Physical Sciences

Adaptive experiments: Machine learning can help scientific discovery

Machine learning can help scientists design experiments. Scientific discovery relies on experiments that build our understanding of natural phenomena, and traditionally has been based on trial and error. Depending on the goal, different machine learning strategies can be used for adaptive experiments: active learning, maximising information gain, Bayesian optimisation, bandit approaches, and reinforcement learning. Cheng Soon Ong, machine learning scientist […]

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Physical Sciences

Retrocausality: How backwards-in-time effects could explain quantum weirdness

Since the earliest days of quantum theory, physicists have struggled to reconcile the apparently nonlocal, faster-than-light interactions demanded by quantum mechanics with the strict laws of relativity. Dr Rod Sutherland at the University of Sydney, Australia, believes that the answer to this problem lies with ‘retrocausality’ – a concept which would allow quantum measurements to influence events in their past. […]

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Physical Sciences

What can Occam’s razor principle tell us about theories of dark matter?

Today, physicists have devised dozens of theories to explain the nature of dark matter. So far, however, not one of them has gained concrete proof through experiments. To narrow these theories down, Professor Eugene Oks at Auburn University, USA, advocates applying an important philosophical concept, which is often used when considering complex problems with many candidate solutions. Using Occam’s razor, […]

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Physical Sciences

How electrons and phonons promote heat transfer in material systems

Miniaturisation is one of the key features of current and future technologies for information processing and control. However, the ability to reduce the size of an electronic component is limited by a decrease in electrical conductivity and an increase in thermal energy dissipation as the device approaches the nano-scale regime. By studying the electronic and vibrational characteristics of high-purity iridium […]

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Physical Sciences

Making organic chemistry fun, meaningful, and accessible

Many undergraduate students perceive organic chemistry modules as make-or-break courses in their university career. They often resort to rote memorisation, which not only alienates them but prevents them understanding the discipline in depth. Social and economic factors may also be significant barriers in the study of this fundamental subject. With examples drawn from her extensive teaching experience, Dr Irosha N […]

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Physical Sciences

FAME – the green revolution of conventional biodiesel

The global shift away from petrochemical production towards bio-based solutions has given a boost to conventional biodiesel producers. However, they’re facing a challenger ‘from the inside’ – renewable biodiesel. Undaunted, a team of chemists and engineers from Airable Research Lab in the USA, led by Dr Dylan Karis, has revealed that conventional biodiesel – or fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) […]

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Physical Sciences

Imaging the dynamical hydration sphere of alkali metal ions

Alkali metal ions – lithium ion (Li+), sodium ion (Na+), potassium ion (K+), rubidium ion (Rb+), and caesium ion (Cs+) – play crucial roles in a variety of solution processes, but so far tracking their diffusive motion in water has been problematic. Professor Kikuko Hayamizu and her collaborators at Tsukuba University, Japan, have applied a technique based on nuclear magnetic […]

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Physical Sciences

Modelling and analysis of flows of viscoelastic fluids: Beyond the Navier–Stokes equations

The Navier–Stokes equations are important for science and engineering, since they describe the motion of fluids. For instance, they are used to model blood flow within arteries, an ocean’s currents, and dynamics of air around aeroplanes. A century ago, theoretical physicists and mathematicians made advances in the use of Navier–Stokes equations. Instead of considering these partial differential equations as a […]

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Physical Sciences

Waste into starting materials: Solvent-based recycling for the polymer industry

Polymer manufacturing is an essential business, but it poses a number of challenges from an environmental perspective. Many chemical processes are energy intensive as they require high temperatures or pressure to occur. Finding ways of reusing and recycling waste into valuable components is therefore incredibly important. At APK AG in Germany, the team around Dominik Triebert and Hagen Hanel has […]

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Physical Sciences

Revealing properties of regular convex polytopes in negative dimensions

Mathematics and physics extend the notion of dimensionality beyond the usual perception of three dimensions to consider higher-dimensional spaces (eg, four-dimensional space–time) as well as negative, fractionally, and complex dimensional spaces. The formulae describing properties such as area and volume of some geometric objects can result in indefiniteness, particularly when dealing with negative dimensions. Dr Szymon Łukaszyk, an independent researcher […]

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