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Showing posts from August, 2020

100,000,000,000 Neutrinos Are Passing Through You as You Read These Words

By Korena Di Roma Howley

For a particle with no charge and nearly no mass, the neutrino gets a lot of scientific press—and it’s no wonder it’s captured the attention of physicists (though non-physicists might, for the most part, be unaware that scientists have built massive underground water tanks thousands of feet below mountains to capture these particles from space).

Known as ghost particles, neutrinos interact with matter so weakly that around a thousand trillion of them—en route from the sun or perhaps an ancient supernova—are passing through you right now. In fact, they’re the most abundant of all particles that contain mass, and because of this tiny amount of mass (the lightest neutrinos are millions of times lighter than the electron) they can change types, or oscillate, as they travel through space.

Despite what physicists have learned since neutrinos were first detected in the 1950s, the particles remain a mystery, their potential implications for science so tantalizing th…

The Twist in Studying Graphene

By Allison Kubo

Graphene is a comprised of a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure. This sheet can be wrapped into fullerenes, rolled into nanotubes, or stacked to form graphite the same thing uses ing pencils. All of these are made of carbon: diamonds, graphite, graphene are all different arrangements of carbon, The potential of graphene can is on the level of some of the most out-there science fiction novels but the last decade it has become fact.

The first strange thing about graphene is that it shouldn’t exist. Graphene is a two-dimensional crystal (crystals in physics are arrangements of atoms in a lattice structure). It was theorized that two-dimensional crystals would be too unstable to maintain their crystal lattice [1]. However, in 2004, Professors Sir Andre Geim and Sir Kostya Novoselov experimentally isolated graphene for the first time [2]. They were acknowledged for this discovery with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2010. Their method util…

From Paris to the Sea: Remembering a Pioneering Astronomer's 'Night in a Balloon'

By Korena Di Roma Howley

Just before 1 a.m. on November 16, 1899, an American astronomer named Dorothea Klumpke began her voyage over Paris and northwest France in a balloon called La Centaure, from which she hoped to witness the Leonid meteor shower as nearly no one had done before. Handpicked for the journey by the French Society of Aerial Navigation, she would become the first woman to witness the display while airborne.

"I do not know what good fairy overheard my wish to take a trip in the blue sky,” Klumpke wrote in her account of the voyage, “A Night in a Balloon,” published the following year in The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. “I am fond of traveling and passionately fond of lofty heights,” she wrote. “Towers, hills, mountains, have always been for me places of pilgrimage. Now I had the mysterious and alluring anticipation of an ascent in a balloon.”

Mapping the Stars

Born in San Francisco on August 9, 1861, Klumpke was educated in Europe, earning a bachelor of s…

Marshmallows and paper rockets: What volunteering in science has given me

By Jonna Jasmin G├╝ven

I was pumping out the air from a vacuum tupperware box that had a marshmallow inside. The kids' smiles were widening as the marshmallow was expanding inside the box. I asked one of the dads to try and remove the lid from the box. It wouldn’t come off as the vacuum had sealed it shut. The dad was laughing as I told him not to be too disappointed. ‘In fact, you would need to attach a small car to the lid to be able to pull it off’, I added. Now came my favourite part of the demonstration: releasing the air back into the box through a small hole on the lid. I told the kids to take a close look at the swollen marshmallow before I let the air back in. ‘It got small again!’ the kids yelled in awe. I explained that astronauts need to be protected from the vacuum of space with special suits or they would meet the same fate as the marshmallow. I answered a few questions some of the kids and parents had before they moved onto the next demonstration.


This was my first e…

An X-Ray Map Reveals the Bones of the Universe

This x-ray map is much more than a beautiful desktop background.



By Allison Kubo

On June 19, the eRosita instrument aboard the Russian-German “Spectrum-Roentgen-Gamma" (SRG) mission finished cataloging more that 1 million high energy x-ray sources more than had ever been recorded before this study. The image above shows our sky illuminated in x-rays, the range of the electromagnetic spectrum which is far more energetic than visible light. The red colors indicate low energies (0.3-0.6 keV), green for intermediate range (0.6-1 keV), blue for high energy sources (1-2.3 keV). Along the middle line of the ellipse, we see the Milky Way Galaxy which appears as only high energy sources; this is due to the fact that abundant dust and particulates of the Milky Way which we can visually see spread across our night sky. Bright splashes of yellow and green indicate high energy events such as supernovae and outbursts from supermassive blackholes. The white dots throughout the image are just und…

On the Particle Physics Horizon, a New Supercollider Comes Into Focus

By Korena Di Roma Howley

In a 100-kilometer leap for particle physics, the governing body of European lab CERN recently approved taking additional steps toward plans to build a $24-billion supercollider that will measure the properties of the Higgs boson particle. A major component of the standard model of particle physics, the once elusive particle was first discovered in 2012 via CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), currently the world’s largest particle accelerator at 27 kilometers in circumference.

The next-generation accelerator would require a tunnel 80 to 100 kilometers in circumference and would be the first of two machines planned for space. This first collider would function as a so-called Higgs factory that would churn out the particles in a clean environment, enabling high-precision measurements and potentially allowing physicists to push the boundaries of the standard model. If built, the collider would make use of existing infrastructure for the LHC, located at the Swiss…

Samuel Goudsmit and the 1970 Split of Physical Review

By: Hannah Pell
“Every time you turn around it seems that someone has published a new physics journal,” begins a Special Report in the August 1970 issue Physics Today. The report goes on to list more than 30 new physics and astronomy journals that started in 1968 and had been mentioned in the magazine within the past two years. “Should we, as physicists, welcome these additions to our reading lists? Or should we bemoan the extra contents pages that must be scanned…?” the author asks.

The American Physical Society’s Physical Review journal was no exception to this observation. That same year — exactly fifty years ago now — Physical Review split into four subsidiaries: Physical Review A (atomic, molecular, and optical physics; quantum information), Physical Review B (condensed matter and materials science), Physical Review C (experimental and theoretical nuclear physics), and Physical Review D (theoretical and experimental elementary particle physics, field theory, gravitation, and c…

Next Steps Taken Toward the Future of Particle Physics in Europe

By: Hannah Pell
Since the discovery of the Higgs Boson (or, more infamously, the “God Particle”) in 2012 at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) based at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), particle physicists have sought to expand their ability to probe Nature’s deepest secrets. Although the Higgs was the last missing piece of the Standard Model — a well-tested physical theory describing fundamental particles and their interactions — some physical phenomena still remain unexplained, notably the existence of dark matter. In order to search for new physics beyond the Standard Model, physicists have argued that they will need tools to smash particles together at unprecedented energies and scales. (The alternative, that the LHC finds nothing new or unexpected regardless of upgrades, is commonly referred to as the “nightmare scenario”). 
 On June 19th, 2020, after more than two years of debate, the CERN Council unanimously approved and published the 2020 Update of the European Strat…

A newly discovered supermassive black hole opens a window to the early Universe

By Leah Poffenberger

Looking up at the night sky stars is a bit like going to a history museum: The light we see is giving us a glimpse into the past. When light is emitted from a star, it has to travel across the galaxy at 186,000 miles per second—or lightspeed—before it reaches us here on Earth. Depending on how far away a star is from us, its light might have to travel anywhere from four years (as is the case for the star in our closest neighboring solar system) to billions of years. The lights we see twinkling in the night sky are actually snapshots of the star as it was years in the past.

When astronomers discover new objects in space, the further away from Earth they are, the longer back in the Universe they allow us to study. And recently, they’ve discovered the second most distant quasar—a bright center of an ancient galaxy—ever detected. Light from this quasar traveled 13 billion years, giving researchers a glimpse into an early era of the Universe. This newly discovered quas…