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What could rhythm, quantum mechanic, and neurons possibly have to do with each other?

Turns out, they have a lot in common. Rhythm can be found in every corner of the universe - from the music we sing along with on the radio to the way we speak to our friends; from the frequency which our brain cells fire to quantum physics. Rhythm can change the way we view the world and how we feel. How? Let’s dive in.

Welcome to the June 11 edition of The Digest.

What comes to your mind when you think of Rhythm?

Do you think of stomping and clapping your hands to the beat of “We Will Rock You” by Queen? Do you think of speech patterns and limericks? Your daily routine? Rhythm connects us to the world - it’s even written into our biology. Check out how rhythm is linked to our socialization, health, and culture. It’s pretty incredible. Link.

Have you ever heard of a phonon?

If you're like me, you probably haven't. It's essentially a sound version to light's photon. When it comes to understanding the weirdness that is quantum physics, phonons may be lead to understanding the interface between the quantum and classical world.

At almost absolute-zero temps, atoms can only vibrate at discrete, set intensities (remember phonons?). So by cooling crystals the size of a grain of sand to extreme super-low temperatures and using sound vibrations, physicists have discovered properties that may be exploited to create memory in quantum computers. As lead physicist Matteo Fadel puts it: “These are fundamental, almost philosophical experiments… but they are also important for future technologies.” Link.

Did you know that brain cells communicate more effectively when firing off at a measured beat?

Scientists have been studying the effects of transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) and they’ve found that the rhythmic patterns of brain activity are markedly different between healthy brains and those with neuropsychiatric illness.

Whether it’s improving attention spans  in high-stakes environments or recovering memory function for those with dementia, tACS shows promise for strengthening and reviving mental capabilities. Just how it works isn’t exactly known - and there is some controversy if it even works at all. But the process shows promise. Check it out! Link.