February 7th, 2018

Ancient Mysteries

It’s also the sight ancient Greeks sailing to the Dhaskalio promontory, located on the island of Keros, would have seen 4,500 years ago. The pyramid-shaped promontory has been an archaeolgical site for the last decade. In the 3rd millenium BC, builders developing the promontory carved the land into stepped terraces and covered it in white stone imported from Naxos, located 10 kilometers (6 miles) away. Now, researchers are digging deeper. They say the civilization back then may have been far more technically sophisticated than we imagined.

Archaeologists from three different countries involved in the ongoing excavation uncovered feats of engineering craftsmanship below the promontory. A range of impressive features – including a complex series of drainage tunnels and metalwork – means the architecture was likely multi-purpose and carefully planned in advance. The research team calculates that more than 1,000 tons of stone were imported and that almost every possible area on the island was constructed on. At the time, it would have been one of the most densely populated areas on the islands and the largest complex known in the Cyclades.

“What we are seeing here with the metalworking and in other ways is the beginnings of urbanization: centralization, meaning the drawing of far-flung communities into networks centered on site,” said co-director of the excavation Michael Boyd, from the University of Cambridge, in a statement. Imported metal ore would have been smelted to the north, where excavators found two metalworking workshops full of debris and related objects, including a lead axe, a mold for copper daggers, dozens of ceramic fragments from metalworking equipment, and an intact clay oven.

Researchers intend to return this summer for further excavations.

Kemo D. 7

The Fourth Dimension

Two independent groups of scientists have been able to reproduce four-dimensional properties of a quantum mechanical effect using a two-dimensional analog. The two studies were published in Nature and focus on the quantum Hall effect. This effect describes how the conductance (how well something transmits electricity) of a two-dimensional electron system acts at a low temperature and in a strong magnetic field. It has been known for a long time that this effect could also exist in a four-dimensional system, but this has not been possible to prove until now...

"When it was theorized that the quantum Hall effect could be observed in four-dimensional space, it was considered to be of purely theoretical interest because the real world consists of only three spatial dimensions; it was more or less a curiosity, " Mikael Rechtsman, assistant professor of physics and author of one of the papers, said in a statement. "But, we have now shown that four-dimensional quantum Hall physics can be emulated using photons – particles of light – flowing through an intricately structured piece of glass – a waveguide array." Thanks to a new technique, glass waveguides can be etched in a way that makes them sport synthetic dimensions, allowing photons going through the waveguides to act like they are in a true four-dimensional system. This breakthrough allowed researchers to finally test if the quantum Hall effect truly exists in four dimensions. And it does.

While there are no direct applications of four-dimensional physics, the scientists think that a better understanding of the four-dimensional quantum Hall effect could be used to develop new optical systems, and maybe the use of higher dimensional waveguides could help explain bizarre solids like quasicrystals.

Kemo D. 7
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