Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Matter


It is believed that not all quantum systems can be simulated efficiently using classical computational resources. This notion is supported by the fact that it is not known how to express the partition function in a sign-free manner in quantum Monte Carlo (QMC) simulations for a large number of important problems. The answer to the question-whether there is a fundamental obstruction to such a sign-free representation in generic quantum systems-remains unclear. Focusing on systems with bosonic degrees of freedom, we show that quantized gravitational responses appear as obstructions to local sign-free QMC. In condensed matter physics settings, these responses, such as thermal Hall conductance, are associated with fractional quantum Hall effects. We show that similar arguments also hold in the case of spontaneously broken time-reversal (TR) symmetry such as in the chiral phase of a perturbed quantum Kagome antiferromagnet. The connection between quantized gravitational responses and the sign problem is also manifested in certain vertex models, where TR symmetry is preserved.

Concepts: Chemistry, Matter, Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Quantum field theory, Physics, Quantum Hall effect, Condensed matter physics


The spectrum of the hydrogen atom has played a central part in fundamental physics in the past 200 years. Historical examples of its significance include the wavelength measurements of absorption lines in the solar spectrum by Fraunhofer, the identification of transition lines by Balmer, Lyman et al., the empirical description of allowed wavelengths by Rydberg, the quantum model of Bohr, the capability of quantum electrodynamics to precisely predict transition frequencies, and modern measurements of the 1S-2S transition by Hänsch(1) to a precision of a few parts in 10(15). Recently, we have achieved the technological advances to allow us to focus on antihydrogen-the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen(2,3,4). The Standard Model predicts that there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the primordial Universe after the Big Bang, but today’s Universe is observed to consist almost entirely of ordinary matter. This motivates physicists to carefully study antimatter, to see if there is a small asymmetry in the laws of physics that govern the two types of matter. In particular, the CPT (charge conjugation, parity reversal, time reversal) Theorem, a cornerstone of the Standard Model, requires that hydrogen and antihydrogen have the same spectrum. Here we report the observation of the 1S-2S transition in magnetically trapped atoms of antihydrogen in the ALPHA-2 apparatus at CERN. We determine that the frequency of the transition, driven by two photons from a laser at 243 nm, is consistent with that expected for hydrogen in the same environment. This laser excitation of a quantum state of an atom of antimatter represents a highly precise measurement performed on an anti-atom. Our result is consistent with CPT invariance at a relative precision of ~2 × 10(-10).

Concepts: Particle physics, Standard Model, Electron, Matter, Photon, Atom, Quantum mechanics, Quantum field theory


The superposition principle is fundamental to the quantum description of both light and matter. Recently, a number of experiments have sought to directly test this principle using coherent light, single photons, and nuclear spin states. We extend these experiments to massive particles for the first time. We compare the interference patterns arising from a beam of large dye molecules diffracting at single, double, and triple slit material masks to place limits on any high-order, or multipath, contributions. We observe an upper bound of less than one particle in a hundred deviating from the expectations of quantum mechanics over a broad range of transverse momenta and de Broglie wavelength.

Concepts: Matter, Albert Einstein, Wave, Particle physics, Physics, Quantum mechanics, Photon, Electron


Quantum computers can be used to address electronic-structure problems and problems in materials science and condensed matter physics that can be formulated as interacting fermionic problems, problems which stretch the limits of existing high-performance computers. Finding exact solutions to such problems numerically has a computational cost that scales exponentially with the size of the system, and Monte Carlo methods are unsuitable owing to the fermionic sign problem. These limitations of classical computational methods have made solving even few-atom electronic-structure problems interesting for implementation using medium-sized quantum computers. Yet experimental implementations have so far been restricted to molecules involving only hydrogen and helium. Here we demonstrate the experimental optimization of Hamiltonian problems with up to six qubits and more than one hundred Pauli terms, determining the ground-state energy for molecules of increasing size, up to BeH2. We achieve this result by using a variational quantum eigenvalue solver (eigensolver) with efficiently prepared trial states that are tailored specifically to the interactions that are available in our quantum processor, combined with a compact encoding of fermionic Hamiltonians and a robust stochastic optimization routine. We demonstrate the flexibility of our approach by applying it to a problem of quantum magnetism, an antiferromagnetic Heisenberg model in an external magnetic field. In all cases, we find agreement between our experiments and numerical simulations using a model of the device with noise. Our results help to elucidate the requirements for scaling the method to larger systems and for bridging the gap between key problems in high-performance computing and their implementation on quantum hardware.

Concepts: Physics, Quantum field theory, Magnetism, Chemistry, Matter, Spin, Quantum mechanics, Condensed matter physics


A central and long-standing tenet in the conceptualization of animal swimming is the idea that propulsive thrust is generated by pushing the surrounding water rearward. Inherent in this perspective is the assumption that locomotion involves the generation of locally elevated pressures in the fluid to achieve the expected downstream push of the surrounding water mass. Here we show that rather than pushing against the surrounding fluid, efficient swimming animals primarily pull themselves through the water via suction. This distinction is manifested in dominant low-pressure regions generated in the fluid surrounding the animal body, which are observed by using particle image velocimetry and a pressure calculation algorithm applied to freely swimming lampreys and jellyfish. These results suggest a rethinking of the evolutionary adaptations observed in swimming animals as well as the mechanistic basis for bio-inspired and biomimetic engineered vehicles.

Concepts: Ctenophora, Ontology, Cnidaria, Matter, Atmospheric pressure, Fluid dynamics, Animal, Fish


Carnivorous pitcher plants capture prey with modified leaves (pitchers), using diverse mechanisms such as ‘insect aquaplaning’ on the wet pitcher rim, slippery wax crystals on the inner pitcher wall, and viscoelastic retentive fluids. Here we describe a new trapping mechanism for Nepenthes gracilis which has evolved a unique, semi-slippery wax crystal surface on the underside of the pitcher lid and utilises the impact of rain drops to ‘flick’ insects into the trap. Depending on the experimental conditions (simulated ‘rain’, wet after ‘rain’, or dry), insects were captured mainly by the lid, the peristome, or the inner pitcher wall, respectively. The application of an anti-slip coating to the lower lid surface reduced prey capture in the field. Compared to sympatric N. rafflesiana, N. gracilis pitchers secreted more nectar under the lid and less on the peristome, thereby directing prey mainly towards the lid. The direct contribution to prey capture represents a novel function of the pitcher lid.

Concepts: Matter, Animal, Cretaceous, Insect, Nepenthes, Photosynthesis, Carnivorous plant, Pitcher plant


Quantum systems exhibit particle- or wavelike behavior depending on the experimental apparatus they are confronted by. This wave-particle duality is at the heart of quantum mechanics. Its paradoxical nature is best captured in the delayed-choice thought experiment, in which a photon is forced to choose a behavior before the observer decides what to measure. Here, we report on a quantum delayed-choice experiment in which both particle and wave behaviors are investigated simultaneously. The genuinely quantum nature of the photon’s behavior is certified via nonlocality, which here replaces the delayed choice of the observer in the original experiment. We observed strong nonlocal correlations, which show that the photon must simultaneously behave both as a particle and as a wave.

Concepts: Electromagnetism, Physics, Photoelectric effect, Schrödinger equation, Matter, Electron, Light, Quantum mechanics


Nature employs self-assembly to fabricate the most complex molecularly precise machinery known to man. Heteromolecular, two-dimensional self-assembled networks provide a route to spatially organize different building blocks relative to each other, enabling synthetic molecularly precise fabrication. Here we demonstrate optoelectronic function in a near-to-monolayer molecular architecture approaching atomically defined spatial disposition of all components. The active layer consists of a self-assembled terrylene-based dye, forming a bicomponent supramolecular network with melamine. The assembly at the graphene-diamond interface shows an absorption maximum at 740 nm whereby the photoresponse can be measured with a gallium counter electrode. We find photocurrents of 0.5 nA and open-circuit voltages of 270 mV employing 19 mW cm(-2) irradiation intensities at 710 nm. With an ex situ calculated contact area of 9.9 × 10(2) μm(2), an incident photon to current efficiency of 0.6% at 710 nm is estimated, opening up intriguing possibilities in bottom-up optoelectronic device fabrication with molecular resolution.

Concepts: Force, Quantum mechanics, Chemistry, Matter, Spacetime, Electron, Atom, Photon


The identification of beverages that promote longer-term fluid retention and maintenance of fluid balance is of real clinical and practical benefit in situations in which free access to fluids is limited or when frequent breaks for urination are not desirable. The postingestion diuretic response is likely to be influenced by several beverage characteristics, including the volume ingested, energy density, electrolyte content, and the presence of diuretic agents.

Concepts: Water, Energy density, Fundamental physics concepts, Matter, Energy, Liquid, Density


Multiple parameter optimisation in drug discovery is difficult, but Matched Molecular Pair Analysis (MMPA) can help. Computer algorithms can process data in an unbiased way to yield design rules and suggest better molecules, cutting the number of design cycles. The approach often makes more suggestions than can be processed manually and methods to deal with this are proposed. However, there is a paucity of contextually specific design rules, which would truly make the technique powerful. By combining extracted information from multiple sources there is an opportunity to solve this problem and advance medicinal chemistry in a matter of months rather than years.

Concepts: Alan Turing, Computer program, Pharmacology, Matter, Atom, Molecule, Algorithm, Chemistry