Matter & Energy 

The Big Bell Test: Global physics experiment challenges Einstein

On November 30th, 2016, more than 100,000 people around the world contributed to a suite of first-of-a-kind quantum physics experiments known as The BIG Bell Test. Using smartphones and other internet-connected devices, participants contributed unpredictable bits, which determined how entangled atoms, photons, and superconducting devices were measured in twelve laboratories around the world. Scientists used the human input to close a stubborn loophole in tests of Einstein’s principle of local realism. The results have now been analysed, and are reported in this week’s Nature.

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Computers & Math 

Antimatter study to benefit from recipe for ten-fold spatial compression of plasma

An international team of physicists studying antimatter have now derived an improved way of spatially compressing a state of matter called non-neutral plasma, which is made up of a type of antimatter particles, called antiprotons, trapped together with matter particles, like electrons. The new compression solution, which is based on rotating the plasma in a trapped cavity using centrifugal forces like a salad spinner, is more effective than all previous approaches. In this study published in EPJ D, the team shows that — under specific conditions — a ten-fold compression of the size of the antiproton cloud, down to a radius of only 0.17 millimetres, is possible.

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Mind & Brain 

Conventional view of opioid mechanism of action upended in new study

A new discovery shows that opioids used to treat pain, such as morphine and oxycodone, produce their effects by binding to receptors inside neurons, contrary to conventional wisdom that they acted only on the same surface receptors as endogenous opioids, which are produced naturally in the brain. However, when researchers funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) used a novel molecular probe to test that common assumption, they discovered that medically used opioids also bind to receptors that are not a target for the naturally occurring opioids. NIDA is part of the National Institutes of Health.

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Matter & Energy 

New polymer manufacturing process saves 10 orders of magnitude of energy

Makers of cars, planes, buses — anything that needs strong, lightweight and heat resistant parts — are poised to benefit from a new manufacturing process that requires only a quick touch from a small heat source to send a cascading hardening wave through a polymer. Researchers at the University of Illinois have developed a new polymer-curing process that could reduce the cost, time and energy needed, compared with the current manufacturing process.

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