A New Way to Look at Light

Physicists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (along with Harvard researchers) have created a new form of light that will one day change the way we live our lives. In an act that surely closes the gap between science fiction and science fact, scientists have managed to bind photons. For anyone that keeps up with news about photons, you might remember that back in 2013 this same feat was accomplished, except it was done with two atoms. As of February of this year, they upped the scale – making it three.

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A Brief (very brief) Summary of How it’s Done (feel free to skip this part):

First and foremost, and it goes without saying, as you all know, sources of light tend not to interact with each other. Imagine seeing sunlight interacting with your house lights. Bouncing off each other or clumping together. Preposterous, right? The photon particles/waves simply go through one another. In order to make the photons interact with one another, the physicists first created a gas like state and cooled the gas incredibly. This was done so that when they shot a laser (comprised of very few photons) through it, the photons would be able to interact with the atoms that made up the cold, slow gas. The end product of this “interaction” was one in which the atomic gas particles would find themselves attached to the photon particles/waves – leaving the atomic gas in a molecule like structure made of photons. (Sorry if that put you to sleep, surely this next part will wake you up).

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Why You Should Care:

Well, why shouldn’t you care? I’m sure you’ve all had the realization of what this means. Right? Come on… think about it… light… that doesn’t go all over the place. Controlled light… come on………. Lightsabers! The ones from Doctor Wh… I mean Star Wars!

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Yes, it’s surely a long way away, seeing as to how it’s the early stages, but it’s definitely something that we can realistically think about now. Moreover, this also creates new bridges for possibilities pertaining to quantum computing capabilities – seeing as to how entangled particles could be bigger in “size” (information). The only thing that matters about that sentence is that a quantum computer will essentially make the “standard” computer we all love (and hate) seem outdated. Imagine that! (I can’t).

Lastly, some fun facts about photons:

  • Light travels at 670,616,629 mph.
  • It takes sunlight 8 minutes to touch your skin (to travel from the sun to earth). This means that if the sun were to have gone supernova (exploded) 7 minutes ago, you wouldn’t know for another minute.
  • Light carries momentum. This means that if you have something light enough, and point your flashlight onto its surface it’ll get pushed back, ever so slightly.

 

-RG

  1. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/scientists-link-photons-and-create-new-form-light-180968184/
  2. http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2018/feb/20/three-photons-bind-together-to-make-a-molecule-of-light

 

A Hope For a New Life: Queer Utopia and a New Reason to Stay on Earth 

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 7.05.08 PMIn their documentary series titled “Profiles by Vice,” last year Vice News covered the story of Melissa Ede, a native of Hull, England, as she prepared to take a one-way trip to Mars, becoming the first transgender person to step foot on the “Red Planet.” At the time of the interview Melissa had recently been accepted into the second round of evaluations conducted by the company Mars One, whose mission is to establish the first permanent human settlement on Mars by 2032. The first round of the application process siphoned an estimated 5.6 million applicants to the lucky 600 in which Melissa was a member. With the announcement of their final 100 candinents imminent, Vice followed Melissa as she imagined her new future as a Mars One pioneer.

“We go knowing we will never return to earth,” she told Vice, while softly tucking her blonde hair behind her ear, revealing a tattoo on her forearm of the Mars One logo. She was committed to giving her life to this idea, to the hope of a different future, and more then ready to leave her life on Earth behind. Melissa worked as a taxi driver by trade, a job she would gladly abandon once offered the chance in space. When asked about the fear of solitude and disconnection that would keep many from considering such a phenomenal undertaking, she responded that for her it was different, without kids or a spouse, there wouldn’t be much for her to leave behind.

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“On Mars there’s nothing at the moment, Hull’s got everything you need,” she told Vice while explaining the allure of leaving her hometown to relocate 33.9 million miles away. Mars is a far off utopia and it’s emptiness, for those like Melissa, provides hope: no long hours at work, or waiting in line at the grocery store; no policing, or debt to income ratio; no structural oppression; no senseless violence; no reason to suppress your own identity. The documentary was equally, if not always, about her experience of being trans, the pain that comes with queer embodiment, and her ongoing transformation.  “It will probably be a bit of a holiday for me, honestly,” she confessed, laughing at the absurdity of it.  By the end of the segment, you were really rooting for her application to be accepted, so the unfortunate reality of her rejection felt like a personal loss. My heart sighed.

But, Melissa’s story does not end on a somber note. On New Years Eve, after purchasing a lottery ticket at a gas station after her shift, she walked back to her car and began to scratch.  In disbelief, she held the ticket up to light, rereading the small print that read “4mill.” She had won € 4 million [$ 5.6 million]. In an interview with Vice after the announcement of her win last week, she commented “If you believe in something enough, you can materialize it.” Her story made me reconsider the sometimes hazy line between fate and contingency. It’s stories like Melissa’s that provide a sense of order to what often feels like chaos. Although her win did not stop her endless reimagining, she still seeks that ultimate utopia somewhere beyond this planet.

— EC

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“The future is queerness’s domain. There here and now is a prison house… we must dream and enact new and better pleasures, other ways of being in the world, and ultimately new worlds… Queerness is essentially about the rejection of a here and now and an insistence on potentiality for another world.”

—José Esteban Muñoz1


Christmas In February

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If you ever find yourself in the village of Quinamayo in February, be sure to wish the residents a Merry Christmas. The residents of Quinamayo, Colombia celebrate Christmas on February 16th. It is a tradition that began when slave masters would not allow the slaves to celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Instead, they were forced to work while the slave masters celebrated.

Today the tradition is kept alive by the young people of the village. One resident stated

“We want to conserve our traditions so that we don’t lose them… For as much as we’re surrounded by other cultures – because many other cultures and types of people have arrived here – we don’t have to lose our identity.”

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The celebration begins when a black baby Jesus figurine is hidden in the town. Once the figurine is located, the residents erupt in dance. They then set off fireworks and dance until the early morning.

The young people of this small town just south of Cali, Colombia really inspired me. As much as it is an act of religious celebration, it is also an act of resistance. A resistance to the whitewashing forces that continue to plague Colombia.The Colombian government has often completely ignored its Afro-Colombian population. So much so that they rarely have representation in Congress. I urge you not to be implicit in the neglect of the black population in Colombia but also in Latin America as a whole.  I know there are many reading this who believe all Colombians look like Sofia Vergara.

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Well, we don’t.  I am thankful and grateful that I come from a country like Colombia that is just as rich in diversity as this one. Beauty comes in all different forms and you are doing an injustice to yourself by being ignorant to the millions of people that exist outside of the representation of Colombia that Hollywood is giving you. Remember that the same forces that have hindered the representation of people of color here in the U.S have done the same globally.  In Colombia, the people of Quinamayo are not only saying Black Lives Matter but shouting to Colombia and the world that Black Lives Exist.

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-Brayan De Los Rios Guisao


Elite Madness and Peak Badassery

While scaling Everest simply validates one as a competent mountaineer—to ascend K2 is unquestionably glorious. Right now, a team of Polish climbers are in the midst of an expedition to the top of the Earth’s deadliest mountain—a feat yet to be accomplished during the winter months.

Located at the junction of China and Pakistan—this mountain’s lethal reputation lies in its turbulent nature: random avalanches, violent winds, and a near-vertical slope, not to mention temperatures falling to -50°C. The utter lunacy of this undertaking can also be understood in one alarming statistic: for every four people who reach the summit of K2, one dies.

The Polish team announced the expedition in May of 2017—and while at first the news was widely reported, there have been few updates since the team flew to northern Pakistan in late December.

I scavenged social media for the latest on these badass mountaineers—here’s what I found:

 

Even more: BBC News reported late Sunday that mountaineer—Denis Urubko—split off from the group in an authorized solo attempt. Fellow climbers are not optimistic about his success—deeming the endeavor “completely suicidal.”

For more on Denis Urubko:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43190387

https://nation.com.pk/26-Feb-2018/mountaineer-attempts-first-winter-solo-summit-on-k2

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/denis-urubko-attempts-death-or-glory-solo-climb-up-k2-bgq30m22t

For more on the 2018 K2 Expedition: 

http://www.thenews.pl/1/5/Artykul/346622,Praise-for-Polish-climbers-who-rescued-French-woman-on-Nanga-Parbat

http://www.thenews.pl/1/5/Artykul/348713,Polish-K2-climber-breaks-arm

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/K2-mountain-winter-climb-poland-spd/

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/sports/polish-climbers-to-scale-deadly-k2-peak-in-winter

For more on past K2 Expeditions:

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/just-pure-stupidity-eleven-climbers-die-in-k2-disaster-a-569997.html

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/doctor-charles-houston-mountaineer-who-tackled-k2-twice-and-became-the-foremost-authority-on-1795568.html

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/04/k2-mountain-himalayas-conquered-in-1954-italy

–Maryam Choudhary

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