Can physicists produce insights about language that have eluded linguists and English professors? That possibility was put to the test this week when a team of physicists published a paper drawing on Google’s massive collection of scanned books. They claim to have identified universal laws governing the birth, life course and death of words.
Neutrinos may not travel as fast as we first hoped, but then they have other special abilities to make up for it. Being almost massless, they can penetrate the thickest barriers, which ought to make them ideal message carriers. To illustrate the point, scientists sent the word “Neutrino” on a beam of particles through 240 meters (800 feet) of solid stone and received it loud and clear on the other side. The same approach could potentially be used to send a message right through the center of a planet, making it possible, according to one of the researchers, to “communicate between any two points on Earth without using satellites or cables.” The experiment required the latest particle accelerators at Chicago’s Fermilab, which flung the neutrinos over a 2.5 mile track before firing them off at an underground receiver, but it proved the principle: Shrink the accelerator down to the size of a smartphone and neutrino messaging could be huge. Or it could die in a format war with quantum teleportation.
One way to get tangible about changing the culture is to expand selection criteria to include a candidate’s values as well as skills. This article shows how IKEA does just that. The innovative furniture retailer uses a hiring questionnaire, for example, that downplays skills in favor of values and beliefs.
Based on their findings (and past studies), the researchers speculate that a feeling of connectedness—something that often comes with living in a safe, activity-packed city filled with quality neighborhoods—is also key to happiness. “Some [neighborhoods] are designed and built to foster or enable connections. Others are built to discourage them (e.g., a gated model) or devolve to become places that are antisocial because of crime or other negative behaviors,” say the researchers. “Increasingly, researchers and practitioners have become aware that some neighborhood designs appear better suited for social connectedness than others.”