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In planet formation, it’s location, location, location

Astronomers using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope are finding that planets have a tough time forming in the rough-and-tumble central region of the massive, crowded star cluster Westerlund 2. Located 20,000 light-years away, Westerlund 2 is a unique laboratory to study stellar evolutionary processes because it’s relatively nearby, quite young, and contains a large stellar population.

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Chirality-assisted lateral momentum transfer for bidirectional enantioselective separation

Light carrying photon momentum can push and pull microparticles through momentum exchange. This momentum exchange process generates optical forces, which either attracts (conventional optical tweezers), pushes (radiation force) or pulls (pulling force) microparticles. A new emerging research interest, optical lateral force which represents the optical force perpendicular to the propagating direction of a non-gradient beam, has attracted much attention. The lateral force can be generated using achiral particles through the conversion of spin and orbital momentum of a circularly polarized beam. It is also predicted that a chiral nanoparticle placed above a surface can generate the lateral force using a plane wave excitation. However, there are few demonstrations of the chirality dependent lateral force, and the particles used in the theoretical prediction are 100 nm which has limited applications. Besides, the theory of optical lateral force on bigger particles (size ~ wavelength) is lacking.

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Research team reports an important step to making optical simulators real-world devices

A group of Skoltech scientists, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Southampton (UK), developed a fully optical approach to control the couplings between polariton condensates in optical lattices. This study is an important step toward the practical application of optical polariton condensate lattices as a platform for simulating condensed matter phases. The research results were published in the journal Physical Review Letters, where the paper was featured on the front cover.

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An open-access tool to accelerate drug discovery

Knowledge of how a molecule interacts with the organism is crucial in order to consider its therapeutic potential. Headed by ICREA researcher Patrick Aloy, the Structural Bioinformatics and Network Biology (SBNS) lab at IRB Barcelona has presented the Chemical Checker, an on-line open-access tool that provides information on the effects exerted by more than 1M compounds in a wide range of biological settings. The Chemical Checker, published in Nature Biotechnology, offers a rich portrait of the small molecule data available in the public domain, opening an opportunity for making queries that would otherwise be impossible using chemical information alone.

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Topological waves may help in understanding plasma systems

Nearly 50 years ago, Brown University physicist Michael Kosterlitz and his colleagues used the mathematics of topology—the study of how objects can be deformed by stretching or twisting but not tearing or breaking—to explain puzzling phase changes in certain types of matter. The work won Kosterlitz a share of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics and has led to the discovery of topological phenomena in all kinds of systems, from thin films that conduct electricity only around their edges, to strange waves that propagate in the oceans and atmosphere at the Earth’s equator.

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