The Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU) is home to many interdisciplinary projects which benefit from the synergy of a wide range of expertise available at the institute. One such project is the study of black holes that could have formed in the early universe, before stars and galaxies were born.


Such primordial black holes (PBHs) could account for all or part of dark matter, be responsible for some of the observed gravitational waves signals, and seed supermassive black holes found in the center of our Galaxy and other galaxies. They could also play a role in the synthesis of heavy elements when they collide with neutron stars and destroy them, releasing neutron-rich material. In particular, there is an exciting possibility that the mysterious dark matter, which accounts for most of the matter in the universe, is composed of primordial black holes. The 2020 Nobel Prize in physics was awarded to a theorist, Roger Penrose, and two astronomers, Reinhard Genzel and Andrea Ghez, for their discoveries that confirmed the existence of black holes. Since black holes are known to exist in nature, they make a very appealing candidate for dark matter.


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Goldfish have been subjected to over 1,000 y of intensive domestication and selective breeding. In this report, scientists describe a high-quality goldfish genome (2n = 100), anchoring 95.75% of contigs into 50 pseudochromosomes. Comparative genomics enabled them to disentangle the two subgenomes that resulted from an ancient hybridization event. Resequencing 185 representative goldfish variants and 16 wild crucian carp revealed the origin of goldfish and identified genomic regions that have been shaped by selective sweeps linked to its domestication.


This comprehensive collection of goldfish varieties enabled scientists to associate genetic variations with a number of well-known anatomical features, including features that distinguish traditional goldfish clades. Additionally, they were able to identify a tyrosine-protein kinase receptor as a candidate causal gene for the first well-known case of Mendelian inheritance in goldfish—the transparent mutant.


The goldfish genome and diversity data offer unique resources to make goldfish a promising model for functional genomics, as well as domestication.

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A team of scientists at the Freie Universität in Berlin has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) method for calculating the ground state of the Schrödinger equation. The goal was to predict chemical and physical properties of molecules based solely on the arrangement of their atoms in space, avoiding the need for resource-intensive and time-consuming laboratory experiments. In principle, this can be achieved by solving the Schrödinger equation, but in practice this is extremely difficult.


Up until now, it has been impossible to find an exact solution for arbitrary molecules that can be efficiently computed. But the team at the Freie Universität Berlin has developed an AI deep learning method that can achieve an unprecedented combination of accuracy and computational efficiency.


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More than three decades’ worth of government UFO records are now available for download, thanks to the efforts of some intrepid truth-seekers. The massive data dump includes more than 2,700 pages of UFO-related documents declassified by the CIA since the 1980s. The U.S. government also calls them “unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP. According to The Black Vault — an online repository of UFO-related documents operated by author John Greenwald Jr. — the documents were obtained through a long string of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests filed over the last quarter century .


Over time, so many requests piled up that the CIA created a CD-ROM full of declassified documents, known as “The UFO collection.” In mid-2020, Greenwald purchased the CD-ROM, and he recently finished uploading its contents as a series of searchable PDF files on his website. You can find them all at The Black Vault website. The documents cover dozens of incidents, including the 1976 account of the government’s then-Assistant Deputy Director for Science & Technology being hand-delivered a mysterious piece of intelligence on a UFO, to the description of a mysterious midnight explosion in a small Russian town.


“Although the CIA claims this is their ‘entire’ [declassified] collection, there may be no way to entirely verify that,” Greenwald wrote in a statement on The Black Vault website. “Research by The Black Vault will continue to see if there are additional documents still uncovered within the CIA’s holdings.”


The data dump arrives months before officials from the U.S. Department of Defense and intelligence agencies are due to appear before Congress and spill their guts on everything they know about UFOs, the New York Post reported. A provision attached to the nearly 5,600-page COVID-29 relief bill passed in late December 2020 requires the agencies, “to submit a report within 180 days … to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on unidentified aerial phenomena.”


The provision follows a banner year for UFOs, when startling footage of an unidentified object darting around several U.S. Navy planes in 2004 and 2015 was finally declassified. While the new data dump is significant, it’s also just a drop in the bucket of The Black Vault’s enormous archive. The website reportedly contains more than 2.2 million pages of UFO-related material in its archive, which Greenwald obtained through more than 10,000 FOIA requests. According to the Vault website, Greenwald filed his first FOIA request in 1996, when he was just 15 years old.


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From the rapid development of vaccines for Covid-19 to the stunning collection of an asteroid sample, these were the biggest science moments of the year.


Covid-19 dominated science coverage in 2020, and rightly so. The world grappled with how to combat the SARS-CoV-2 virus, learning about how it spread (whether it was on surfaces, via droplets or being airborne) and how it affected the human body (from immunity to symptoms like loss of smell.) But scientific endeavors in other fields, whether affected directly by the pandemic or indirectly by public health measures, didn’t come to a complete halt because of SARS-CoV-2. In incredible advances, researchers used three new tools for making discoveries about the sun, discovered that dinosaurs got cancer and published a study on a discovery in a Mexican cave that changes the timeline of humans’ arrival to the Americas. But none of those moments made this list of the biggest science stories of the year. It’s a subjective round-up, of course, but one compiled by our editors after much thought and debate. Presenting the key innovations, studies and discoveries that made 2020 an unforgettable year in science!

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Astronomers have found ghostly circles of radio emission, hanging in space like cosmic smoke rings. What are they? No one knows. The race is on to find out.



In September 2019, the astronomer Anna Kapinska gave a presentation showing interesting objects she had found while browsing new radio astronomical data. She had started noticing very weird shapes she couldn’t fit easily to any known type of object. Among them, labeled by Anna as WTF?, was a picture of a ghostly circle of radio emission, hanging out in space like a cosmic smoke-ring. None of the attending astronomers had ever seen anything like it before, and had no idea what it was. A few days later, another astronomer, Emil Lenc found a second one, even more spooky than the first one.


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