Physics

Taken from the January 2020 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. After sharing the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics for the discovery of the first exoplanet, Didier Queloz talks to Rebecca Pool about the future of planetary exploration Planetary pioneer: Didier
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Lower-energy green laser light travels through silicon nanocrystals, which up-convert it into higher-energy blue light (Courtesy: Ming Lee Tang research group/UC Riverside) Researchers in the US have designed non-toxic silicon nanocrystals functionalized with specialized organic molecules and shown that these materials can readily combine low-energy photons into higher energy ones. This process, known as photon
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A rat’s whiskers. (Courtesy: iStock/wildcat78) Like most humans, I’m not a big fan of rats. I do, however, have a grudging admiration for their cunning and endless adaptability, and it turns out that some of their keen rat-sense may be down to mathematics. In a study of 523 whiskers from 15 individual rats, researchers in
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Put on your headphones, crank up your speakers, and hit play: Pete Townshend’s gritty guitar style may have helped define The Who’s sound, but it’s also the inspiration behind a recent Physical Review Letter. The wailing—even screeching—so characteristic of his style is a prime example of guitar feedback, which occurs when the amplifier’s noise makes
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Protons penetrating the graphene film grown on copper. Courtesy: L Gao A new technique to make ultra-flat, wrinkle-free films of graphene could pave the way for a host of applications, including graphene-based flexible electronics and high-frequency transistors. The technique works by introducing protons into the film as graphene is synthesized using chemical vapour deposition (CVD),
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This episode of the Physics World Weekly podcast features an interview with Alan Bigelow, science director of Solar Cookers International, a non-profit organization that researches and promotes solar cooking. Bigelow explains how solar cookers work, why they are needed and the challenges of using such cookers in harsh environments. Caitlyn Hughes, the company’s executive director,
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Compact and efficient: prototype of a working, pocket-sized neutron detector made with semiconductor rich in lithium-6. (Courtesy: Northwestern University/Argonne National Laboratory) A semiconductor material containing lithium-6 shows great promise for creating highly-efficient detectors of thermal neutrons. The 2D layered material was created and tested by scientists in the US and could someday be used in
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Taken from the January 2020 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Some business models might seem crazy. But they’re not mad if they work, as James McKenzie explains Squeezed margins: A disassembled WiFi-connected Juicero Press reveals how much more complex this
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An illustration of the 2D ice from atomic force microscopy images. Courtesy: Y Jiang It’s well known that water vapour in the air can transform directly into solid ice on cold days, forming a thin layer on surfaces such as windowpanes or windshields. This commonplace process is, however, little understood, and a team of researchers
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City University of Hong Kong has ambitious plans to deliver global recognition and impact from its fast-growing physics research programme Global connections: students and faculty members from CityU’s Department of Physics get together for their Celebration of Physics 2019 Annual Symposium. (Courtesy: CityU Hong Kong) City University of Hong Kong’s Department of Physics may be
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Chosen one: The Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York, will host the Election-Ion Collider. (Courtesy: Brookhaven National Laboratory) The US Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York, as the site of a next-generation Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), beating off competition from the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Laboratory
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Model vessels: study highlights the importance of dilation in the brain. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Phonlamai-Photo) A new model based on the blood-vessel network in a rat brain shows that the vessel position within its circulatory network does not influence the blood flow nor how nutrients are transported. Instead, transport is controlled mostly by the dilation of vessels.
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Alpha DaRT technology uses diffusing alpha emitters to treat solid tumours. (Courtesy: Alpha Tau Medical) Diffusing alpha-emitters radiation therapy (DaRT) uses interstitial radioactive seeds that continually release short-lived alpha-emitting atoms to treat cancer. Researchers in Israel have now published the positive results of a first-in-human clinical study evaluating the feasibility, safety and efficacy of this
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Dr Ziad Melhem, is the Strategic Business Development Manager at Oxford Instruments NanoScience (OINS), managing OINS Strategic Business Development on Quantum, Nanoscience and Nanotechnology and applications, Alliances, Collaborative R&D, strategic projects and consultancy projects. Ziad has over 30 years’ experience on product and business development activities in applied superconductivity, Low and High temperature superconducting (LTS
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Multi-messenger nanoprobes. (Courtesy: Ella Maru Studio) A “multi-messenger” approach that was first employed to study astrophysical phenomena such as black hole mergers can also bring insights to the ultra-small realm of quantum physics. So say researchers at Columbia University in the US, who have investigated the electrical, magnetic and optical properties of a strained metal
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BBQ bodgers: Gaurav Byagathvalli (left) and assistant Saad Bhamla with the type of butane lighter they used to create the ElectroPen. (Courtesy: Christopher Moore/Georgia Tech) After more than 350 years of expanding human knowledge, has the scientific paper passed its sell-by-date? The answer is yes, according to James Somers in his article “The scientific paper
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Image of a lysosome observed using transmission electron microscopy. © Alice Balfourier, MSC Laboratory (CNRS/Université de Paris) and Christine Péchoux-Longin (MIMA2, INRA) Tiny particles of gold used in medical diagnostics, cosmetics and food can degrade inside biological cells despite the metal’s low reactivity, say researchers in France. The result, which contradicts earlier assumptions, proves that
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Postgraduate researchers are encouraged to embrace responsibility and push the boundaries at Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials. If that sounds like you, the latest round of PhD studentships is now open for applications from cross-disciplinary researchers in physics and engineering Joined-up thinking: the University of Exeter’s Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials fosters
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At this year’s meeting of the American Geophysical Union, over 28,000 earth scientists stormed the streets of San Francisco with their puffy jackets, REI backpacks, and flannels; they were decked out to sit inside and talk about the latest discoveries in earth science (and drink over 4,500 cups of coffee). In one room, however, a
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Getting around a) A fast-flowing alpine river in Switzerland where the midge larvae were collected. b) Selected frames from an underwater video of a larva turning to crawl against the flow. c) A view of the larva’s suction organs. (Image from 2019 BMC Zool 4 10, Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/) Modern imaging
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Getting close: artistic impression of merging black holes (Courtesy: SXS/CC BY-NC 3.0) A statistical solution to the infamous three-body problem of classical physics could explain why the LIGO-Virgo gravitational-wave detectors have observed numerous black-hole mergers. The three-body problem involves three classical objects (such as stars, planets or even black holes) orbiting and interacting with one
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A soft, smart contact lens worn by a volunteer (left) and undergoing heat tests during operation (right). (Courtesy: Jang-Ung Park, Yonsei University) Flexible contact lenses that incorporate supercapacitors and wireless-charging components are now possible, thanks to newly formulated printable inks that serve as the electrode and electrolyte. Researchers in the Republic of Korea showed that
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How Acoustics Might Help Prevent Car Accidents Seatbelts and car seats save lives, but ultimately the best way to protect passengers is to prevent crashes from happening in the first place. Prevention has been tackled from many different directions–insurance incentives for defensive driving, legal consequences for reckless driving, backup cameras, more effective headlights, reduced speed
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The distribution of the dataset in the archetypal space. Courtesy: B Motevalli, CSIRO What is the actual structure of graphene oxide nanoflakes? This question is important for optimizing the properties of the carbon material in real-world applications, and researchers at CSIRO in Australia have now tried to answer it using machine learning. Their approach uses over
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Cool running: the experimental apparatus at the University of Twente. (Courtesy: Srinivas Vanapalli, University of Twente) Making hot stuff very cold – and doing so reliably and repeatably – is a tricky business. Now, researchers in the Netherlands have developed a better understanding of a technique called cryogenic spray cooling – which is fast emerging
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Light-controlled nonvolatile charge memory. Left: schematic of the memory device. Right: the optical-controlled writing and erasing process of source-drain current. (Courtesy: J. Phys. D: Appl. Phys. 10.1088/1361-6463/ab5737) Qinliang Li, Cailei Yuan and Ting Yu from Jiangxi Normal University, along with Qisheng Wang and Jingbo Li from South China Normal University, are developing nonvolatile charge memory
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An artist’s view of the diffractive sail. Courtesy: MacKenzi Martin/Grover Swartzlander Like most spacecraft, the CHEOPS mission launched last week uses a chemical propellant to adjust its position once in orbit. The high mass of such propellants has, however, prompted space scientists to explore alternatives such as “light sails” that enable spacecraft to navigate using the radiation pressure
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Surf’s up: a simulation of a plasma wakefield acceleration. (Courtesy: F Tsung/W An/UCLA/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory) Physicists from across Europe have outlined plans to build a new type of accelerator facility based on “plasma wakefields”. Named the European Plasma Research Accelerator with eXcellence In Applications (EuPRAXIA), the project envisages building high-energy plasma devices on one or
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Tiny morsel: this gingerbread house sits on the head of a snowman, which is much smaller than the width of a human hair. (Courtesy: Travis Casagrande/CCEM) Physics is not just equations and data plots – physicists can sometimes create fantastic images. Here are some of our favourites from 2019. Above is a scanning electron microscope image
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Taken from the January 2020 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. Dave Elliott says that, while renewable energy has rapidly progressed over the past decade, more needs to be done to help limit the impact of climate change Power for the
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Taken from the December 2019 issue of Physics World. Members of the Institute of Physics can enjoy the full issue via the Physics World app. In April this year, astronomers working on the Event Horizon Telescope captured the first direct images of a black hole and its “shadow” – the glowing ring of gas and
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Salt creeping on smooth glass substrate. Credit: M.J. Qazi; H. Salim; C.A.W. Doorman; N. Shahidzadeh Salt creep – a common phenomenon that occurs when salt crystals rapidly precipitate from evaporating solutions – can create serious problems for outdoor electronics, buildings, artwork and agriculture because of its corrosive effect. A team of researchers from the University
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Cheesy correlations: the new technique could be help make cheese like this emmental. (Courtesy: StaraBlazkova/ CC BY-SA 3.0) Gouda news for cheese makers! A systematic way of using sound waves to non-destructively probe the ripeness of emmental-style cheeses has been developed by researchers in Uruguay. The approach, which can reveal when holes in the cheese
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The researchers carried out microbeam measurements at the ESRF’s ID17 Biomedical Beamline. (Courtesy: P.JAYET/ESRF) Microbeam radiation therapy (MRT) is an emerging preclinical modality that could one day become a preferred treatment for inoperable brain tumours, due to the reduced impact of microbeams on healthy surrounding tissues. However, the effectiveness of the treatment could be compromised
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Schematic of the microfluidic chip. Single bacteria are trapped in the narrow linear channels, grown and observed over time. At any point, any bacterium of choice can be picked up by an optical trap and transported out of the chip for further study. (Courtesy: Nature Methods 10.1038/s41592-019-0620-7) Bacterial cultures are highly diversified, with each bacterium
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Heating up: wildfires were one extreme phenomenon that was covered in the report. (Courtesy: Shutterstock/Bruno-Ismael-Silva-Alves) Extreme weather events such as heatwaves, droughts and heavy rainfall are becoming increasingly likely to occur because of human-caused climate change. That is a conclusion of a report by climate experts that was released recently at the annual meeting of
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