In March 2020, evidence emerged that defied the current laws of physics – this evidence has now been replicatedAndrew George/UNSPLASH

Death-defying prehistoric monkeys

If an asteroid, a monkey and a Tyrannosaurus-rex were pitted against each other in a brutal but epic fight, who would you back to win? Recent research suggests that your money should be on the monkey.

66 million years ago, a meteor collided with Earth, and a devastating mass-extinction event ensued. Roughly 75% of animal and plant species were wiped out, including all non-avian dinosaurs.

Until now, research has suggested that ground-dwelling mammals were the best placed to survive the meteor’s aftermath. However, Cambridge scientists have recently discovered that some early tree-dwelling primates may have endured the event.

How these animals survived is unclear; the authors suggest that some forest fragments may have survived the cataclysm.

Senior author Dr Daniel Field, from Cambridge’s Department of Earth Sciences, said that the study drew on previous work at Cambridge to help investigate the mass-extinction event.

Co-lead author Jacob Berv added that “[the] study takes advantage of an ongoing revolution in our understanding of the tree of life.” Berv explained: “by integrating data from such collections with modern statistical techniques, we can address new questions about major transitions in evolutionary history.”

Is Big Brother watching you?

In other news, researchers at the University’s Department of Computer Science and Technology are launching a year-long investigation into the legality of smart devices.

Smart devices come in all shapes and sizes, from enhanced-security doorbells to interactive toys. This technology is constantly collecting data and exchanging it with other computer systems.

The leader of a research group into compliant and accountable systems, Dr Jat Singh, is concerned with how our personal information is being used and so has launched a project looking to “shed light” on current commercial data practices.

Singh wants to ensure that data practices are compliant with current regulations and laws. He commented: “Problems with the data practices of the consumer smart devices have been suspected for some time, but not fully examined – from both a technical and legal perspective.”

Singh stated that the study will create a “better, fairer and more compliant Internet of Things.” The Internet of Things is a widely-used term referring to smart devices that collect and distribute data.

Have physicists discovered a new force?

Everyone agrees that the world is bound by the laws of physics, right? There are certain things in life that are simply impossible: humans can’t walk on water, pigs can’t fly and you can’t lick your elbow (go on, try!). These unfeasible feats are thwarted by scientific laws: laws that everything abides by, or so we thought.

Our current understanding of fundamental physics is known as the Standard Model: this details our knowledge of all the known particles in the universe and the forces through which they interact. Scientists have long known that the model is incomplete, despite it passing every experimental test to date.

Last year, evidence emerged that broke one of the Standard Model’s core principles and defied the current laws of physics. The evidence came from studying beauty quarks, which are rare particles that offer valuable insights into new particles and forces.

In March 2020, physicists observed that beauty quarks were decaying in a way that could not be explained by the Standard Model. This suggests the existence of a new fundamental force, and recent research from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory supports such a theory.

The recent study, led by Cambridge physicists, also looked at the behaviour of beauty quarks. They observed a large number of beauty quarks inside the Large Hadron Collider – the most powerful particle accelerator in the world.

The research replicated the inexplicable decaying behaviour of the beauty quarks, which provides further evidence of a new fundamental force.

Dr Harry Cliff from the Cavendish Laboratory stated: “The fact that we’ve seen the same effect as our colleagues did in March certainly boosts the chances that we might genuinely be on the brink of discovering something new.”

What even is COP26?

Recent polling conducted in seven European countries by YouGov and Cambridge Zero, the University’s climate initiative, has revealed a general ignorance of the upcoming COP26 conference.

COP26 begins this Sunday (31/10) in Glasgow and is the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference. Representatives of countries from around the world come together to discuss climate action and promote new policies.

Director of Cambridge Zero, Dr Emily Shuckburgh, commented: “As the impact of climate change is starting to be felt everywhere, COP26 should be seen as a vital summit where the world must deliver immediate and meaningful climate action.

“But the bad news is that most people have still barely noticed that the world leaders who can actually take the actions needed will be in our own backyard.”

Additionally, a majority of those polled support certain environmental agendas – such as rewilding – but are reluctant to make personal lifestyle changes. For example, the majority of respondents in all seven countries reported eating meat regularly despite the environmental benefits of vegetarianism.