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(Nano)bearings on the test bench

“Nano–machines” (around one billionth of a metre in size) of the future will need tiny devices to reduce friction and make movement possible. The C60 molecule, also known as fullerene or buckyball, seemed to many an excellent candidate for nano-bearings. Unfortunately, the results so far have been conflicting, calling for further studies, like the one carried out by a theoretical team involving SISSA, ICTP, CNR and EMPA. Through a series of computer simulations the scientists uncovered the reason for the experimental discrepancies and shed light on the true potential of this material.

Flashes of light on the superconductor

A study just published in Nature Communications and carried out by a collaboration of several Italian and international centres, including SISSA, used a technique based on applying short flashes of light to observe and analyse the features of a superconductor at high critical temperature, a material with major prospects for technological applications. In addition to providing an explanation for the peculiar behaviour of the material, the study also opens to the possibility of controlling its characteristics by means of laser pulses.

Studiare i gemelli per capire il pregiudizio

Il pregiudizio verso le altre etnie ha basi culturali, ma anche componenti innate. Comprendere questi aspetti ereditari, meno studiati dei primi, è importante per contrastare il fenomeno e migliorare l’integrazione sociale. Parte fra pochi giorni uno studio della SISSA di Trieste in collaborazione con l’Istituto Superiore di Sanità (ISS) di Roma, che studierà le componenti innate del pregiudizio nei gemelli.

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Gestures that speak

When you gesticulate you don’t just add a “note of colour” that makes your speech more pleasant: you convey information on sentence structure and make your meanings clearer. A study carried out at SISSA in Trieste demonstrates that gestures and “prosody” (the intonation and rhythm of spoken language) form a single “communication system” at the cognitive level, and that we speak using our “whole body” and not only our vocal tract.

Unified superconductors

Superconductors are promising materials, with applications ranging from medicine to transport. Unfortunately, though, their use is for the time being limited to the very low temperatures (close to absolute zero) necessary for superconductivity to occur.

Some materials, however, could be improved so as to obtain higher and energetically less "costly" critical temperatures. A team of researchers coordinated by SISSA investigated a class of conductors at high critical temperature, adding insight into the physics of these phenomena.

Altruism/egoism: a question of points of view

Sociality, cooperation and "prosocial" behaviours are the foundation of human society (and of the extraordinary development of our brain) and yet, taken individually, people often show huge variation in terms of altruism/egoism, both among individuals and in the same individual at different moments in time. What causes these differences in behaviour? An answer may be found by observing the activity of the brain, as was done by a group of researchers from SISSA in Trieste (in collaboration with the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, HCI lab, of the University of Udine).