Scientists Successfully Slow Down Light by 10,000 Times!

An illustration depicts gravitational waves stretching and squeezing space-time in the universe, June, 2023. (AP Photo)
An illustration depicts gravitational waves stretching and squeezing space-time in the universe, June, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Scientists Successfully Slow Down Light by 10,000 Times!

An illustration depicts gravitational waves stretching and squeezing space-time in the universe, June, 2023. (AP Photo)
An illustration depicts gravitational waves stretching and squeezing space-time in the universe, June, 2023. (AP Photo)

A new study demonstrates a method for slowing down light that promises to be one of the most useful approaches yet.

The researchers behind the breakthrough, from Guangxi University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in China, say that their method could benefit computing and optical communication.

Light zipping through the emptiness of space moves at one speed and one speed only - 299,792 kilometers (about 186,000 miles) per second. Yet if you throw a mess of electromagnetic fields into its path, such as those surrounding ordinary matter, that extraordinary velocity starts to slow.

Most transparent materials will slow light by a tiny fraction. It's the changes in speed that cause light to bend as it passes from one medium to another.

But really putting the brakes on requires special materials like photonic crystals or even super-chilled quantum gases.

"We envision that our work provides an entirely new direction for realizing ultra-strong light-matter interactions in nanophotonic chips," write the researchers in their published paper.

The new method builds on what's known as electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT), which uses a clever bit of laser trickery to manipulate electrons inside gas that's stored in a vacuum – essentially turning it from opaque to transparent, reported the Science Alert website. This means laser light can pass through, but because of how it has been manipulated, it also slows down. That makes it very interesting for physicists, but the approach also means a lot of the light and energy is lost along the way.

To reduce this loss and improve the whole system's efficiency, the researchers took some of the principles of EIT in controlling light and designed a new material to slow down light.

The material is a kind of metasurface (a synthetic, 2D structure with properties unlike any in nature).

The metasurfaces designed by the team were made from very thin layers of silicon – like today's computing chips – and were shown to be much better than existing options.

Based on the results obtained by the researchers, light can be slowed down by more than 10,000 times in this system.

At the same time, the light loss is reduced by more than five times compared with other comparable methods. Key to the new approach is the way that the tiniest building blocks of the metasurface (known as meta-atoms) are positioned. In this case, they're essentially close enough to merge together, which in turn affects the way that light is handled as it passes through.

The end result is all of this complex science is better control over how light travels.

As light plays such a key role in everything from broadband internet to quantum computing, there's a multitude of potential applications.

It's not the only way that scientists have found to further slowdown light, beyond the natural slowing that happens in substances like water, but its effectiveness and its scalability make it a promising option for further study.

"With these findings, our study opens a new route for tailoring light flow in metasurfaces," write the researchers.



Last Surviving Member of 1st Team to Conquer Mount Everest Says it is Crowded, Dirty Now

Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
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Last Surviving Member of 1st Team to Conquer Mount Everest Says it is Crowded, Dirty Now

Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)
Kanchha Sherpa sits on a chair during an interview with The Associated Press at his residence in Kathmandu, Nepal, Saturday, March 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

The only surviving member of the mountaineering expedition that first conquered Mount Everest said Saturday that the world's highest peak is too crowded and dirty, and the mountain is a god that needs to be respected.
Kanchha Sherpa, 91, was among the 35 members in the team that put New Zealander Edmund Hillary and his Sherpa guide Tenzing Norgay atop the 8,849-meter (29,032-foot) peak on May 29, 1953.
“It would be better for the mountain to reduce the number of climbers,” Kanchha said in an interview in Kathmandu on Saturday, “Right now there is always a big crowd of people at the summit.”
Since the first conquest, the peak has been climbed thousands of times, and it gets more crowded every year. During the spring climbing season in 2023, 667 climbers scaled the peak, but that brought in thousands of support staff to the base camp between the months of March and May.
There have been concerns about the number of people living on the mountain for months on end, generating trash and waste, but authorities have no plans to cut down on the number of permits they issue to climbers.
There are rules that require climbers to bring down their own trash, equipment and everything they carry to the mountain or risk losing their deposit, but monitoring has not been very effective, The Associated Press reported.
“It is very dirty now. People throw tins and wrappings after eating food. Who is going to pick them up now?” Kanchha said. “Some climbers just dump their trash in the crevasse, which would be hidden at that time but eventually it will flow down to base camp as the snow melts and carries them downward.”
For the Sherpas, Everest is Qomolangma or goddess mother of the world, and is revered by their community. They generally perform religious rituals before climbing the peak.
“They should not be dirtying the mountain. It is our biggest god and they should not be dirtying the gods,” he said “Qomolangma is the biggest god for the Sherpas but people smoke and eat meat and throw them on the mountain.”
Kanchha was just a young man when he joined the Hillary-Tenzing expedition. He was among the three Sherpas to go the last camp on Everest along with Hillary and Tenzing. They could not go any further because they did not have a permit.
They first heard of the successful ascent on the radio, and then were reunited with the summit duo at Camp 2.
“We all gathered at Camp 2 but there was no alcohol so we celebrated with tea and snacks,” he said. “We then collected whatever we could and carried it to base camp.”
The route they opened up from the base camp to the summit is still used by climbers. Only the section from the base camp to Camp 1 over the unstable Khumbu Icefall changes every year.
Kanchha has four children, eight grandchildren and a 20-month-old great-granddaughter.


Saudi Education, Foreign Ministries Launch Study Visa for International Students

"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
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Saudi Education, Foreign Ministries Launch Study Visa for International Students

"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform
"Study in Saudi Arabia" platform

The Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have jointly launched the Study Visa Issuance Service on the "Study in Saudi Arabia" platform.

The service is intended for international students who wish to study in the Kingdom and was launched in the presence of Education Minister Yousef Al-Benyan.
The initiative was launched during the "Human Capacity Initiative" conference that took place in Riyadh on February 28 and 29. The conference was held under the patronage of Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Crown Prince, Prime Minister, and Chairman of the Human Capacity Development Program Committee.
The new visa service aims to facilitate the visa issuance process for international students. The platform aims to achieve integration between the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and related sectors.
The "Study in Saudi Arabia" platform provides a range of services that contribute to providing educational options for students who wish to study in Saudi Arabia. The platform aims to enhance the Kingdom's role as a global educational destination. It enables international students to submit applications for admission to Saudi universities with ease and also provides short-term academic, training, and research programs, as well as long-term educational opportunities within a modern and distinguished educational environment.
The platform also aims to enhance academic and cultural cooperation and to fulfill the Kingdom's Vision 2030 by developing the education sector and attracting talent and competencies to Saudi Arabia.


Saudi Team Successfully Separates Nigerian Conjoined Twins

Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
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Saudi Team Successfully Separates Nigerian Conjoined Twins

Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)
Saudi team successfully separates Nigerian conjoined twins. (SPA)

A medical team at King Abdullah Specialist Children's Hospital has successfully separated Nigerian conjoined twins, Hassana and Hasina, SPA said on Friday.
The separation comes under the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.
Following their arrival in Riyadh on October 31, 2023, the twins underwent extensive examinations, which revealed they shared areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.
The complex 16.5-hour surgery, which was carried out Thursday morning by 39 medical professionals, marks the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating conjoined twins.
Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 conjoined twins from 25 countries.
"Such successive medical breakthroughs are a testament to the Kingdom's shining examples of progress and development," said Advisor to the Royal Court, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) and head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah in a statement following the surgery.
He highlighted the Kingdom's commitment to humanitarian and medical excellence, aligning with Vision 2030's healthcare development goals.
The twins' parents expressed their gratitude to the Saudi leadership and medical team for the life-changing surgery and exceptional care.


Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
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Saudi Press Agency, Sky News Arabia Sign Cooperation Agreement

Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)
Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia sign cooperation agreement. (SPA)

The Saudi Press Agency and Sky News Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in the field of news training, SPA said on Friday.
Assistant Minister of Media Dr. Abdullah bin Ahmed Al-Maghlouth attended Thursday's signing ceremony which took place during the Human Capability Initiative (HCI) in Riyadh.
The HCI is held under the patronage of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister and Chairman of Human Capability Development Program Committee Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud.
The program seeks to realize Saudi Vision 2030.
The agreement focuses on the specialized courses offered by the academy in the field of news, exchange of expertise, and utilization of technology.


Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
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Jeddah Middle Corniche Closed 10 Days for Maintenance

People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights
People stand on the corniche in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser/File Photo Purchase Licensing Rights

The Jeddah Governorate Municipality announced that the waterfront on the middle Corniche will be closed starting next Sunday, March 3, for 10 days for maintenance and preparation work.

The municipality explained that the closure of the waterfront comes out of its concern for the safety and health of visitors during the maintenance work for the facilities at the waterfront, SPA reported.

The closure includes the seating and picnic areas, starting from Al-Anani Mosque to Palestine Street.
The maintenance work includes rehabilitating the entire plantings of the waterfront project on the Middle Corniche and the Palestine Street walkway, repairing sidewalks, and cleaning and equipping fountains and lighting poles.


Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
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Saudi Medical Team Begins Separating Nigerian Conjoined Twins

The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA
The twins share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves. SPA

A Saudi medical and surgical team began on Thursday separating Nigerian conjoined twins Hassana and Hasina at King Abdullah Specialist Children's Hospital in King Abdulaziz Medical City in Riyadh.

The separation is in implementation of the directives of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud and Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, Crown Prince and Prime Minister.

Following their arrival in Riyadh on October 31, the twins underwent extensive examinations, which revealed they share areas in the lower abdomen, pelvis, lower spine, and lower spinal nerves.

The surgery will be performed in nine stages and is expected to take approximately 14 hours.

A team of 38 consultants, specialists, technicians, and nursing staff in the specialties of anesthesia, pediatric surgery, urology, orthopedics, plastic surgery, and pediatric neurosurgery will participate in the operation.

According to Advisor at the Royal Court, Supervisor General of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), and head of the medical team Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the success rate of the operation is 70%.

This is the 60th operation performed by the Saudi program for separating Siamese twins.

Over the past 34 years, the program has cared for 135 conjoined twins from 25 countries.
Al Rabeeah expressed gratitude to the Saudi leadership for its support of the program.


Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
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Living Near Fast Food Restaurants Could Affect Heart Health, New Study

(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)
(FILES) A driver in a vehicle places his order from a drive-thru lane at a Wendy's fast food resturant in Alhambra, California on May 5, 2020. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP)

A new British study, involving 500,000 adults, has found that living near fast food restaurants could harm the health of the heart.

These kinds of ready-to-eat food environments typically provide unhealthy foods and drinks, and have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, mostly heart failure. The findings were published in Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Heart failure is a condition in which the heart muscle can’t pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs for blood and oxygen. In this case, fluids can accumulate in the lungs, causing shortness of breath. This condition can lead to narrowing the heart arteries and raising blood pressure.

This study is likely the first to assess the association between food environment and heart failure with long-term observation, according to the researchers.

The study involved more than 500,000 adults, ages 37-73 years old, in the UK.

During the research, the team measured the link between living within one-kilometer from three types of food environments — pubs or bars, restaurants or cafeterias and fast-food restaurants.

The study documented nearly 13,000 heart failure cases during a 12-year follow-up period.

The analysis found that a closer proximity and a greater density of ready-to-eat food outlets were associated with a 16% risk of heart failure compared to those with no ready-to-eat food environments near their homes.

It also found that those in the highest density areas of pubs and bars showed a 14% higher risk for heart failure; while those in the highest density areas for fast-food outlets had a 12% higher risk.

Heart failure risk was stronger among participants without a college degree and adults in urban areas without access to formal physical activity facilities such as gyms.

According to the researchers, these findings add to previous studies that have suggested that exposure to ready-to-eat food environments is associated with risks of other disorders, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, which may also increase the risk of heart failure.

Authors said the findings suggest that improving access to healthier food environments and physical fitness facilities in urban areas, along with helping more people attain higher levels of education, could reduce the increased risk of heart failure linked to quick-meal options.


Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Theater Supervisors from Australia Train Saudi School Teachers

Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Training on making marionettes and how to move them on stage (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The Saudi Ministry of Culture gives great attention to enhancing arts and culture in the local community, and recognizes the vital role school theater plays in growing the talents and skill of students.

As part of its efforts to promote school theater, the ministry has carried on an initiative aimed at training school teachers on theater arts, with the help of 160 supervisors who provide the guidance and support that schools need to develop and implement theater-related activities.

The School Theater Initiative is one of the top national initiatives launched by the Theater and Performing Arts Commission, as part of a strategic partnership with the Ministry of Education, to create a school theater movement aimed at enhancing the theater culture and growing a generation interested in theater.

The commission stated that the initiative will develop and grow the skills of supervisors and teachers through international programs curated by experts in theater and performative arts, in collaboration with Australia’s Monash University. The efforts seek to provide the trainees with the skills needed to fuel the sector with the essential theater elements, including acting, drama, design and direction.

The training program consists of several phases: the first ran from October 2002 until November 2022, during which several visits were paid to schools in Riyadh, to take a closer look at theater activities in the Kingdom and form the training team. The second saw the launch of the training program for the first promotion, including 20 teachers and 40 supervisors, as well as reviewing and assessing the content after the conclusion of the training.

The training started in the third phase, while the fourth, which ran between December 2023 and January 2024, graduated the first promotion of supervisors, who were responsible for training several groups of 20 teachers. The training program of the third and fourth promotions covered the cities of Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam, Abha and Tabuk.

The fifth phase, which has kicked off earlier this year and ends in December, is designed to supervise and support the teachers that will be trained by 160 supervisors, in addition to selecting the best 1,000 school plays from different cities and provinces.


Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
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Volcanic Ash Forces Some Airlines to Suspend Flights from Mexico City 

The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)
The Popocatepetl volcano emits smoke and ash, seen from Mexico City at sunrise on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (AP)

Mexico City International Airport on Tuesday said airlines have canceled 22 domestic and international flights to carry out safety checks after planes encountered ash from the Popocatepetl volcano while flying toward the capital.

In a post on X, the airport said it remains open and in operation.

"Specialized teams and management remain on alert and are evaluating the ash conditions," the airport said. "At this time, the volcanic ash cloud is heading toward the Gulf of Mexico."

The airport advised travelers to stay informed through their airlines and official airport channels.

The government has issued a "yellow alert" for activity from the nearby volcano, whose name in the Aztec Nahuatl language means "Smoking Mountain."

Authorities earlier on Tuesday said a column of smoke from the volcano was blowing to the north-northwest and could bring ash over the capital.


South Korea’s Fertility Rate Dropped to Fresh Record Low in 2023 

Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
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South Korea’s Fertility Rate Dropped to Fresh Record Low in 2023 

Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)
Nurses take care of babies at a postnatal care center in Seoul, South Korea, 28 February 2024. (EPA/Yonhap)

South Korea's fertility rate, already the world's lowest, dropped to a fresh record low in 2023, defying the billions of dollars spent by the country to try to reverse the trend as the population shrank for a fourth straight year.

The average number of expected babies for a South Korean woman during her reproductive life fell to 0.72 from 0.78 in 2022, data from Statistics Korea showed on Wednesday.

Since 2018, South Korea has been the only member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to have a rate below 1.

The South Korean government has made it a national priority to reverse the falling birth rate and in December promised to come up with "extraordinary measures" to tackle the situation.

Meanwhile, ahead of elections in April South Korea's major political parties vowed more public housing and easier loans in an effort to stem population decline, aiming to allay fears of "national extinction" as fertility rates crumble.

The parties' focus on population in their election planks reflects growing alarm after spending of more than 360 trillion won ($270 billion) in areas such as childcare subsidies since 2006 has failed to reverse record low fertility rates.

Being married is seen as a prerequisite to having children in South Korea, but marriages are also falling in the country with high financial burden cited as the main reason.

South Korea is not alone in the region struggling with a rapidly ageing population. The fertility rate in neighboring Japan's hit a record low of 1.26 in 2022, while China recorded 1.09, also a record low.

In South Korea, the capital Seoul had the lowest fertility rate of 0.55 last year.

South Korea has previously projected its fertility rate is likely to fall further to 0.68 in 2024.