How much is a kilogram? 1,000 grams. 2.20462 pounds. Or 0.0685 slugs based on the old Imperial gravitational system. But where does this amount actually come from and how can everyone be sure they are using the same measurement?
One might think that the optical tweezer – a focused laser beam that can trap small particles – is old hat by now. After all, the tweezer was invented by Arthur Ashkin in 1970. And he received the Nobel Prize for it this year - presumably after its main implications had been realized during the last half-century.
Inexpensive clean energy sounds like a pipe dream. Scientists have long thought that nuclear fusion, the type of reaction that powers stars like the Sun, could be one way to make it happen, but the reaction has been too difficult to maintain. Now, we’re closer than ever before to making it happen — physicists from the University of Tokyo (UTokyo) say they’ve produced the strongest-ever controllable magnetic field.
Watching helium gas lift balloons into the air is a lot of fun – or perhaps a tragedy if that balloon belonged to a small child who let it go. And, who hasn’t sipped the helium gas from a balloon and then quacked like Donald Duck? Although, that’s not the smartest thing to do since helium can displace the air in our lungs, or cause other problems with respiration.
Despite decades of ongoing research, scientists are trying to understand how the four fundamental forces of the Universe fit together. Whereas quantum mechanics can explain how three of these forces things work together on the smallest of scales (electromagnetism, weak and strong nuclear forces), General Relativity explains how things behaves on the largest of scales (i.e. gravity). In this respect, gravity remains the holdout.
When I was at elementary school, my teacher told me that matter exists in three possible states: solid, liquid and gas. She neglected to mention plasma, a special kind of electrified gas that’s a state unto itself. We rarely encounter natural plasma, unless we’re lucky enough to see the Northern lights, or if we look at the Sun through a special filter, or if we poke our head out the window during a lightning storm, as I liked to do when I was a kid. Yet plasma, for all its scarcity in our daily lives, makes up more than 99 per cent of the observable matter in the Universe (that is, if we discount dark matter).
Everyone’s favorite wonder-material has moved beyond the boundaries of gravity in its latest round of testing. The material was brought aboard a parabolic flight, where a plane alternated climbing and diving in a regular rhythm to simulate micro-gravity for brief intervals of about 23 seconds at a time. These flights are often affectionately referred to as the “vomit comet,” as they tend to inspire some queasiness in humans. The graphene aboard, however, endured the environment and performed well.
Infrastructure supports and facilitates our daily lives – think of the roads we drive on, the bridges and tunnels that help transport people and freight, the office buildings where we work and the dams that provide the water we drink. But it’s no secret that American infrastructure is aging and in desperate need of rehabilitation.
Physicists have demonstrated accelerating light beams on flat surfaces, where acceleration has caused the beams to follow curved trajectories. However, a new experiment has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible to demonstrate in a lab. For the first time in an expeirment, physicists have demonstrated an accelerating light beam in curved space. Instead of traveling along a geodesic trajectory (the shortest path on a curved surface) it bends away from this trajectory due to the acceleration.
The science and tech world has been abuzz about quantum computers for years, but the devices are not yet affecting our daily lives. Quantum systems could seamlessly encrypt data, help us make sense of the huge amount of data we’ve already collected, and solve complex problems that even the most powerful supercomputers cannot – such as medical diagnostics and weather prediction.