Two years ago, physicists at the University of Chicago were greeted with fireworks—atoms shooting out in jets—when they discovered a new form of quantum behavior. But the patterns underlying the bright jets were difficult to pick out from the noise.

Instead, the scientists took an approach new to the field: machine learning. By running the data through a pattern recognition algorithm, they identified that the paths of the atoms formed a distinctive shape that looks a bit like a turtle—which helped tease out the physics behind it. The results, published Feb. 1 in Science, improve our understanding of quantum dynamics and offer an innovative way to study quantum phenomena.

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