Physics

Tin is a commonplace metal that’s used industrially in a thousand different ways. From the solder that holds your computer’s motherboard together to the PVC plumbing under your sink, tin compounds are everywhere. In spite of its versatility, tin possesses an interesting physical property which is responsible for its tendency to wear down over time
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Courtesy: iStock/agsandrew This pandemic-blighted year isn’t going to top anyone’s list of favourites, but looking on the bright side for a moment, 2020 has seen some remarkable advances in quantum science and technology. Here are a few of the highlights from subfields ranging from quantum fundamentals to quantum computing. The most precise thermometer possible How
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Taken from the December 2020 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Metaphorical Christmas Emma Chapman’s new book uses familiar elements of the holiday season to help explain the earliest stars. (Courtesy: iStock/da-kuk) With Christmas looming just around the corner, it will
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Let it snow: Brighten up your holiday season with some quizzing. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/ESB-Professional) 1. It’s dark at the North Pole in winter. Fortunately, Santa’s reindeer have exceptional eyesight. Which wavelengths of light can they see? A Ultraviolet B Infrared C Microwave D All of the above 2. In 2019, researchers at the University of Manchester calculated
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By Lindsay Olson Scientific Adviser:  Dr. Don Lincoln Curator: Georgia Schwender  As Fermilab’s first artist in residence, my workspace had some unusual supplies for an artist’s studio. Pinned to my idea board I had a list of subatomic particles, quotes from popular physics books, the names of inspiring physicists, and a picture of Nobel Laureate
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Jin-Woo Han is Senior Scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. Along with colleagues Meyya Meyyappan, Myeong-Lok Seol and Jungsik Kim, he has designed a nanoscale complementary vacuum field emission transistor (VFET). In this interview Han explains why his team is interested in VFETs and the challenges involved in creating the devices
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A beam transformed: Optical transforms like tight focussing and total internal reflection, which gives rise to an evanescent field, can lead to out-of-plane polarization components and transverse spin, even for totally unpolarized input light. (Courtesy: Konstantin Bliokh/Diane Roth) It’s been almost a century since Wolfgang Pauli mooted the idea of “hidden rotation”: a new quantum
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Dose and dose-rate distributions produced for multiple treatment beams using (left) intensity-modulated proton therapy and (right) simultaneous dose and dose-rate optimization (SSDRO) for a 10 Gy fraction. The plan quality was best for the SDDRO method using nine beams. (Courtesy: Med. Phys. 10.1002/mp.14531) The primary goal of radiotherapy is to deliver a large radiation dose
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Radiation therapy providers in the US need to start preparing now for the introduction of the Radiation Oncology Alternative Payment Model (RO-APM) Alignment matters: Accuray is confident that its emphasis on hypofractionated and ultrahypofractionated radiotherapy will prove to be a good fit for the RO-APM. (Courtesy: Accuray) The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)
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Through the looking glass: the ALICE detector at CERN is currently being upgraded and may soon provide further insights into hyperon interactions. (Image: Julien Ordan/CERN) Collisions between high-energy protons at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN have given physicists a first glimpse at interactions involving exotic particles called hyperons. Researchers working on the ALICE
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Disagreements remain over spectral data, but the debate now considers pathways for life to survive the extreme conditions on Venus Turbulent world Computer simulated global view of Venus’ northern hemisphere (Courtesy: NASA/JPL) Do researchers still think that phosphine – a supposed signature of life – is present in the clouds of Venus? Could such a harsh environment
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Atomic-scale image of two interacting donors in silicon. Credit : CQC2T Two-qubit gates – the central building blocks of quantum computers – operate by exploiting tunnelling interactions between qubits. A team of researchers in Australia has now found a way to optimize these interactions in silicon by determining where the qubits should be positioned within
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It’s a typical December scenario: The family trip to the tree lot. The Fraser Fir tied to the roof of the car. Dad under the branches screwing the stand to the trunk. And the inevitable wobbling of the 7-foot holiday embellishment as it threatens to topple over and onto the floor, scattering needles everywhere. When
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Vortex flow: still from a simulation video showing how air from a sneeze can envelope a face shield. (Courtesy: Fujio Akagi/Isao Haraga/Shin-ichi Inage/Kozaburo Akiyoshi) Vortex rings created when a person sneezes can transport virus particles to the noses of people wearing face shields – according to fluid dynamics simulations done by Fujio Akagi and colleagues
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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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