? In a new paper, Harvard researchers show for the first time that research-based online STEM demonstrations not only can teach students more, but can be just as enjoyable.

Researchers hope these findings will help spur the creation of a catalogue of free online STEM video demonstrations to supplement lectures at institutions that cannot...

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Schematic drawing of the resistivity of magic-angle graphene

Experiments on magic-angle graphene reveal a “strange metal” phase and transport behavior consistent with so-called Planckian dissipation

February 20, 2020

Magic-angle graphene captured the attention of condensed-matter physicists in 2018 when it was discovered that this material—made of two sheets of graphene with slightly misaligned lattice orientations—is a superconductor. Moreover, observations showed that the phase diagram of magic-angle graphene is similar to that of copper oxide high-temperature superconductors, with an insulating region next to a dome-shaped superconducting region. Now, Pablo Jarillo-Herrero from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and his colleagues report that magic-angle graphene...

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