Researchers make hybrid particles combining light and matter

Every type of atom in the universe has a unique fingerprint: It only absorbs or emits light at the particular energies that match the allowed orbits of its electrons. That fingerprint enables scientists to identify an atom wherever it is found. A hydrogen atom in outer space absorbs light at the same energies as one on Earth.

❝ While physicists have learned how electric and magnetic fields can manipulate this fingerprint, the number of features that make it up usually remains constant. In work published July 3 in the journal Nature, University of Chicago researchers challenged this paradigm by shaking electrons with lasers to create “doppelganger” features at new energies—a breakthrough that lets scientists create hybrid particles which are part-atom and part-light, with a wide variety of new behaviors.

What startling stuff. RTFA. Wrap your mind around manipulating quantum matter by shaking it!

Bloomberg: — An Economics Heathen Wins the Economics Nobel

Given how many psychologists and economists have already won the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences 1 — Daniel Kahneman (2002), Robert Shiller, Eugene Fama (2013) 2 — it seems contradictory to suggest that the Nobel Committee is finally recognizing the impact of behavioral psychology on economic decision-making by handing its 2017 award to Richard H. Thaler.

Counterintuitive as that history may make this proposal, it is consistent with the history of the Nobel Prize. It is, after all, funded by money made in dynamite. If any group wants its legacy to be that organizations, governments and companies need to pay more attention to how humans operate in the real world, it’s this one.

Officially, the Riksbank prize was for Thaler’s work on “the consequences of limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control, [showing] how these human traits systematically affect individual decisions as well as market outcomes.”

Unofficially, Thaler, perhaps more than anyone else, is best described as the father of behavioral economics. The repercussions of his work in helping organizations better understand human behaviors — and why traditional economics has failed so badly at this — are hard to overstate.

RTFA. Go read Thaler. If you’re anywhere near Dartmouth, try to find where Professor Danny Blanchflower is drinking tonight!

Thanks, Barry Ritholtz

Swine flu survivors developed super flu antibodies

A study of antibodies from people infected with H1N1 swine flu adds proof that scientists are closing in on a “universal” flu shot that could neutralize many types of flu strains, including H1N1 swine flu and H5N1 bird flu.

U.S. researchers said people who were infected in the H1N1 pandemic developed an unusual immune response, making antibodies that could protect them from all the seasonal H1N1 flu strains from the last decade, the deadly “Spanish flu” strain from 1918 and even a strain of the H5N1 avian flu.

“It says that a universal influenza vaccine is really possible,” said Patrick Wilson of the University of Chicago, who worked on the paper published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine…

Wilson’s team started making the antibodies in 2009 from nine people who had been infected in the first wave of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic before an H1N1 vaccine had been produced. The hope was to develop a way to protect healthcare personnel.

Working with researchers from Emory University School of Medicine, the team produced 86 antibodies that reacted with the H1N1 virus, and tested them on different flu strains. Of these, five were cross-protective, meaning they could interfere with many strains of flu including the 1918 “Spanish flu” and a strain of H5N1 or avian flu…

And some of these cross-protective antibodies were similar in structure to those discovered by other teams as having potential for a universal flu vaccine.

It demonstrates how to make a single vaccine that could potentially provide permanent immunity to all influenza,” Wilson said in a telephone interview.

Good news – and something we’ve been hearing from a number of sources. I’m encouraged enough to believe that, as in a few classic examples with other diseases, we may end up with more than one universal vaccine against flu.

Archaeologists uncover land wealthy before the wheel

A team of archaeologists from the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, along with a team of Syrian colleagues, is uncovering new clues about a prehistoric society that formed the foundation of urban life in the Middle East prior to invention of the wheel.

The mound of Tell Zeidan in the Euphrates River Valley near Raqqa, Syria, which had not been built upon or excavated for 6,000 years, is revealing a society rich in trade, copper metallurgy and pottery production. Artifacts recently found there are providing more support for the view that Tell Zeidan was among the first societies in the Middle East to develop social classes according to power and wealth.

A parallel development – no doubt – was a class of politicians telling all they were Free and Equal.

Tell Zeidan dates from between 6000 and 4000 B.C., and immediately preceded the world’s first urban civilizations in the ancient Middle East. It is one of the largest sites of the Ubaid culture in northern Mesopotamia.

Thus far, archaeologists have unearthed evidence of this society’s trade in obsidian and production and development of copper processing, as well as the existence of a social elite that used stone seals to mark ownership of goods and culturally significant items…

Covering about 31 acres, Tell Zeidan was situated where the Balikh River joins the Euphrates River in modern-day Syria. The location was at the crossroads of major, ancient trade routes in Mesopotamia that followed the course of the Euphrates River valley. The Ubaid period lasted from about 5300 to 4000 B.C.

“This enigmatic period saw the first development of widespread irrigation, agriculture, centralized temples, powerful political leaders and the first emergence of social inequality as communities became divided into wealthy elites and poorer commoners,” said Gil Stein, director of the Oriental Institute and a leader of the expedition.

“The research also is important because it provides insight into how complex societies, based on linkages which extended across hundreds of miles, developed,” said Yellen, noting the distance travelled for raw materials needed for many of the Tell Zeidan artifacts…

Fascinating stuff. I realize we live in a present-day culture immersed in instant gratification – whether your choice of satisfaction is electronic or superstition-based. 🙂 Still constructive to discover the intricate trail we followed through time and venture.