For many people, memories of maths lessons at school are anything but pretty. Yet “beautiful” is a word that I and other mathematicians often use to describe our subject. How on earth can maths be beautiful – and does it matter?
Our notion of reality is built on everyday experiences. But wave-particle duality is so strange that we are forced to re-examine our common conceptions. Wave-particle duality refers to the fundamental property of matter where, at one moment it appears like a wave, and yet at another moment it acts like a particle. To understand wave-particle duality it’s worth looking at differences between particles and waves.
Chemist John Dalton proposed the theory that all matter and objects are made up of particles called atoms, and this is still accepted by the scientific community, almost two centuries later. Each of these atoms is each made up of an incredibly small nucleus and even smaller electrons, which move around at quite a distance from the centre.
Many scientists are pursuing ways to treat disease by delivering DNA or RNA that can turn a gene on or off. However, a major obstacle to progress in this field has been finding ways to safely deliver that genetic material to the correct cells.
Flying cars have become something of a hot ticket item of late. In the past few years, companies like Terrafugia, Aeromobil and Moller International have all grabbed headlines with their particular designs. And soon enough, international transportation giant Uber could be joining the ranks of those looking to turn a popular staple of science fiction into science fact.
Quantum computers, which are based on the strange rules of quantum mechanics, will revolutionise society in a similar way to how mechanical computers have. Once built, they will help us answer many questions in science, create lifesaving medicines, provide transformative capabilities for the financial sector and in general solve certain problems that an ordinary computer would take billions of years to compute.
The once-small community of drone hobbyists has transformed into a worldwide phenomenon. In 2016 especially, significant technology improvements and regulatory clarity have paved the way for even more dramatic changes in the coming years.
The Earth’s magnetic field surrounds our planet like an invisible force field – protecting life from harmful solar radiation by deflecting charged particles away. Far from being constant, this field is continuously changing. Indeed, our planet’s history includes at least several hundred global magnetic reversals, where north and south magnetic poles swap places. So when’s the next one happening and how will it affect life on Earth?
Microelectronics has transformed our lives. Cellphones, earbuds, pacemakers, defibrillators – all these and more rely on microelectronics’ very small electronic designs and components. Microelectronics has changed the way we collect, process and transmit information.
MIT engineers have genetically reprogrammed a strain of yeast so that it converts sugars to fats much more efficiently, an advance that could make possible the renewable production of high-energy fuels such as diesel.
If you visit the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) exhibition, now at the Queensland Museum, you’ll see the recreation of a moment when the scientist who saw the first results indicating discovery of the Higgs boson laments she can’t yet tell anyone.
New model could help scientists design materials for artificial photosynthesis. Plants and other photosynthetic organisms use a wide variety of pigments to absorb different wavelengths of light. MIT researchers have now developed a theoretical model to predict the spectrum of light absorbed by aggregates of these pigments, based on their structure. The new model could help guide scientists in designing new types of solar cells made of organic materials that efficiently capture light and funnel the light-induced excitation, according to the researchers.
Across Europe and parts of Asia, travellers can enjoy some of the fastest rail services in the world. From Málaga to Madrid, Tokyo to Osaka, high-speed electric trains condense the travel times between major hubs by racing along at some 300kph. The fastest commercial service in the world is the Shanghai maglev – short for magnetic levitation, the method of propulsion it uses to glide along its tracks as rapidly as 430kph.
To the time-poor of the world: take heart, for 2016 is a generous year. Not only were you granted a leap day on 29 February, you will soon score a New Year’s Eve countdown bonus, a leap second, to hold off 2017 for a final sip or regret.
It is an exciting time to be a physicist, particularly in Australia. In mid-2012, the Higgs boson was discovered at CERN, and physicists from Melbourne contributed to the development of the ATLAS detector that participated in the discovery.
During the 19th and 20th centuries, physicists began to probe deep into the nature of matter and energy. In so doing, they quickly realized that the rules which govern them become increasingly blurry the deeper one goes. Whereas the predominant theory used to be that all matter was made up of indivisible atoms, scientists began to realize that atoms are themselves composed of even smaller particles.
One of the most basic things we are taught in school science classes is that water can exist in three different states, either as solid ice, liquid water, or vapour gas. But an international team of scientists have recently found signs that liquid water might actually come in two different states.
Gravity is a pretty awesome fundamental force. If it wasn’t for the Earth’s comfortable 1 g, which causes objects to fall towards the Earth at a speed of 9.8 m/s², we’d all float off into space. And without it, all us terrestrial species would slowly wither and die as our muscles degenerated, our bones became brittle and weak, and our organs ceased to function properly.