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Showing posts from July, 2016

Apollo Astronauts Help Prepare for Future Space Travel, Even in Death

The impact of the Apollo space program runs deep. Aside from the vast technological and scientific advancements it brought to life, footsteps on the moon left a legacy of hope, wonder, inspiration, and unity. The Apollo astronauts took humanity on a crazy journey of discovery. Now it seems that, even in death, Apollo astronauts are helping us prepare for future journeys that involve deep space travel. The emblem of the Apollo program. Image Credit:  NASA

Accelerating Electrons by Slingshot

You load a rock into a small pouch, pull it back until the bands are stretched tightly, and let the rock fly. A few seconds later, a window shatters into a million pieces. Slingshots-5 . Image Credit:  Stephanie Sicore ( CC BY 2.0 )

Diamonds Lead to Ultra-High Pressure Situations

Trying to find the perfect diamond has always been stressful, especially in a high-pressure environment. However, recent experimental results take the relationship between diamonds and pressure to a whole new level. An ultra-high level, in fact, that could expose new secrets of matter. An image of the pressure chamber in a diamond anvil cell, taken under an optical microscope through the diamond window. Image Credit:  Dubrovinskaia, et al. Sci. Adv. 2016; 2 : e1600341

Winding Light Takes New Paths

Light travels in a straight line. If that ceased to be the case, reflections, shadows, and really the whole world would make a lot less sense. During the past several years, however, scientists have created beams of light that curve as they travel, called accelerating beams. This crazy-sounding development could have wide ranging applications in fundamental research and practical technology, such as allowing visible light or information to be sent around obstacles.

Experimental Results Hint at Fifth Fundamental Force

Last week, we reported on a new theory by Dr. Jonathan Feng and collaborators, slated to appear in Physical Review Letters , which postulated a fifth fundamental force of nature. Exciting as this work is, our piece contained some errors and gave altogether the wrong impression, suggesting that the experimental work that served as the basis for this new theory might not be reliable. PhysicsCentral would like to apologize to our readers for this miscommunication, and in particular to Dr. Feng, as well as to the Atomki research group whose discovery of unusual features in the decay of Beryllium-8 atoms laid the groundwork for the new theory.

Microwave Technology Heats Up

Microwaves provide more than just a quick meal. The transmission of information via microwaves (the type of light , not the appliance) is fundamental to technologies such as Bluetooth communication, mobile phone networks, satellite televisions, radar, and GPS. A team of scientists from Aalto University in Finland recently created a tiny detector that could lead to big advances in microwave technology and have applications at the cutting edge of science.

Did Rembrandt "Cheat"? Optics Paper Weighs in on Art History Debate

Works of art by masters like Rembrandt may have harnessed the power of light to create awe-inspiring, realistic paintings. This being Physics Buzz, artistic techniques are not really our specialty. However, it’s worth a look at the way that the scientific and artistic side of light merge in an article that just came out in the Journal of Optical Physics , published by the Institute of Physics.

Ask a Physicist: Time Warp Brain Teaser

Bill, from the US, wants to know: Would a satellite with a perfectly circular orbit around the center of a circle experience time dilation relative to an observer at the center of the circle? What if the observer were spinning to always be looking at the satellite making them both seem at relative rest? If the satellite does experience time dilation, is it due to the non-inertial acceleration due to centripetal force?  This is a really insightful question—it applies the concepts of relativity in a very tricky way to create an apparent paradox which might not be obvious at first glance. For those less well-versed in relativity, we'll do a quick breakdown of what this question is getting at.

Putting a New Spin on Sound Waves

It's already possible to do some really extraordinary things with sound waves, like levitating small particles and manipulating them in-air  (useful for caustic chemistry reactions) but we're about to see another tool added to the sonic utility belt: spin. Scientists from Nanjing University in China have recently created a passive device that, for the first time, easily allows planar sound waves to be converted into corkscrew-shaped spiral waves without requiring elaborate geometric arrangements of sound sources.

What Most People Get Wrong About Einstein's Famous Equation

It’s practically the most famous formula in history. Every student knows it by heart, and nearly anyone can tell you who came up with it—with good reason: it’s as profound as it is widely known, communicating a fundamental truth of the universe in a mere five characters. Everyone say it with me, it’s:

My Three Suns: Our First Look at a Triple-Star System

2016 has been an exhilarating year for space enthusiasts, and we’re only in July. Actually, this is an exhilarating year for anyone interested in where we came from and what else is out there. So far we’ve seen the first (and second ) detection of gravitational waves, a rapidly expanding list of exoplanets , and Juno’s successful arrival at Jupiter’s doorstep, to name a few highlights. Today in the journal Science, astronomers announced another crazy milestone, the first image of a planet with three suns.

Surprising Resonance Result Yields Record-Breaking Heat Insulation

This is an exciting time. Cutting-edge technology enables us to zoom in on individual atoms and take pictures and measurements. Theoretical models and computer simulations that describe how atoms interact on different scales are becoming more powerful. These tools are teaching us more and more about the complicated forces at work inside of materials. One of the ultimate goals of this work is to be able to create materials by design—to decide upon the properties you want in a material for a specific application and then build it atom-by-atom or molecule-by-molecule. We aren’t there yet, but we are on our way.

How to Build a Heat Engine With Guitar Strings and Levers

To most of us, a heat engine is the thing that makes our car run. A refrigerator is the appliance that keeps our milk cold. Scientists, however, tend to think about things on a much more fundamental level. This week, a new paper by scientists from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) demonstrates how to build a heat engine and refrigerator using a couple of guitar strings and a lever. Their work, published in Physical Review Letters, could pave the way for new ways to produce energy and help us learn more about heat and energy on the microscopic scale.