Articles about physics

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 …
JET interior photo UKAEA

Hotter than the Sun: JET – Earth’s biggest fusion reactor, in Culham

Geek's Guide to Britain I’m in a room that, in normal circumstances, is not fit for human habitation. It features a number of big red buttons surrounded by illuminated yellow rings – just in case. “Push button to switch off Jet. Press only in case of extreme emergency,” the signs read, informatively. This is the Torus Hall, a 40,000m3 space the size …
SA Mathieson, 25 Sep 2017

Two hot Jupiters around two similar stars orbiting at similar distances look similar, right? WRONG

WASP-67 b and HAT-P-38 b are two far-flung exoplanets orbiting near-identical stars at similar distances. Their size and temperatures are also pretty close. So, naturally, astronomers thought that their atmospheres wouldn't be too far apart. They were wrong. "We don't see what we're expecting," said Giovanni Bruno, a …
Andrew Silver, 6 Jun 2017
Data scientist image via Shutterstock

Boffins have figured out a way of speeding up X-ray data collection

Researchers have developed a method to improve the characterisation of superfast X-rays that they say will allow data to be collected up to a thousand times faster. Physicists, biologists and chemists use X-ray pulses created by free-electron lasers, known as XFELs, to probe the structures and interactions of molecules. …
Rebecca Hill, 6 Jun 2017
Galaxies stretching back into time across billions of light-years of space. The image covers a portion of a large galaxy census called the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS).

Scientists are counting atoms to figure out when Mars last had volcanoes

Astroboffins have figured out a new way of dating planets and meteorites by counting individual atoms in rock samples snatched from the depths of space. The atomic-scale imaging technique developed by University of Portsmouth scientists involves locating and counting individual atoms in planetary materials. "Directly linking …
Gareth Corfield, 26 May 2017
CERN particle trace visualisation

Large Hadron Collider turns up five new particles

Boffins poring over data from the Large Hadron Collider's “Beauty” experiment are blinking in surprise, having turned up five new particles in one hit. The “hiding in plain sight” articles in data from the "LHCb" are all excited states of the baryon Omega-c-zero, Ωc0, and the CERN boffins saw the five new particles from its …

Time crystals really do exist, say physicists*

A new quantum state of matter has been experimentally observed for the first time, according to two papers published in Nature. In 2012, Frank Wilczek, a Nobel-prize winning physicist proposed the idea of "time crystals": an open, ground state system that breaks time translational symmetry. The name is a little confusing as …
Katyanna Quach, 14 Mar 2017
Hoags Object

Astroboffins glimpse sighting of ultra-rare circular galaxy

A rarer-than-rare galaxy 359 million light years away from Earth has been spotted by physicists. Designated PGC 1000714 [paywalled], the galaxy is a ring-shape system orbiting a cooler centre without any connection between the two – a formation referred to as Hoag's Object. Just 0.1 per cent of all observed galaxies are Hoag- …
Gavin Clarke, 4 Jan 2017
Big Bang

Three certainties in life: Death, taxes and the speed of light – wait no, maybe not that last one

Einstein was incorrect about the speed of light being a fixed constant in our universe, a new theory suggests. A team of physicists are backing an idea that the speed of light is not constant and have made a prediction that can be tested. The speed of light is exactly 299,792,458 metres per second, and is a value that is …
Katyanna Quach, 25 Nov 2016
CERN's particle decelerator

CERN also has a particle decelerator – and it’s trying to break physics

Sorry, new physics fans, CERN has once again failed to break the old physics, this time using a particle decelerator that chilled helium atoms close to absolute zero. The organisation is checking the mass of the proton's antimatter twin, the antiproton, using a specialised spectrograph. The measurement is an important test …

Rise of the photon clones: New method could lead to 'impenetrable' comms

Physicists have produced "near-perfect" clones of quantum information that can be used to send and retrieve information securely over long distances through quantum cryptography. Research into using quantum mechanics for cryptography reasons is a bustling area. More countries are beginning to invest in technology that could …
Katyanna Quach, 26 Oct 2016

How do you make a qubit 10 times as stable? Dress it up for work

Dressing qubits in an electromagnetic field can make them 10 times more stable and able to perform more calculations over time in future quantum computers, according to new research in Nature Nanotechnology. Qubits - or quantum bits - hold information in quantum computers just like bits do in conventional computers. Instead of …
Katyanna Quach, 18 Oct 2016

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