Physics

The experimental measurement of the fine-structure constant. © Pierre Cladé, Saïda Guellati-Khélifa and Tatsumi Aoyama The most precise measurement ever of the fine-structure constant has placed new constraints on theories that predict the existence of “dark sector” particles. The new value, which researchers in France measured using clouds of cold rubidium atoms, provides a stringent
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Safe, but separate: The author’s daughter taking an exam at home during distance learning. (Courtesy: Amara Graps) Since 10 March 2020, when Latvia went into lockdown, my 11-year-old daughter Vija has attended only 16 in-school sessions. It’s an understatement to say that my work as a space entrepreneur and senior scientist at the Planetary Science
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In-flight video still from BOBCAT during liquid helium transfer at an altitude of 130,000 feet. Credit: NASA Balloon-borne telescopes can observe a wealth of astrophysical phenomena that ground-based instruments cannot, but onerous cooling requirements limit how much equipment can be taken aloft. Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center found a way to minimize this
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Reconstructed vortex rings inside a magnetic micropillar. Credit: Claire Donnelly Researchers have observed three-dimensional magnetic vortex rings in a real-world magnetic material for the first time. Contrary to theoretical predictions, these rings – which are spin configurations within the material’s bulk – are remarkably stable and could move through the material like smoke rings move
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A team led by investigators at MGH has developed a low-cost, compact, portable and low-power “head only” MRI scanner that could be mounted in an ambulance, wheeled into a patient’s room, or put in small clinics or doctors’ offices around the world. (Courtesy: Massachusetts General Hospital) MRI is the standard modality for assessing neurological disorders,
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Ultracold reactions: shadows of atoms trapped in layers of an optical lattice, before they are paired into ultracold potassium-rubidium molecules. (Courtesy: Ye Group/JILA) A new technique to cool reactive molecules to temperatures low enough to achieve quantum degeneracy – something not generally possible before – has been created by researchers in the US. In this
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By: Hannah Pell In the 2004 movie National Treasure, the main character Ben Gates — a historian, cryptographer, and treasure hunter played by Nicholas Cage — is determined to solve the generational mystery passed down to him from his grandfather. The only clue that Ben has is: The secret lies with Charlotte. Based on this,
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The IOP’s Teacher Training Scholarship programme provides an attractive route into physics teaching for recent graduates as well as mid-career scientists and engineers working across a range of industries Back to school: Alastair Miatt (above) says the industry perspectives gained throughout his career at Jaguar Land Rover now help him to make physics relatable to
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Like much of the world, scientists thrive on coffee. It’s not just because of the caffeine though, it turns out that even spilled coffee fuels research. Most people are annoyed by nagging coffee stains, but to physicist Sidney Nagel they were inspiration. If you’re a coffee lover (or you live with one), I guarantee that
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Ultrasound absorbers: false-colour 3D representation of a 0.21×0.28 mm wing section of the moth Lasiocampa quercus showing the structure, diversity, and arrangement of base scales (orange) and cover scales (blue and yellow). (Courtesy: Simon Reichel/Thomas Neil/Zhiyuan Shen/Marc Holderied) Natural acoustic metamaterials found on the wings of some moths could help the insects avoid being eaten
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Thumbs-up for randomness David Drahi in the quantum optics lab. (Courtesy: David Drahi) While world events are often difficult to predict, true randomness is surprisingly hard to find. In recent years, physicists have turned to quantum mechanics for a solution, using the inherently unpredictable behavior of photons to generate the truly random numbers that underpin
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They sniff out drugs, cadavers, missing people, explosives, and even cancer. Dogs are more than man’s best friend, they are some of the best chemical detectors in existence. They are so good that by modifying a commercially available explosives detector to act like a dog’s nose, researchers were able to make the detector much more
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New spin on topology: spin guided light scattering has been observed in a liquid crystal (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Serg-DAV) Just as topological insulators provide protection to electrons travelling along their edges and surfaces, photons can also be topologically protected. This can occur when photon scattering modes are associated with just one spin state. Now, researchers in India
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Two-level systems: two of NIST’s superconducting thermometers for measuring cryogenic temperatures are glued to the lower left and upper right of this amplifier. (Courtesy: J Wheeler/NIST) A simple miniature thermometer that can quickly and accurately measure the temperature of ultracold microwave-based devices has been built by Joel Ullom and colleagues at the National Institute of
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The fastest timescales. The highest pressures. Absolute zero. The nanoscale. These conditions are far from our everyday experience, but studying how things behave in different situations can reveal a more complete picture of their nature—and can lead to revolutionary breakthroughs. Click to enlarge. This false-color map of a random light field includes a large number
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Precursors of life: comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko as seen by Rosetta (Courtesy: ESA/Rosetta/NAVCAM, CC BY-SA IGO 3.0) Some key molecular building blocks of life could have been created far earlier on in the formation of the solar system than previously thought. Experiments and simulations done by Sergio Ioppolo at Queen Mary University of London and an international
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Good vibrations: artist’s concept of sound being transmitted in a fermionic superfluid. (Courtesy: Christine Daniloff/MIT) The acoustic properties of an ultracold fermion gas have been measured either side of the superfluid transition temperature in an experiment that has been described as “near perfect” and “beautiful”. The results could have significant implications for understanding everything from
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[embedded content] The Canadian teenager Maryam Tsegaye has bagged a total of $400,000 in prizes for making the above video about quantum tunnelling. Tsegaye, 17, is winner of the 2020 Breakthrough Junior Challenge, which was founded by the billionaires Yuri and Julia Milner. Tsegaye is a student at École McTavish Public High School in Fort
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All you need to know about the physics of smart speakers and why John Bell’s contributions to quantum physics are still making us think today Sounds good: the physics of smart speakers is the cover feature of the December 2020 edition of Physics World “Alexa, play some Christmas music.” “OK Google, turn on the fairy
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The second week in December is Black in Nanotech Week and its co-founder Olivia Geneus is our guest in this episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast. Geneus talks to Margaret Harris about her interest in using nanotechnology to develop new ways of treating cancer, and about the need to highlight the accomplishments of Black
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Quantum advantage: the Gaussian boson sampling experiment at the University of Science and Technology of China. (Courtesy: Chao-Yang Lu) A optical circuit has performed a quantum computation called “Gaussian boson sampling” (GBS) 100 trillion times faster than a supercomputer could, according to researchers in China. This feat was achieved by Jian-Wei Pan and Chao-Yang Lu
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Tri-state area: this megaflash contained a superbolt that was 1000 times brighter than normal lightning. It was observed by the Geostationary Lightning Mapper and covers much of Tennessee, extending into Alabama and North Carolina. Superbolts – the rare and most extreme form of lightning — can be more than a thousand times brighter than regular
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Researchers from MIT have come up with a new way to fabricate nanoscale structures using an innovative “shrinking” technique. The new method uses equipment many laboratories already have and is relatively straightforward, so it could make nanoscale fabrication more accessible. Image Credit: Illustration by Abigail Malate, American Institute of Physics Conventional nanostructure manufacturing techniques—ones that
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Telltale traces: Horizontal yellow streaks show Brown-Zak fermions propagating along straight trajectories with high mobility (low resistance). Courtesy: J Barrier Researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK have identified a new family of quasiparticles in superlattices made from graphene sandwiched between two slabs of boron nitride. The work is important for fundamental studies
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Arches of chaos: Jovian-minimum-distance maps for the Greek and Trojan orbital configurations. (Courtesy: Nataša Todorović, Di Wu and Aaron Rosengren/Science Advances) If we had a “Physics paper title of the year award”, the 2020 winner would surely have to be “The arches of chaos in the solar system”, which was published this week in Science
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Cool tool: A photo of the scanning quantum cryogenic atom microscope, or SQCRAMscope. (Courtesy: Benjamin Lev) Physicists have deployed a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) as a “quantum microscope” to study phase transitions in a high-temperature superconductor. The experiment marks the first time a BEC has been used to probe such a complicated condensed-matter phenomenon, and the
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Sugar. A variant on the sweetest ingredient in many a sumptuous holiday feast, glycolaldehyde has now been found in a star-forming region of space far from the galactic center called G31.41+0.31, about 26,00 light years away from Earth. Directly linked to the origin of life, glycolaldehyde is an advantageous find for researchers seeking out habitable
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