Physics

A Genius Microscopy Method Just Set a Record in Imaging Individual Atoms

Electron microscopes have been capable of taking snapshots of individual atoms for nearly half a century. But we’ve never seen anything quite on this scale. A new method for catching and measuring the spray of electron beams is giving us a whole new resolution of the sub-ångström world, opening the way to studying molecular structures that would be impossible to …


Physics

Scientists Just Showed It’s Possible to Split Water Into Hydrogen And Oxygen in Space

Space agencies and private companies already have advanced plans to send humans to Mars in the next few years – ultimately colonising it. And with a growing number of discoveries of Earth-like planets around nearby stars, long-distance space travel has never seemed more exciting.   However, it isn’t easy for humans to survive in space for sustained periods of time. …


You Were Right, New Study Shows You Probably Didn’t Need That High School Calculus After All

If you’re struggling through a course in Calculus 101 in your tertiary degree right now, wishing you’d paid attention in high school, we’ve got some good news: it probably wouldn’t have helped.   A study of more than 6,200 freshmen at 133 colleges and universities across the US has found you’d have been better off mastering the basics than cramming …

These Physicists Think Key Ingredients For Life Formed Shortly After The Big Bang

Physicists from Eötvös University in Budapest and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle have taken an innovative approach to determining when the first organic chemicals formed, and it turns out they could be a lot older than we imagined.   Complex organic chemistry once considered unique to life might not only be ubiquitous throughout the modern Universe – it …

For The First Time, Scientists Achieve ‘Liquid Light’ at Room Temperature

In June 2017, physicists achieved ‘liquid light’ at room temperature for the first time ever, making this strange form of matter more accessible than ever. This matter is both a superfluid, which has zero friction and viscosity, and a kind of Bose-Einstein condensate – sometimes described as the fifth state of matter – and it allows light to actually flow around objects and corners.   …

A Star System 4,200 Light-Years Away Has Confirmed Einstein Was Right About Gravity

Einstein was sure that all objects fall in the same way in a gravitational field, irrespective of their own gravity. It’s called the equivalence principle, and scientists just showed it holds firm using a distant triple-star system discovered in 2012.   This system contains a closely orbiting neutron star and a white dwarf, along with a more distant white dwarf …

Does Pushing The ‘Walk’ Button Actually Help You Cross The Road Faster? A Transport Engineer Explains

According to an American study, people spend around 1.6 billion hours each year standing idly at the roadside, at the cost of US$2.6 billion to the American economy. With all this waiting around, it’s only natural to question whether pushing the “walk” button will help us get to our destination sooner.   To answer this question, we need to understand …

Germany’s Massive Nuclear Fusion Machine Just Smashed Another Plasma Record

One of the world’s leading plasma research facilities just broke a new record, showing we really are getting closer to the wonderful goal of fusion power – a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.   Experiments on the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator – a device that uses magnets to confine clouds of plasma (hot, charged gas) – suggest its specific design …

This Beautiful Golden Chamber Contains Water So Pure It Can Dissolve Metal

Hidden 1,000 metres (3,300 feet) under Mount Ikeno in Japan is a place that looks like a supervillain’s dream. Super-Kamiokande (or “Super-K” as it’s sometimes referred to) is a neutrino detector. Neutrinos are sub-atomic particles which travel through space and pass through solid matter as though it were air.   Studying these particles is helping scientists detect dying stars and …

A Strange Type of Matter Might Lie Inside Neutron Stars, And It Breaks The Periodic Table

A group of physicists are questioning our understanding of how quarks – a type of elementary particle – arrange themselves under extreme conditions. And their quest is revealing that elements beyond the edge of the periodic table might be fair weirder than we thought.   Deep in the depths of the periodic table there are monsters made of a unique …

This Quantum Theory Predicts That The Future Might Be Influencing The Past

One of the weirder aspects of quantum mechanics could be explained by an equally weird idea – that causation can run backwards in time as well as forwards. What Einstein called “spooky” action at a distance could theoretically be evidence of retrocausality, which is the particle equivalent of you getting a stomach ache today thanks to tomorrow’s bad lunch.   …

Stephen Hawking Was Just Given The Most Beautiful Farewell. Now The Whole Universe Will Know His Voice

The universe that Stephen Hawking spent a lifetime studying now knows his voice. Following Hawking’s death in March, the renowned British physicist, who had battled a debilitating degenerative motor neuron disease for decades, was remembered at a memorial service Friday at Westminster Abbey.    His ashes were buried between Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton and later covered with a gravestone — etched with an equation he used to teach the world about black …

This Machine ‘Quantum’ Sorting Marbles Into a Rainbow Actually Has a Dirty Secret

Few areas of science are as mind-bending as quantum physics – from Stephen Hawking’s black holes to the ‘spooky action’ that challenges our understanding of reality, there’s a lot to make us amazed.   But because quantum anything can be tricky to understand, people also use it to explain phenomena that turn out to have far more mundane origins, or …

Particles Have Been Entangled ‘on Demand’ For The First Time, And It’s a Game Changer

Quantum technology promises big things for digital security and computing power, but the very thing it relies upon – quantum entanglement – has so far proven too fickle to reliably control.   A new method for entangling particles is set to change that, providing the all-important quantum states when we want it, for as long as we need it. Physicists …

Here’s The Mind-Boggling Reason The Periodic Table Doesn’t Seem to Have an End

As researchers around the globe race to create the next element on the periodic table – an atom that contains 119 protons – one scientist from Michigan State University is looking into where the table might end.   While there’s no conclusive answer, it seems we still have a lot left to discover. According to nuclear physicist Witold Nazarewicz, there …

13 Wild Science Facts You Probably Didn’t Learn in High School

We learn about some awesome science in high school – like Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Periodic table, and DNA replication. The knowledge we pick up there sets the foundations for all the other amazing things we go on to study. But science definitely doesn’t end at high school, and it’s once you take your learning to the next level …

The Leaning Tower of Pisa Should Have Crumbled in an Earthquake Long Ago. Now We Know How It Survived

The Leaning Tower of Pisa and its 5.5 degree lean has vexed engineers for centuries. Partially constructed on unexpectedly soft soil, the ancient bell tower began to lean before it was even finished, a historical goof that went on to become one of the world’s historical oddities – and made the tower a UNESCO World Heritage site.   How can …

The LHC Has Detected The Higgs Boson Again, This Time With a Massive Twist

Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider have made a major new detection of the famous Higgs boson, this time catching details on a rare interaction with one of the heaviest fundamental particles known to physics – the top quark.   The brief mingling of these incredibly rare encounters has provided physicists with important information on the nature of mass, and whether there …

Physicists Just Tested One of Einstein’s Strangest Ideas, And Guess What

Using the whole Solar System as a lab, and our most advanced time-keeping instruments for equipment, scientists have helped to verify the ‘Einstein elevator’ hypothesis – one of the central components of his general theory of relativity.   The theory deals with the basics of mass, gravity, space, and time – so proving as best as we can that it’s …

A Major Physics Experiment Just Found Hints of ‘Sterile’ Particles That Shouldn’t Exist

A neutrino detector has just made an incredible detection: far more of the mysterious particles than they expected. And the best explanation for this mysterious abundance is the existence of a hypothetical type of neutrino, called the “sterile” neutrino.   The finding, made at Fermilab’s MiniBooNE, replicates a result from decades ago. Back in the 90s, the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino …

The World’s Biggest Diamond Company Is Finally Selling Synthetic Diamonds. Here’s How They’re Made

The world’s biggest diamond company, De Beers, recently announced it would start selling synthetic diamond gemstones for the first time in its 130-year history. Artificial diamonds have been manufactured since the 1950s but De Beers has long resisted moving into the synthetic market. The company now believes that technology is efficient enough to produce large quantities of synthetic diamonds with …

This Brilliant Video Explaining Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity Won a Teenager $400K

Eighteen-year-old student Ryan Chester won US$400,000 back in 2015 for this video explaining Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, as part of the inaugural Breakthrough Junior Challenge – an international competition that aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and science communicators.   And it’s not hard to see why. If you heard the words, “Einstein’s Special Theory of–” and …

Water Has More Than One Type of Molecule, And That’s Even Stranger Than We Thought

Not that you could tell by looking at it, but the glass of water sitting on your desk contains two different kinds of water molecule rotating in subtly different ways. A recent experiment managed to separate them, discovering one is much better at reacting than the other. We don’t expect this ‘better’ water to become a market hit, but the …

We Now Have a Real Time-Breaking Flux Capacitor, But It’s Not For Time Travel

It might look a little like the flux capacitor you’d expect to find flashing in a time-travelling DeLorean of Back to the Future fame. Amazingly, it also tweaks the laws of time.   But don’t get your hopes up that you’ll be returning to 1955 any time soon. This particular capacitor based on magnetic flux is set to solve a …

A Forgotten Element Could Help Us Redefine The Way We Measure Time

A rare earth element that doesn’t get much mention could become the key to upgrading atomic clocks to become even more accurate. This could help us explore space and track satellites, and even keep the world’s time zones in sync.   Atomic clocks use the oscillations of atoms under laser fire as a measurement of time, in the same way a …

Scientists Are Hinting at The Existence of a Strange New Type of Particle

Using one of the most powerful computers in the world to perform complex simulations, scientists have predicted a new type of dibaryon particle – one that has two baryons instead of the usual one, with quarks all of the same colour.   The researchers, from the Japanese HAL QCD Collaboration, are calling the particle di-Omega. Baryons are particles that contain …

Lightning Inside This Ferocious Hurricane Blasted a Beam of Antimatter at Earth

When Hurricane Patricia shredded into the west coast of Mexico in October 2015, it was the strongest Pacific hurricane on record – but something else inside the swirling maelstrom also helped the violent storm make history.   From inside the most intense tropical cyclone recorded in the Western Hemisphere, for the first time ever scientists observed a downward beam of …

NASA Is About to Create The Coldest Temperature in The Universe, Using Lasers in Space

In the quest for ever-colder temperatures, NASA is sending an apparatus to the International Space Station that will create a spot 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space.   It’s called the Cold Atom Laboratory, a payload about the size of an ice chest aboard Orbital ATK’s Cygnus rocket, and it will help scientists observe the weird quantum …

Scientists built the world’s fastest water heater, and it sounds totally insane

Forget warming your morning coffee in the microwave; a laser pulse made of X-rays has set a record for heating a few microlitres of water to 100,000 degrees Celsius in 75 millionths of a billionth of a second.   We wouldn’t recommend drinking the plasma, at least not without blowing on it first. But the product could help us better …

Protons contain 10 times more pressure than a neutron star, according to first-ever measurement

In what was once thought to be an impossible task, for the first time physicists have put a figure on the pressure inside a proton – and it’s more impressive than we could have imagined.   By shooting protons with high-energy electrons, researchers have measured the push and pull of the proton’s trio of quarks, providing valuable insights into one …

How to understand Stephen Hawking’s last paper – an expert explains

The late physicist Stephen Hawking made a huge contribution to cosmology during his lifetime, but he didn’t quite manage to resolve all the mysteries of the universe. Now one of the last papers he ever worked on has been published – and it introduces some new ideas about the size and shape of the cosmos. But what does the research …

An experiment with 100,000 gamers just proved Einstein got it wrong about ‘spooky action’

A new study involving more than 100,000 volunteer gamers is the latest to show that quantum entanglement works. It’s a phenomenon Einstein was famously uncertain about, calling it “spooky action at a distance”.   And that description sums it up pretty well – it’s the idea that particles can influence each other when they’re not connected, even over vast distances. …

An experiment with 100,000 gamers just proved Einstein got it wrong about ‘spooky action’

A new study involving more than 100,000 volunteer gamers is the latest to show that quantum entanglement works. It’s a phenomenon Einstein was famously uncertain about, calling it “spooky action at a distance”.   And that description sums it up pretty well – it’s the idea that particles can influence each other when they’re not connected, even over vast distances. …

For the first time, physicists have precisely measured the weak nuclear force

A groundbreaking experiment in physics has for the first time provided a precise measurement of a force between electrons and protons called the weak nuclear force. The value 0.0719 (give or take 0.0045) won’t mean much to most of us, but the way they did it makes way for some exciting possibilities for pushing physics beyond the scope of the …

A sample of weapons-grade plutonium is missing from Idaho, officials announce

Don’t freak out, but a very small speck of weapons-grade plutonium has gone missing from Idaho State University. The specimen in question is 1 gram (0.04 ounces) of plutonium-239 – roughly the weight of a paperclip.   Plutonium was at the core of the Fat Man bomb that was dropped over Nagasaki in 1945, and it doesn’t occur naturally. It …

Physicists built a real quantum Newton’s cradle to study the changes of quantum chaos

To understand the most complex science, sometimes you have to start simple – and a new experiment inspired by a desk toy has revealed solutions to some of the mysteries surrounding quantum physics.   The toy in question is a Newton’s cradle, that carefully balanced row of balls that clack into one another and can keep moving for a lengthy …

Physicists just found time crystals in a common item you can buy at the toy store

Characteristics of mysterious time crystals have been found in the most unexpected place you’d ever think to look – a compound found in fertiliser and those crystal-growing kits you can buy for kids.   That compound is monoammonium phosphate (MAP), and the physicists from Yale who made the discovery are now scratching their heads, because this raises questions about how …

For the first time, scientists have tracked energy flowing through superconducting crystals

Researchers have tracked special interactions between electrons and crystal lattices inside superconducting metals for the first time. It might not sound like much to the casual observer, but it promises to help radically transform the technology of the future – including quantum computers.   Here’s why: superconductors allow electricity to flow through them with zero resistance, transferring currents at faster …

European physicists just tested quantum entanglement in massive atom clouds

From tunnelling through impenetrable barriers to being in two places at the same time, the quantum world of atoms and particles is famously bizarre. Yet the strange properties of quantum mechanics are not mathematical quirks – they are real effects that have been seen in laboratories over and over.   One of the most iconic features of quantum mechanics is …

Einstein’s ‘spooky action’ has just been demonstrated on a massive scale for the first time

For the first time, scientists have managed to show quantum entanglement – which Einstein famously described as “spooky action at a distance” – happening between macroscopic objects, a major step forward in our understanding of quantum physics.   Quantum entanglement links particles in a way that they instantly affect each other, even over vast distances. On the surface, this powerful bond defies …

Human thigh bones make the best bone daggers, in case you were wondering

If you are looking to make a bone dagger – and come on, who isn’t – scientists have your back. In a slightly creepy study, they’ve examined the structural properties of several and determined that the creme de la creme are those made out of human thigh bones.   Bone daggers are a common tool among the people of the …

Here’s the reason you can’t actually walk through walls, according to science

You’ve probably heard that the atoms that make up your body and all other normal matter in the Universe are mostly empty space. That’s actually true – yet we seem solid. Solid enough the elements in our atoms can’t just pass through the empty spaces of other atoms, and vice versa.   You might wish that were the case, but …

Scientists have used graphene to squeeze light into a space smaller than its wavelength

With the help of the increasingly useful material graphene, scientists have managed to confine light into the smallest space possible – the size of a single atom. If light can be locked up so tightly, it opens up all kinds of possibilities for electronics, sensors, and imaging devices in the future, potentially leading to computer chips and laser sensors far …

Scientists find a way to bend and stretch diamond, one of the hardest materials on Earth

Diamond isn’t the first material that springs to mind when it comes to bending and stretching, but scientists have found a way to manipulate one of the hardest minerals on Earth – and it could lead to a slew of technological advances.   Not only is diamond hard, it’s also very brittle. But the new study shows that on the very …

An amateur solved a 60-year-old maths problem about colours that can never touch

Amateur mathematician Aubrey de Grey has stunned the maths world by making the first significant progress in decades towards solving a longstanding riddle – one that’s perplexed mathematical thinkers for over 60 years.   The riddle, called the Hadwiger-Nelson problem, is basically all about untouchable colours, and how many of them – or, rather, how few – can be represented …

Scientists are getting closer to the most accurate clock ever, and they’re using thorium

Experiments with the metal thorium have revealed a strange quirk that could be used in a totally new class of atomic clock, paving the way to a more precise timekeeping method than we’ve ever had before.   Right now, the kinds of high-precision clocks we use to coordinate global positioning satellites are based on striking an electron with just the right amount …

Physicists just broke a quantum record, taking entanglement to a spooky new level

If we want quantum computers, we’re going to need a complex system of quantum entangled particles – particles that are intrinsically linked so that whatever happens to one instantaneously affects another.   That’s a whole lot easier said than done, of course – but a team of physicists has just breached an exciting milestone by creating a 20-bit quantum register. …

If you thought quantum mechanics was weird, check out entangled time

In the summer of 1935, the physicists Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrödinger engaged in a rich, multifaceted and sometimes fretful correspondence about the implications of the new theory of quantum mechanics.   The focus of their worry was what Schrödinger later dubbed entanglement: the inability to describe two quantum systems or particles independently, after they have interacted. Until his death, …