Planning the next atomic clock

A large-scale program for the production of the next generation of atomic clocks will be run by BGU scientists.

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October 13, 2013 00:04
4 minute read.
Innovations.

Laptop and Clock 370. (photo credit: RotaryView)

A large-scale program for the production of the next generation of atomic clocks for the State of Israel will be run by scientists at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheba, following approval by the chief scientist of the Economics Ministry.

The team, which includes Dr. David Groswasser, Menachem Givon, Dr. Yonathan Japha and Prof. Ron Folman, will design, develop and manufacture the first prototype, which will be based on ultra-cold atoms. The project will take place in collaboration with Accubeat, a manufacturer of atomic clocks, which are an integral part of everyday life – from the GPS system that relies on them for accuracy to fast communications, in which they are used for synchronization.

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Even organizations like power plants and electric companies are now increasingly dependent on such clocks.

Atomic clocks are based on the absolute accuracy of constants of nature – and, in this case, on the transition frequencies between atomic levels in which an electron is moved from one state to another.

BETTER WAY TO PROTECT PLANTS

Makhteshim Agan, the world leader in crop protection solutions, and Yissum Research Development Company, the technology transfer arm of the Hebrew University have signed a research and development agreement for the development and commercialization of a novel, non-toxic and environmentally-friendly bio-control method for protecting a variety of plants.

The novel bio-control agent, developed by Dr. Maggie Levy from the agriculture faculty’s department of plant pathology and microbiology at HU, is based on naturally-occurring yeast, Pseudozyma, that was isolated from strawberry leaves. Levy and her team showed that the yeast secretes substances that inhibit the growth of several fungal and bacterial pathogens, thus increasing the plant’s resistance to infestations while enhancing growth.

“We are very happy to strengthen our collaborative endeavours with Makhteshim Agan, a global crop protection leader and a long-time partner of Yissum in developing innovative, environmentally friendly crop protection agents and methods,” said Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin. “The novel bio-control agent developed in Dr. Levy’s lab has proven to be non-toxic and highly effective against an impressively wide variety of plant pathogens. Its development and commercialization will therefore serve to reduce the amount of pesticides used in agriculture, for the benefit of farmers, consumers and the environment.”

“We are excited to be able to leverage the technology, experience and know-how that we have amassed over the past decades in order to collaborate and create new generations of highly effective and environmentally safe crop protection solutions,” added Sami Shabtai, Makhteshim Agan’s innovative development head. “In a world challenged by the double- edged sword of rapid population growth and shrinking agricultural resources, the need for sustainable solutions is clearer than ever. We are proud to be part of the solution and look forward to working with Yissum to continue introducing new innovate products and to make them available throughout the world.”

Pseudozyma, the yeast isolated from strawberry leaves by Levy and her team, inhibits a broad variety of fungal and bacterial pathogens; an application of the yeast spores significantly inhibited the growth of different fungal causal agents of plant diseases such as powdery mildews (a gray mold that has more than 400 different hosts), crown rust (the black spot disease of cultivated Brassicas) and late-wilt disease in corn.

Pathogenic bacteria such as Clavibacter michiganensis, the causative agent of bacterial canker of tomato, were also controlled by the yeast.

CROONING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Singing can help people learn a foreign language, according to researchers at the University of South Carolina that included experimental psychologist Fernanda Ferreira, who emigrated as a child from Portugal to Canada.

Like most Canadian children, she learned French in school. In a recent project, Ferreira helped a doctoral student confirm the common belief that singing in a foreign language can help a person learn and speak the language. She says it’s the first study to provide scientific evidence for the common belief.

“It’s an important finding. Learning a language can be difficult, and yet with increasing internationalization and globalization, it is becoming more and more important for people to be able to communicate in more than one language,” Ferreira says. “Anything we can figure out about how to make language learning easier is potentially very useful.”

The researchers randomly assigned 60 adults to one of three groups – speaking, rhythmic speaking and singing. Each group was given 20 short “listen and repeat” phrases in Hungarian, a language chosen because of its unfamiliarity to the participants and because of its distinct differences from better known Romance (Spanish or French) or Germanic (German or Dutch) languages.

Ferreira says the group who learned the phrases through singing significantly outperformed the other groups and was twice as successful as the speaking group, demonstrating the link between music, memory and language learning.

She said the finding surprised her more than her colleagues who teach and conduct research in Edinburgh’s music college.

“As an experimental psychologist, I was a bit more skeptical,” says Ferreira, who added the rhythmic speaking to differentiate between singing and rhythm, a feature of singing that isn’t unique to music. “Our finding that the singing condition resulted in superior performance on language learning even relative to the rhythmic speaking condition really nailed the claim that singing is uniquely beneficial.”

Ferreira says she recalls learning a lot of French songs in grades five through 12 and likes the idea that her recent finding may affirm what her teachers knew – singing can help you learn a language.

“I find language fascinating. We’re the only animal with this extraordinary ability, so if we could understand how language came about and how it works, we’d know a lot about our species,” she concludes.


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