Thursday, June 29, 2017

Spinning Black Holes Could Create Clouds of Mass

Nothing, not even light, can come out of a black hole. At least, that’s the conventional wisdom, and it’s certainly true that—once the event horizon is crossed—there’s no going back. But for rotating black holes, there’s a region outside the event horizon where strange and extraordinary things can happen, and these extraordinary possibilities are the focus of a new paper in the American Physical Society journal Physical Review Letters.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Simulation Method Predicts Crystal Structures Like Never Before

Materials science is one field where structure makes all the difference in the world. Take carbon, for example—it has two crystalline forms, one of which is soft enough that it can be crumbled with your fingers, while the other is the hardest substance found in nature. The component atoms are identical, but the arrangement of those atoms determines whether they make common graphite or a sparkling diamond.

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Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Emptiness Tied in a Knot

O Time, thou must untangle this, not I;
It is too hard a knot for me t' untie. 
-Viola in Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
The knot Viola speaks of in Twelfth Night is a complex love triangle. Knots are often used to symbolize complicated situations, in addition to anxiety and lasting commitments. Like Viola, when most of us think about knots our focus is on how tightly they are tied. For the scientists who study them however, knots are much more—they represent a unique approach to understanding the universe.

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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ask a Physicist: San Fran in Space

William, from Honolulu, wrote in this week to ask:

If there was a space station/city the size of San Francisco in geostationary orbit, what would it look like from ground level with the naked eye? Would it cast a noticeable shadow?

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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Scientists Use Warped Light to Test Einstein’s Theory and Weigh Stars

When Einstein developed his general theory of relativity, commercial radio didn’t even exist yet. He could not possibly have imagined all of the fancy, high-tech equipment that scientists would use over the next 100 years to test—and verify—his predictions. In fact, he wasn’t even sure that all of his predictions could be tested experimentally because they resulted in such tiny, hard-to-measure effects.

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Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Blistering Planet Hotter Than Many Stars

Given its stats, the recently discovered planet KELT-9b probably deserves its own baseball card. The planet and its host star, KELT-9, compose a unique system among the exoplanets discovered so far. KELT-9 is a relatively young, very hot star and its scorching heat warms the near side of the planet to a blistering 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit. KELT-9b isn't just the hottest gas giant so far discovered, it’s hotter than many stars.

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Thursday, June 01, 2017

LIGO for a 3-peat!

For the third time, a telltale signal of two colliding black holes has been caught by the dual detectors of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO). Not only does the new detection reinforce LIGO’s capabilities and previous detections, it also provides clues about how these black hole systems form and just how common they are. In addition, each new detection is a chance to test the predictions of general relativity—predictions that can’t be tested in a lab.

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