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Faces that distract from actions

The sudden appearance of a face within our visual field can affect the motor action accompanying a gesture even if the face is totally unrelated to what we are doing and even if we try to ignore it. At one condition, though: the face must display an emotionally significant expression. A study conducted by scientists of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, and just published in Psychonomic Bullettin & Review, describes the phenomenon in detail.

Characteristics of a universal simulator

According to many scientists, quantum computers will have great importance in the future but, despite all efforts, research in this field is still in its infancy. One of the difficulties is understanding what criteria a quantum system should meet to be able to solve problems that are impossible for conventional computers. An international research team headed by SISSA has just published a study that establishes a basic characteristic that universal quantum simulators should possess.

Weight and eating habits in Parkinson

A review of the scientific literature on Parkinson’s disease, conducted by SISSA research scientists, shows that even the non-motor symptoms associated with the disease can contribute to the changes in body weight seen in patients (including those subjected to deep brain stimulation). Among the factors affecting eating habits and body weight there could be, for example, an impaired ability to derive pleasure from food and changes in motivation.

(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.