Articles about physics


Boffins have fabricated microscopic sci-fi tractor beams for real

The idea of tractor beams, concentrated rays of energy used to trap and move objects at a distance, was first introduced in science fiction. A group of physicists from the University of Adelaide, Australia, and the Université de Limoges, France, however are trying to make them a reality. But don’t get too excited, current …
Katyanna Quach, 31 Oct 2018

Astroboffins discover when white and brown dwarfs mix, the results are rather explosive

Astrophysicists have finally solved a mystery lasting almost 350 years to uncover the first documented merger between a white and brown dwarf star. Père Dom Anthelme, a French astronomer and monk, described a vivid outburst in the skies below the constellation Cygnus, which is allegedly shaped like a swan, back in 1670. …
Katyanna Quach, 10 Oct 2018
Superluminous quasar J0100+2802

It's over 9,000! Boffin-baffling microquasar has power that makes the LHC look like a kid's toy

The first microquasar us Earthlings have detected has left astrophysicists puzzled. Microquasars are greedy black holes that gobble up material from stars hovering nearby and shoot out powerful gamma ray beams. One particular specimen, codenamed SS 433, emits two jets that have energies measuring at least 25 trillion electron …

Laser-sharp research sees three top boffins win the Nobel Prize in physics

The 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to a trio of researchers for their work in developing powerful lasers. Half of the prize money - worth nine million Swedish kronor ($1m or £770,000) - will go to Arthur Ashkin, a retired physicist who was the first to invent “optical tweezers” whilst working at Bell Labs. At 96 …
Space waves: RF image by helenos via Shutterstock

The Register Lecture: Great gravitational waves! LIGO's next cosmic act

If you think the revolution in our understanding of the final frontier ignited by the discovery of gravitational waves in 2015 is over - think again. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and interferometer pal Virgo caused a sensation when a team of more than 900 scientists detected gravitational …
Gavin Clarke, 1 Oct 2018

Send up a satellite to zap space junk if you want Earth's orbit to be clean, say boffins

A group of scientists have proposed a new method to clear up space junk using a satellite that shoots out powerful beams of plasma. Researchers from the Tohoku University, Japan, and The Australian National University, think that potential debris disasters might be averted by sending up a cleaning probe. The satellite works by …
Katyanna Quach, 28 Sep 2018
Girls with bubbles photo via Shutterstock

Boffins don't want to burst your bubble – they create them with sound

Video Fluid dynamics is weird. Physicists have reverse engineered the popping of a bubble and managed to keep it levitated just by using the power of sound. Iridescent bubbles form when a film of soapy liquid is punctured. The film retracts from the hole and the molecules are pulled back and rearranged to reduce its surface area, …
Katyanna Quach, 12 Sep 2018

Drama as boffins claim to reach the Holy Grail of superconductivity

A pair of physicists have claimed to reach the holy grail in physics: room temperature superconductivity. Unsurprisingly, the results have raised several eyebrows and the fear of another cold fusion fiasco. It has also led to a series of strange events involving the impersonation of a famous physicist using an encrypted email …
Katyanna Quach, 15 Aug 2018

Now that's a dodgy Giza: Eggheads claim Great Pyramid can focus electromagnetic waves

The Great Pyramid of Giza, the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, has remained an architectural mystery. How was it built? Why are its dimensions so perfect? And, er, can it concentrate electromagnetic energy? Yes, it can, allegedly, according to a paper published in the Journal of Applied Physics. "Egyptian …
Clock gears, photo via: Shutterstock

Four hydrogen + eight caesium clocks = one almost-proven Einstein theory

A team at the National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) has used a range of atomic clocks from around the globe to test the equivalence principle* of Einstein's theory of general relativity. The research, published in Nature Physics, follows Einstein's thought experiment whereby the occupant of a windowless lift (or …
Richard Speed, 5 Jun 2018
MiniBooNE photodetectors - Peter Mayers, Princeton U

Boffins quietly cheering possible discovery of new fundamental particle: Sterile neutrino

It needs more sigmas, but Fermilab boffins in America are carefully speculating that they may have seen evidence of a new fundamental particle: the sterile neutrino. The suggestion follows tests conducted by the MiniBooNE (Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment) instrument, located near Chicago. Its mission is to detect neutrino …
SLAC'S WIMP detector

Where to find dark matter? $34m says go look 2km under Canada

By the 2020s, boffins hope, a hockey-puck-shaped silicon and germanium crystal 2,000 metres below Canada will show a brief, tiny vibration, meaning a dark matter particle has collided with it. Dark matter has a big problem: scientists can detect its effects on the macro scale, but have never successfully detected any of the …
Gravitation Lensing (pic: NASA, ESA, and A. Feild and F. Summers (STScI))

James Webb Space Telescope + luck = long distance astrofun

Researchers hope that NASA's budgetary-challenged James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) may score some good fortune with a boost from galactic alignment. While European Space Agency (ESA) scientists are breathless with excitement at the volume of star survey data received from the Gaia satellite, NASA researchers are comforting …
Richard Speed, 26 Apr 2018
Green space alien with sombrero and drink on a sun lounger

Fermi famously asked: 'Where is everybody?' Probably dead, says renewed Drake equation

If we ever detect signals from extraterrestrial civilisations, they are likely already dead, a somewhat downbeat update to the venerable Drake equation suggests. The original equation was devised in 1961 by astrophysicist Dr Frank Drake ahead of a meeting at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia …
Richard Speed, 15 Mar 2018
Space debris field

For all we know, aliens could be as careless with space junk as us

A physicist at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias in the Canary Islands has proposed a way by which planet hunters might detect advanced alien technology. Simply look for their junk in orbit. Thousands of exoplanets have been discovered in recent years, and huge observatories such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope ( …
Richard Speed, 8 Mar 2018

Soz, guys. No 'alien megastructure' around Tabby's Star, only cosmic dustbunnies

Sorry to burst your bubble, folks, but the mysteriously dimming Tabby's Star isn't due to an "alien megastructure" after all – it's just obscured by dust, according to a paper published today. KIC 8462852 (but Tabby's Star is catchier) was first spotted by NASA's Kepler telescope. It quickly became an object of fascination for …
Mars and the solar winds

Which distant Mars-alikes could we live on? Ask these Red Planet data-sifters

Scientists are applying knowledge gained from studying Mars to calculate how the atmospheres of theoretical exoplanets would behave. David Brain, professor at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-investigator for NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN) …
Richard Priday, 14 Dec 2017

Sorry 'strange physics' fans, IceCube finds the Standard Model stands

Video Thanks to work at the IceCube instrument in Antarctica, we have learned that Earth has an appetite for high-energy neutrinos: they're more likely to be “swallowed” by the planet in collisions with matter than those at lower energies. The bad news: sorry about “new physics” expectations. The result is in line with the boring …

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