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Hong Kong: political turmoil provokes difficult decisions about whether to leave

26 Feb 2021

Thousands of people protested in Hong Kong in July 2019 against a proposed extradition law. omonphotography via Shutterstock

This is a transcript of Episode 4 of The Conversation Weekly: Leaving Hong Kong after China’s clampdown: where are people thinking of going and why?. In this week’s episode, three experts explain why more people are thinking of leaving Hong Kong – and the choices they face about where to go. And we hear about new research that has found a new way to speed up the search for that elusive enigma: dark matter.

NOTE: Transcripts may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.

Dan Merino: Hello and welcome to The Conversation Weekly.

Gemma Ware: In this episode, three experts explain why people are leaving Hong Kong, where they’re going and why.

Sui-Ting Kong: They can’t find that Hong Kong any more, that’s why they are seeking for a better life.

Dan: And we’ll hear from a physicist who is using technology from the world of quantum computing, to help speed up the search for dark matter, of all things.

Benjamin Brubaker: There’s this invisible cosmic wave all around us and it’s just oscillating up and down.

Gemma: From The Conversation, I’m Gemma Ware in London.

Dan: And I’m Dan Merino in San Francisco. You’re listening to The Conversation Weekly, the world explained by experts.

Gemma: First up today, Dan, we’ve got a story about Hong Kong, and the people who are having to make really tough decisions about whether to stay or whether to leave.

Dan: And people fighting for democracy anywhere in the world really have to consider that I’m sure. “Should I stay? Or do I have to get out, get somewhere safer it’s getting too dangerous?”

Gemma: And the situation in Hong Kong has been getting really dangerous for people who’ve been protesting over the past few years.

Gemma: The umbrella movement that began in 2014 got its name from the colourful umbrellas that the pro-democracy protesters were holding up, initially to protect themselves against pepper spray from the police but then eventually water cannons too.

Gemma: Then in 2019, China proposed a new extradition law that would have allowed Hong Kong residents to be extradited to the mainland. This triggered huge protests which lasted for months, characterised by severe police violence and large scale destruction in the city.

Gemma: Then in mid-2020, the Chinese government passed a new national security law for Hong Kong.

Dan: So this new law was in addition to the old extradition law?

Gemma: Yeah, that’s right and actually the extradition law was eventually withdrawn after all the protests. And then subsequently the Chinese Communist Party introduced this new national security law which was passed in the middle of 2020, and essentially it criminalises anyone who disagrees with the government in Hong Kong and any acts of subversion among other things. And experts, some of whom have actually written for The Conversation about this, say that the passing of the law spelled the death knell for this “one country two systems” framework that Hong Kong is known for.

Dan: Fundamentally, it all comes down to this weird situation where the UK handed control of Hong Kong back to China. It’s this complicated question of who’s actually in charge.

Gemma: Yeah, and that 1997 handover by the British back to China really focused on the rule of law and upholding the rule of law. And Hong Kong’s Basic Law was specifically meant to guarantee Hong Kong’s judicial independence from China. But this national security law kind of threw that all out of the window. And people were always worried about what would happen in the future, and it seems that they were right to be worried and right to be concerned about what China would do.

Gemma: So much of the world was incensed by China’s decision to pass this national security law, and as part of its own response, the British government actually opened up a new visa route to Hong Kong at the end of January. A few other countries, such as Australia and Canada are also seeing more interest in people to come to those countries too. So to find out more about this, I’ve spoken to three experts about how the political turmoil in Hong Kong is influencing people’s decisions about whether to leave or whether to stay, and if they do decide to leave, where to go.

Sui-Ting: I’m Sui-Ting Kong, assistant professor in the Department of Sociology of Durham University.

Gemma: Sui-Ting told me the recent wave of arrests in Hong Kong has frightened a lot of those involved in the recent protests.

Sui Ting: Even those who are less prominent, they are now, you know, under the threat of prosecution. And that definitely caused, you know, fear, among people. They just do not know whether I have already crossed a red line.

Gemma: But not all people are thinking of leaving for the same reasons.

Sui-Ting: There is a group of people, they really think that they disagree with the protest, that happened in 2019 and they do really feel that the Hong Kong they used to love, which is stable, harmonious and a place for making money and business, is long gong.

Gemma: Sui-Ting is working on a couple of research projects about how political participation – or lack of it - influences people’s everyday lives. One of these projects, led by the researcher Bobo Lau in Hong Kong, is also researching the tensions that politics can create between different generations of the same family. As part of it, they’ve been interviewing parents and their children.

Sui Ting: And in our interviews, for example, a lot of parents, they actually talk about moving back to China. Because they believe that they fled China in the past in order to seek stability and harmony.

Gemma: As Sui-Ting and her colleagues have begun analysing their interviews, migration has emerged as a prominent theme.

Sui-Ting: We have actually seen three different ways that they describe the decision to migrate.

Gemma: The first way to describe leaving is just that – migration.

Sui-Ting: Migration is a term in Cantonese, we call it yímín (??), which is a fairly neutral term.

This particular term is used by those who are considered to be what they call “light yellow”. It means that when they are participating in the protest movement, they are not those who are considered to be valiant or frontline protesters. They are supportive of the movement and they also feel very disappointed over the course of last year that things are not changing towards a better direction.

And quite often, if they’ve got children, one of the major concerns is that they want the children to grow up in a place which is free for them to express themselves, as well as having an education system that allows their children to have critical thinking, including being critical of China.

Gemma: She says this group of people are searching for something safer, a life with more freedom.

Sui-Ting: And that is also how they perceive Hong Kong is and should be but they can’t find that Hong Kong anymore, given the current situation, and that’s why they are seeking elsewhere for a better life.

Gemma: A second group, those who were more involved in the protests, describe their decision to leave as a type of flight.

Sui-Ting: The other term is called z?unàn (??), that basically means that fleeing from disaster or fleeing from something very undesirable and unpleasant. And they find it really difficult to reconcile the idea of moving away from Hong Kong while they have invested so much energy, sacrificed so much in the movement, to make Hong Kong a better place for themselves. And one of the interviewee, who is a young adult, just graduated from the university involved in our project, she even said that, “I can’t, I can’t believe myself even ponder, you know, the idea of moving away while Hong Kong is crumbling.”

And that kind of sense of indebtedness and sense of guilt for leaving Hong Kong just doesn’t allow them to think about leaving Hong Kong for a better life. And one of the many ways of living with it is that it is not really my choice. I must go because it is just too bad in this place. This particular description of the migration decision would then actually affect the way they re-engage with the Hong Kong politics after they move out of Hong Kong.

Gemma: The final way people describe leaving is much more brutal.

Sui-Ting: The third category is called liúwáng (??). It literally means exile.

Gemma: She said her team hasn’t actually interviewed anyone who is going into exile or taking political refuge, but that this a distinct way some people talk about leaving Hong Kong.

Sui-Ting: And this particular category, for those who can be seen or even claim to be in this category, they need to have certain political capital. They have to be fairly involved in the movement to the extent that they are eligible to take political refuge. We have already seen very high profile, prominent cases who actually, took that route, exile. For example, Nathan Law who is now in the UK - he will be arrested if he goes back. Then, Ted Hui, Hui Chi-fung, he actually left with the whole family and and ended up in the UK.

And this particular phenomenon doesn’t just happen by just fleeing to the UK, but also fleeing to Taiwan. And we’ve got a very clear case about the Hong Kong 12 who actually fled Hong Kong, tried to go to Taiwan, and got caught by the Chinese government.

Gemma: I wanted to find out more about the routes for Hong Kongers to come to both of those places – the UK and Taiwan. First, let’s focus on the UK. At the end of January this year, the British government opened up a new visa route for millions of Hong Kongers.

To find out more the route I called up an immigration expert.

Peter William Walsh: My name is Peter William Walsh. I’m a researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

Gemma: Peter explained that the British National Overseas – or BNO – status is essentially a hangover from the British Empire.

Peter: It was actually created in advance of the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, to allow Hong Kong residents to “retain a connection” is how the government described it with the UK.

Gemma: Back then it didn’t mean a huge amount – people with BNO status couldn’t actually move freely to the UK to study or work.

Peter: And now that’s all changed. It is no longer symbolic. Now it brings some definite rights and privileges that weren’t afforded to Hong Kong holders of this status before.

Gemma: The new route opened up on January 31.

Peter: So in principle, it will allow up to 5.4 million Hong Kong residents to come to the UK to work, to live, to study, and become British citizens. There are 2.9 million BNO status holders estimated by the UK government, but it’s also their close family members, their spouses, their children, their grandchildren who are eligible.

Gemma: The application costs £250.

Peter: That’s relatively cheap for a British visa. At the moment a standard work visa costs over a £1,000.

Gemma: If they’re successful, the visa last for five years, at which point they can apply to become a British citizen. But there are a number of other associated costs.

Peter: The immigration health surcharge, that’s currently over £600 pounds for each year of the visa and that has to be paid upfront. So that brings the cost to one individual to move to about £3,000.

Gemma: The UK government doesn’t really have any firm idea of how many people are going to apply for it.


Read more: Hong Kong: China crackdown is likely to boost migration to UK


Peter: The government has provided some projections, but as they admit, they are quote highly uncertain. The lowest estimate is that 9,000 people will move to the UK in the first five years of the policy. The highest estimate is that over a million will come.

So it’s perhaps more sensible to take the government’s middle estimates. And so that puts it at between 250,000 and 320,000, so between 50,000 and 60,000 a year over the first five years.

Gemma: Another estimate, based on a survey by a group called Hong Kongers in Britain, which recruited people via social media, suggested 200,000 people would come on average per year over the first three years.

Peter: But again, highly uncertain, and I think we should treat all these figures with a large measure of caution.

Gemma: This week, as the British government launched a new phone app that BNO status holders can use to apply for the visa, it said that thousands of people had already applied in the first few weeks.

But the full figures won’t be clear for a few months until the government next publishes its immigration data. The new route came just a month after the UK left the European Union’s single market due to Brexit, bringing to an end decades of free movement for EU and UK citizens. In its place, the UK government has introduced a new points-based immigration system.

Peter: We’ll have to see where that balance is and where the BNO visa fits in. It could in fact contribute to higher overall immigration numbers, which would go against one of the government’s main aims of its points based system.


Read more: The UK immigration system is broken – coronavirus and Brexit will make it even worse


Gemma: For its part, the Chinese government is furious about the new BNO visa route. A few days before it opened, China announced it would no longer recognise the BNO passport as an official travel document. Then in February, the UK government warned that China was no longer recognising dual nationality, which could make it difficult to provide consular assistance to British citizens who also hold a local passport.

I asked Sui-Ting Kong how the new BNO visa route was influencing conversations about migration in Hong Kong. She said it had big implications on family life.

Sui-Ting: If you want to be eligible for BNO, you have to be born before 1997. And that means that those who are born after 1997, they can actually move to the UK under this particular new BNO pathway only when they are dependants of BNO-holding parents.

Gemma: This can lead to tensions between parents who have BNO status, but don’t want to move, and their children who do.

Sui-Ting: And that creates a lot of discussion about whether the Hong Kong is actually the place that they can live in as a family and create a lot of generational splits.

What happened is that a lot of parents, they actually have developed their business or their career in Hong Kong. It’s not as easy for them to just move because they feel like, “I’ve got a decent salary here.” They might not actually speak English well, and they’ve got their families and a lot of friends here. And moving at at the age of forties, fifties it’s just not something that they want to do. However, their children actually might see that, “You can actually provide me the opportunity to leave this place and seek a better life elsewhere, however you do not choose to do so.” It becomes a source of conflict.

Gemma: The UK isn’t the only option for young people who want to leave Hong Kong, and Taiwan is becoming an increasingly attractive choice. Figures released by Taiwan’s Immigration Agency in early February showed 10,800 Hong Kongers got local Taiwanese residence permits in 2020, a record number – and double the previous year.

In March 2020, in response to the higher number of people migrating, Taiwan actually altered its immigration law to restrict the naturalisation of Hong Kong citizens. And yet a survey conducted a few months later found that Taiwan was still Hong Kongers’ first migration destination above Canada, Australia, the UK and US.

To find out more, I spoke to a researcher in Taiwan who studies migration from Hong Kong.

Tsungyi Michelle Huang: I am Tsungyi Michelle Huang, professor at the Geography Department of National Taiwan University.

Gemma: Michelle explains that she got interested in the issue when she moved for a few years to teach at Chinese University in Hong Kong. When she met new people and revealed that she was from Taiwan, their attitude would often shift.

Michelle: From cold and detached, that kind of metropolitan cool, to warm and friendly. So these Hong Kongers I met usually describe their personal relationship with Taiwan in very affectionate terms. And it is very usual to hear them say, “Oh, you’re from Taiwan. I love Taiwan so much.”

Gemma: But it didn’t used to be that way, and she says there has been a shift in attitudes.

Michelle: Before 2000, Taiwan was not considered an attractive place by the Hong Kong community.

At that time Taiwan is some kind of back yard for Hong Kong, like they come to visit but still it’s a little bit like economic back water. It’s like rural area. So definitely not their top choice for migration. But this so-called Taiwan fever emerged after 2005. This is a trend reflected in the statistics of Hong Kongers visiting Taiwan.

Gemma: Part of Michelle’s research includes interviews with women from Hong Kong who have migrated to Taiwan to marry.

Michelle: These interviewees are women between 35 to 45 and have been living in Taiwan for between five to 12 years.

Gemma: These women suggest the attraction of Taiwan can be summed in the term “small happiness”, or the search for small pleasures – a more balanced way of life.

Michelle: They love Taiwan’s space, the natural environment and slow pace of life. The charm of Taiwanese small happiness can be found both in it’s casual lifestyle and the low barriers and costs for new businesses.

Gemma: Taiwan has grown in attraction in recent years because of the political turbulence in Hong Kong.

Michelle: And today’s Hong Kong, they would describe this as a place where tear gas and political violence seems to become the new normalcy in the city, together with the city’s high population density, the world’s most expensive housing market and this speedy and demanding work life.

Gemma: It’s relatively easy for people from Hong Kong to move to Taiwan, including by investing a certain amount of money to start up a business, or moving for work or to study. And many people see the move as a temporary one.

Michelle: Migrating to Taiwan is close and cheap compared with migrating to USA, Australia or Canada, for example. So, many of them have this idea that if things don’t work as planned, they can just go back to Hong Kong.

Gemma: OK, so they can try it out, come to live in Taiwain for a few years.

Michelle: Right, right, exactly, to see if they like it. So it’s quite flexible for them. And also, if you move to Taiwan, you don’t have to speak a foreign language.

Gemma: For the women Michelle has interviewed, politics wasn’t the main reason they migrated to Taiwan, they came to marry. But some of them spoke about their disappointment with the changes that have been going back on in Hong Kong. She gives the example of one woman, who said she felt sad for Hong Kongers.

Michelle: She said, “Hong Kong people are getting more and more angry because of the political situation. They cannot find a channel to vent their anger.”

Gemma: And some of them have a strong political stance - an anti-China one.

Michelle: Many of them say that once they become citizens of Taiwan, the first thing they do is to vote and they think this is very important for them. And many of them are supportive of the DPP.

Gemma: That’s the Democratic Progressive Party, Taiwan’s ruling party, which takes a strong line against China.


Read more: Taiwan: what election victory for Tsai Ing-wen means for the island's future


Michelle: And many of them have strong anti-China sentiments and believe that today’s Hong Kong, tomorrow’s Taiwan. They think Taiwan is the last place that can stand firm against China.

Gemma: I asked Michelle how people in Taiwan have reacted to the increase in migration from Hong Kong.

Michelle: The Taiwenese are basically sympathetic and accepting of Hong Kongers because over these years time, Taiwanese society has also developed this anti-China sentiment. So Taiwan and Hong Kong formed some kind of imagined political alliance, share this anti-China sentiment.

Gemma: But she says that some questions are now being raised in Taiwan about the new migration.

Michelle: After this Hong Kong version of the national security law, public opinion organisations conducted a survey. One of the questions was, “Should Taiwan protect and welcome Hong Kongers to come to Taiwan?” with 41.5% agreeing and 50.5% disagreeing.

Gemma: It’s younger people, under the age of 34, who are the most sympathetic. But the poll showed that more than half of those over 40 don’t think Taiwan should be protecting Hong Kongers.

Michelle: One interesting view is that, Taiwanese are worried whether many of the Hong Kongers who have immigrated to Taiwan are actually mainlanders, because of this distrust of Chinese.

Gemma: When I asked Michelle how she saw this relationship evolving in the future, she said it’s still early days. Hong Kong’s umbrella movement and the protests against the extradition bill have led to what she says is a “common destiny” between Taiwan and Hong Kong. But China’s imposition of the national security law has stoked new fears.

Michelle: Paradoxically, the strengthening of China’s rule over Hong Kong has also increased Taiwan’s society’s suspicion of Hong Kong’s new immigrants. So one of my interviewees told me that her parents-in-law never really trust her because she’s from Hong Kong. And they think that, you know, Hong Kong now is part of mainland China. And on top of that, doubts about Hong Kongers coming to Taiwan for property speculation and social welfare use will probably be more prevalent in Taiwan in the future

Gemma: Both Michelle and Sui-Ting Kong will be watching what impact any increase in people choosing to leave Hong Kong might have – including on those existing communities of Hong Kongers in the UK and Taiwan. What’s clear is that those Hong Kongers who do make the decision to go, whether to Taiwan, the UK or elsewhere, will continue to follow the political situation in Hong Kong very closely.

Dan: Those are some really big decisions a lot of people need to be making.

Gemma: Yeah absolutely, and it’s also going to be interesting to see how their relationship with Hong Kong develops in the future. You can read more analysis on what’s happening in Hong Kong, and an article about the BNO visa route by Peter William Walsh on TheConversation.com, or by following the links in the show notes.

Dan: For our next segment, we’re leaving behind the trials and tribulations of the laws of mankind and venturing off into the laws of physics, specifically, the hunt for dark matter.

Gemma: That sounds intriguing Dan but I have to admit I don’t know what you’ve just said means.

Dan: Well, nobody knows what dark matter is. This is the question. It’s totally undetectable, and the only way astronomers and physicists know it exists is because you can see how it affects things in the universe, but not the thing itself. So to understand more, fist about what dark matter may or may not be, but more importantly about how we’re getting a step closer to actually finding it, I spoke to Benjamin Brubaker.

Benjamin: I’m a physicist, my career has straddled particle physics and quantum physics. Currently I’m a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Colorado at Boulder. And the work that we recently published is actually from my time in graduate school at Yale, where I was doing particle physics research in dark matter.

Dan: Dark matter. It’s a fun word to say. It doesn’t really mean anything to me. Why are we even looking? How do we know dark matter exists, if we don’t know that it exists?

Benjamin: So dark matter is obviously kind of a buzzword and it’s this name we give to this invisible substance, which fills our galaxy. It’s actually all around us, and we just don’t experience it on day-to-day level. We basically, we know nothing about what it’s made of, but we have a lot of converging lines of evidence that it exists and that it’s there.


Read more: The search for dark matter gets a speed boost from quantum technology


And the simplest evidence is from the motions of the stars. So gravity causes the stars in our galaxy to orbit the galactic centre, basically the same way that the planets in our solar system orbit the sun.

But when astrophysicists study these orbits, they find the stars are just moving way too fast. And so that suggests there’s something else out there that we don’t know about that’s pulling on the stars gravitationally.

And then you can look at other evidence. So for example, you can study this light from the early universe and there’s these patterns in the light. When you look at these patterns, they also tell us that there’s some extra matter out there. That’s a totally different kind of measurement. And most importantly, they tell us that this extra matter can’t be made of atoms, like all the other matter we’re familiar with. So this really tells us there’s something missing from our description of reality. And it’s a big, big missing piece, that actually dark matter, we know that it makes up more than 80% of the matter in the universe.

Dan: Do we have any idea what we’re talking about here or we just randomly searching, you know, you put up a big net metaphorically speaking and are hoping to find something?

Benjamin: Yes, that’s a great question. So there’s a bunch of different theories that all postulate all these different kinds of particles and we have no idea if any of them are correct. We have no idea which one is correct, and all of them might be wrong. So one of the types of particles that dark matter might be it’s called an axion.

Axions are these sort of unusual particles that behave more like waves than particles, actually. There’s a ton of them and they’re just, they’re collective behaviour is like waves. And this is a little bit similar to how, when you wade into the ocean, you experience the motion of the water as waves, even though at the microscopic level, the water is really made of a bunch of individual molecules.

And so if dark matter is made of axions, there’s this invisible cosmic wave all around us and it’s just oscillating up and down. And it’s actually doing that at a really, really specific frequency. We have no idea what this frequency is.

Dan: OK. My radio goes from like 88.1 all the way up to like 107 point whatever. I mean, that’s not that big of a range. I can click through it in a few minutes. I assume this is a much bigger problem to solve for you guys.

Benjamin: Yeah, the axion wave frequency really could be anywhere from 300 hertz to 300 billion hertz. So that’s a factor of a billion, is a huge, huge, huge number.

Dan: How long would this have taken to scan from 300 hertz to 300 billion hertz?

Benjamin: We actually did a calculation for a smaller fraction of that range because the technology changes a fair amount over that range, but even for this smaller fraction, it could take more than 10,000 years. We might get lucky of course, but you know, shouldn’t count on winning the lottery

Dan: 10,000 years for not even the whole range…

So Ben, your new paper was talking about how you guys used something from quantum computing technology to essentially speed up the search for dark matter. What does that mean? And then what is the outcome?

Benjamin: Yeah, so by searching for dark matter, I mean we know this stuff called dark matter’s out there. We have no idea what it is. So we’re just trying to look through all these different possible hypotheses and take some time to rule out each one. So we’re looking for this specific type of dark matter called axion and we incorporated some technology that we borrowed from quantum computing research that allowed us to sort of manipulate the laws of quantum mechanics to our advantage and double the rate at which we’re able to search for this specific type of dark matter particle.

So what our axion detector is doing is actually, it’s measuring these particular kinds of electromagnetic oscillations called quadratures.

Dan: How’d you guys do it?

Benjamin: So the detector that we’re looking for is sort of optimised to look for these kind of cosmic waves and it’s called Haystac and that’s an acronym.

Dan: The haloscope at Yale sensitive to axion CDM. It’s the detector, essentially.

The Haystac detector is searching for the axion, one of the hypothetical particles that could make up dark matter. Kelly Backes, CC BY-ND

Benjamin: So the philosophy of Haystac, really, since the project started in 2012 has been, we’re just going to try to reduce that noise as much as possible. So we’ve been drilling down on the noise down, down, down. And in 2017, we eventually got to this point where the noise is limited by this fundamental minimum noise level that comes from a law of quantum physics called the uncertainty principle.

What it does is it adds noise to those measurements. So when you ask, is the electromagnetic field oscillating in this way, or is it oscillating in this other way, both of those questions you’ll get like, yeah, a little bit. But that a little bit is just the noise and there’s no way to totally eliminate this noise. But what it is possible to do, and this is what we did in our new paper, is we can control that noise.

So you can kind of shuffle it around. You can say, “Hey, uncertainty principle, I know we have to add noise to both of these quadratures, but why don’t you put most of it in this quadrature? And we’re going to look at this other quadrature.” And that actually is a net benefit, if you do that. And this way of manipulating noise is called quantum squeezing.

Dan: OK. So you might like, for example, to go back to our radio metaphor, turn up the lows in the static, but you might be able to hear the highs a little better and pick out your song or whatever.

Benjamin: Yeah, the quadratures aren’t really different frequencies, but, but sure that that’s a, that’s a pretty reasonable analogy.

Dan: So you used quantum computing technology. Where did this come into play?

Benjamin: So quantum computing is this sort of new technological revolution in applied science. And one of those ways is to use superconducting circuits at really low temperatures.

Dan: Superconducting materials have no electrical resistance, meaning electrons can flow freely through them as fast as they please and it allows it to transfer information super fast and be super sensitive to any little signals it might pick up.

Benjamin: And superconducting circuits work at particular frequencies. And those frequencies happen to be pretty similar to where we’re looking with Haystac. So there’s this sort of natural technological compatibility there. And so what we did specifically is we used these particular kinds of superconducting circuits that are capable of squeezing quantum noise, and we adapted these into our detector and that allows us to speed up the search for the axion.

Dan: And that will speed this search up by how much?

Benjamin: So in our particular case, in Haystac, we’re able to double the search rate, and there’s no limit on how good that could be, in principle. Of course, it’s harder to make it better. It gets progressively harder and harder. But one of the exciting things is that this quantum technology is proceeding in leaps and bounds. It’s really going ahead quite fast. And we think it’s pretty feasible that within a couple of years or something, you could turn this doubling into a factor of ten in the search rate.

Dan: That’s a huge deal. What’s the bigger meaning behind this? What do you foresee the search for dark matter looking like?

Benjamin: That’s a very important point. So, you know, my estimate before was more than 10,000 years. So if you’re thinking about doubling the search rate, you might be sitting there thinking, “Well, gee, I still don’t want to wait 5,000 years.” Obviously that’s helped a lot.

So one of these ways that is less quantum, more boring is just to have a bunch of these detectors working together in sync in this kind of clockwork way, that’s scales a lot better than just having a bunch of independent copies of your detector.

The stuff that I’m really excited about is the application of quantum technology. I think what we’ve done is kind of opened a door to, “Look, there is a way to use quantum technology to speed up this search.”

There’s other kinds of quantum techniques that could come into play here. We’re working on a paper right now that I’m really excited about, which is a complimentary technique to squeezing, it evolves noiseless amplification of the signal. And we think we could get a factor of 20 out of that. Though, that will require a good deal of technological development.

I should say, these are all pretty long-term things. What’s exciting to me here is that quantum technology, you know, these quantum computing stuff with superconducting circuits is proceeding extremely rapidly. There’s really impressive developments.

In many instances, it’s sort of like you’ve invented the world’s best hammer and people are like, well, nails are going to be ready you know? We’re working on it, but it’s going to be a while. So having some, near-term applications for this stuff is really exciting.

Dan: Well, it’s cool to hear that you guys’ paper has been able to put this stuff to use and speed up the search. So Ben, thank you so much for taking the time to explain your cool finding with us and best of luck on the hunt for axions.

Benjamin: Yeah. Thank you as well.

Dan: You can read more about the search for dark matter and see some really cool photos of the Haystac detector itself in an article Ben wrote for The Conversation. Find the link in the show notes.

Gemma: To finish off this episode we’ve got a few recommendations sent in via voicemail from our colleague Luthfi Dzulfikar, associate editor at The Conversation in Indonesia.

Luthfi Dzulfikar: Hi, my name is Luthfi Dzulfikar, an editor at The Conversation based in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s President, Joko Widodo, recently made a public statement urging Indonesians to do a better job in criticising his government. This was immediately met with outrage across the country, many highlighting the president’s hypocrisy of how criticism towards the government has fallen on deaf ears, time and time again.

In our report, we talked with academics from Universitas Airlangga and Universitas Brawijaya, on a number of crucial moments that the government ignored public demand. For instance, the government went forward with numerous regional elections in the midst of skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, signed into law a massive labour bill that curtailed worker’s rights even after waves of protests, passed legislation that weakened the country’s anti-corruption agency in the middle of the largest student demonstration in two decades, and last but not least, repeatedly abusing the country’s notorious internet law to threaten and imprison its critics.

Our second story comes from Karel Karsten Himawan, psychology researcher at Universitas Pelita Harapan. Dr Himawan’s recent study, which involved over 500 people across the country, found that a lot of single Indonesians are going online in an attempt to find social connection and happiness, but fail to do so – contrary to a number of international research. Their online dating activities and “superficial” friendships made through social media have fallen short in fulfilling the social needs of single people and have done little to lessen their feelings of loneliness.

The study suggests that for Indonesian singles, surrounding ourselves with a tight-knit group of friends is a better way of boosting happiness. That’s it from the team in Jakarta, stay safe everyone.

Gemma: Luthfi Dzulfikar there from The Conversation in Indonesia.

Dan: OK then, that’s it for this episode of The Conversation Weekly. Thank you to all of the academics we’ve spoken to in this episode. And thanks to The Conversation editors Jonathan Este, Justin Bergman and Luthfi Dzulfikar.

Gemma: You can find links to all the expert analysis we’ve mentioned in this week’s episode in the show notes. Or head to TheConversation.com, where you can sign up to get a free daily email by clicking “Get newsletter” at the top of the homepage.

Gemma: This episode is co-produced by Mend Mariwany and me, with sound design by Eloise Stevens.

Dan: Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. Final thanks also to Alice Mason, Stephen Khan and Imriel Morgan.

Gemma: And one final thing, if you like this podcast, please tell your friends about us and go please give us a review on Apple Podcasts – it really does help.

Gemma: Until next week. Thanks for listening.


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This content was originally published by The Conversation. Original publishers retain all rights. It appears here for a limited time before automated archiving. By The Conversation

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