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Physicists have reported what could be the first incontrovertible evidence of the existence of particle-like objects called anyons, first proposed more than 40 years ago. Anyons are the latest addition to a growing family of phenomena called quasiparticles, which are not elementary particles but collective excitations of many electrons in solid devices. Their discovery — made using a 2D electronic device — could represent the first steps towards making anyons the basis of future quantum computers. “To me,” says condensed-matter theorist Bernd Rosenow, “they are at least as fascinating and exotic as the Higgs particle.”
Reference: arxiv preprint
The Veneto Institute of Molecular Medicine in Padua, Italy, has reversed its decision to appoint a high-profile cancer researcher as its scientific director, after a tumultuous month of protests and accusations. The row over Pier Paolo Pandolfi, — who admits one instance of sexual harassment, but denies allegations of scientific misconduct — resulted in the resignation of the institute’s entire scientific board, which includes two Nobel prizewinners.
Features & opinion
Cosmologists are learning how to map invisible magnetic fields that pervade the Universe, including the giant voids that separate the largest clusters of galaxies. The fields could have arisen in the first instants after the Big Bang, and are “curved every which way, like a ball of yarn”, says astrophysicist Tanmay Vachaspati; this curvature could reveal details of the physics of the fundamental forces. Primordial magnetism could also help to explain an apparent discrepancy in measurements of the Universe’s rate of expansion.
A whale-watching trip can leave us with a lifelong sense of wonder, but the encounters are much less pleasant from the whales’ perspective, writes glaciologist Marco Tedesco. Studies have shown that approaching motorboats expose whales to noise of more than 170 decibels — comparable to the sound of a rocket launch — causing stress and limiting the animals’ ability to communicate. It would be more sustainable to use alternatives such as waiting with the engines off or using rowing boats, Tedesco says — or to just leave wildlife alone. “Using motorboats to simply take a photograph to satisfy your own vanity or sterile curiosity (different from a scientific one!) is not noble, let alone useful.”
Materials scientist Derk Joester explains how studying the molecular composition of enamel could help us to understand what makes it vulnerable to tooth decay.
Where I work
Glass specialist Claudine Loisel studies the chemistry of stained glass on a nanoscopic scale. Here, she examines a panel that survived the fire at Notre‑Dame cathedral in Paris last year, checking it for damage. The protective gear guards her against possible exposure to lead in the metal framework that holds the shards of glass in place. “I’m part of an amazing team of historians, conservators and materials specialists working to restore, protect and eventually reopen Notre-Dame,” she says. “After that, we’ll have a glass of champagne.” (Nature | 2 min read)
This week, our playful penguin Leif Penguinson is hiding among the snowy trees in Ruka, Finland. Can you spot the penguin?
The answer will be in Monday’s e-mail, all thanks to Briefing photo editor and penguin wrangler Tom Houghton.
Flora is taking a well-earned holiday, but she’ll be back on Monday.
With contributions by Nicky Phillips and Davide Castelvecchi
Article credit to: http://feeds.nature.com/~r/nature/rss/current/~3/4hO6Cqq061Q/d41586-020-02022-z