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Snow has thinned on Arctic sea ice

August 13, 2014 11:30 am | by Hannah Hickey, Univ. of Washington | News | Comments

From research stations drifting on ice floes to high-tech aircraft radar, scientists have been tracking the depth of snow that accumulates on Arctic sea ice for almost a century. Now that people are more concerned than ever about what is happening at the poles, research led by the Univ. of Washington and NASA confirms that snow has thinned significantly in the Arctic, particularly on sea ice in western waters near Alaska.

Scientists discover the miracle of how geckos move, cling to ceilings

August 13, 2014 8:30 am | by David Stauth, Oregon State Univ. | News | Comments

Researchers at Oregon State Univ. have developed a model that explains how geckos, as well as spiders and some insects, can run up and down walls, cling to ceilings and seemingly defy gravity with such effortless grace. This ability is a remarkable mechanism in the toes of geckos that uses tiny, branched hairs called “seta” that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even “unstick” their feet without using any energy.

Researchers prove stability of wonder material silicene

August 12, 2014 10:32 am | by Institute of Physics | News | Comments

An international team of researchers has taken a significant step towards understanding the fundamental properties of the 2-D material silicene by showing that it can remain stable in the presence of oxygen. In a study published in 2D Materials, the researchers have shown that thick multi-layers of silicene can be isolated from parent material silicon and remain intact when exposed to air for at least 24 hrs.

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Follow the radio waves to exomoons

August 12, 2014 8:26 am | News | Comments

Scientists hunting for life beyond Earth have discovered more than 1,800 planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, in recent years, but so far, no one has been able to confirm an exomoon. Now, physicists from The Univ. of Texas at Arlington believe following a trail of radio wave emissions may lead them to that discovery.

Therapy for ultraviolet laser beams: Hydrogen-treated fibers

August 12, 2014 8:17 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

To make a better optical fiber for transmitting laser beams, the first idea that comes to mind is probably not a nice long hydrogen bath. And yet, scientists have known for years that hydrogen can alter the performance of optical fibers, which are often used to transmit or even generate laser light in optical devices. Researchers at NIST have put this hydrogen “cure” to practical use.

From eons to seconds, proteins exploit the same forces

August 12, 2014 7:58 am | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

Nature’s artistic and engineering skills are evident in proteins. Scientists at Rice Univ. have now employed their unique theories to show how the interplay between evolution and physics developed these skills. The team used computer models to show that the energy landscapes that describe how nature selects viable protein sequences over evolutionary timescales employ the same forces as those that allow proteins to fold.

Pairing old tech with new for next-generation electronic devices

August 11, 2014 7:53 am | by Bex Caygill, Univ. College London | News | Comments

Univ. College London scientists have discovered a new method to efficiently generate and control currents based on the magnetic nature of electrons in semiconducting materials, offering a new way to develop a new generation of electronic devices. One promising approach to developing new technologies is to exploit the electron’s tiny magnetic moment, or spin.

Database accelerates the development of new materials

August 8, 2014 2:05 pm | News | Comments

Performing systematic analyses of both known and imagined chemical compounds to find their key properties, Northwestern Univ. engineers have created a database that takes some of the guesswork out of designing new materials. Called the Open Quantum Materials Database (OQMD), it launched in November and is the largest database in the world of its kind, containing analyses of 285,780 compounds and growing.

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Diamonds are a quantum computer’s best friend

August 7, 2014 3:41 pm | News | Comments

For decades, scientists have been trying to use quantum systems for logical calculations, but implementing a system that manages superposition states is challenging. A team of researchers in Austria and Japan has now proposed a new architecture based on microscopic defects in diamond. They are convinced that the basic elements of their newly proposed architecture are better suited to be miniaturized, mass-produced and integrated on a chip.

NIST ion duet offers tunable module for quantum simulator

August 7, 2014 10:36 am | by Laura Ost, NIST | News | Comments

Physicists at NIST have demonstrated a pas de deux of atomic ions that combines the fine choreography of dance with precise individual control. NIST’s ion duet is a component for a flexible quantum simulator that could be scaled up in size and configured to model quantum systems of a complexity that overwhelms traditional computer simulations.

Catching chemistry in motion

August 7, 2014 8:02 am | by SLAC Office of Communications | News | Comments

Researchers at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have developed a laser-timing system that could allow scientists to take snapshots of electrons zipping around atoms and molecules. Taking timing to this new extreme of speed and accuracy at the Linac Coherent Light Source x-ray laser will make it possible to see the formative stages of chemical reactions.

Diamond defects engineered for quantum computing and subatomic imaging

August 6, 2014 9:54 am | by Catherine Meyers, Univ. of Chicago | News | Comments

By carefully controlling the position of an atomic-scale diamond defect within a volume smaller than what some viruses would fill, researchers have cleared a path toward better quantum computers and nanoscale sensors. These diamond defects are attractive candidates for qubits, the quantum equivalent of a computing bit, and accurate positioning is key to using them to store and transmit information.

NASA’s IBEX and Voyager spacecraft drive advances in outer heliosphere research

August 4, 2014 11:52 am | News | Comments

The million-mile-per-hour solar wind pushed out by the Sun inflates a giant bubble in the interstellar medium called the heliosphere, which envelops the Earth and the other planets. At the 40th International Committee on Space Research (COSPAR) Scientific Assembly in Moscow this week, scientists highlighted an impressive list of achievements in researching the outer heliosphere, which barely registered as a field of research ten years ago.

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MRI for quantum simulation and spin diagnostics

August 4, 2014 10:24 am | by S. Kelley and E. Edwards, Joint Quantum Institute | News | Comments

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is best-known for its use in medicine, but because MRI operates by quantum principles it translates to other quantum systems. Recently, physicists at the Joint Quantum Institute have executed an MRI-like diagnostic on a crystal of interacting quantum spins. The technique reveals many features of their system, such as the spin-spin interaction strengths and the energies of various spin configurations.

Light pulses control graphene’s electrical behavior

August 4, 2014 8:10 am | by David L. Chandler, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Graphene has become a focus of research on a variety of potential uses. Now researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found a way to control how the material conducts electricity by using extremely short light pulses, which could enable its use as a broadband light detector.

Method provides nanoscale details of electrochemical reactions in EV battery materials

August 4, 2014 7:33 am | by Karen McNulty Walsh, Brookhaven National Laboratory | News | Comments

Using a new method to track the electrochemical reactions in a common electric vehicle battery material under operating conditions, scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have revealed new insight into why fast charging inhibits this material's performance. The study also provides the first direct experimental evidence to support a particular model of the electrochemical reaction. 

Hummingbirds vs. helicopters: Stanford engineers compare flight dynamics

July 30, 2014 2:31 pm | by Bjorn Carey, Stanford News Service | Videos | Comments

More than 42 million years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world's most energetically efficient flyers, particularly when it comes to hovering in place. Humans, however, are gaining ground quickly. A new study led by David Lentink, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford, reveals that the spinning blades of micro-helicopters are about as efficient at hovering as the average hummingbird.

Scientists separate a particle from its properties

July 30, 2014 9:59 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Austria have performed the first separation of a particle from one of its properties. The study showed that in an interferometer a neutron’s magnetic moment could be measured independently of the neutron itself, thereby marking the first experimental observation of a new quantum paradox known as the “Cheshire cat”.

Optimum inertial design for self-propulsion

July 29, 2014 11:01 am | News | Comments

A new study has investigated the effects of small but finite inertia on the propulsion of micro- and nano-scale swimming machines. Scientists have found that the direction of propulsion made possible by such inertia is opposite to that induced by a viscoelastic fluid. The findings could help to optimize the design of swimming machines to improve their mobility in medical applications.

Physicists unlock nature of high-temperature superconductivity

July 28, 2014 4:14 pm | by Jeanne Galatzer-Levy, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago | News | Comments

Physicists have identified the “quantum glue” that underlies a promising type of superconductivity—a crucial step towards the creation of energy superhighways that conduct electricity without current loss. The research, published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is a collaboration between the Univ. of Illinois at Chicago,  Cornell Univ. and Brookhaven National Laboratory.

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists have achieved a 20-fold amplification of single-photon signals, a step that could aid all-optical data processing efforts. The breakthrough was made with the invention of a new type of optical transistor build from a cloud of rubidium atoms, held just above absolute zero, that is transparent to certain wavelengths of light.

Measuring the smallest magnets

July 28, 2014 11:05 am | News | Comments

A wildly bouncing tennis ball that travels a millions times the distance of its own size would be difficult to measure. But attaching the same ball to a measuring device would eliminate the “noise”. Researchers in Israel recently used a similar trick to measure the interaction between the smallest possible magnets (two electrons) after neutralizing magnetic noise that was a million times stronger than the signal they needed to detect.

The source of the sky’s x-ray glow

July 28, 2014 8:02 am | by Nicole Casal Moore, Univ. of Michigan | News | Comments

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft x-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system. The source of this "diffuse x-ray background" has been debated for the past 50 years.

Building invisible materials with light

July 28, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the Univ. of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction. Although cloaked starships won’t be a reality for quite some time, the technique which researchers have developed for constructing materials with building blocks a few nanometers across can be used to control the way that light flies through them.

Magnets may act as wireless cooling agents

July 28, 2014 7:40 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | News | Comments

The magnets cluttering the face of your refrigerator may one day be used as cooling agents, according to a new theory. The theory describes the motion of magnons. In addition to magnetic moments, magnons also conduct heat; from their equations, the researchers found that when exposed to a magnetic field gradient, magnons may be driven to move from one end of a magnet to another, carrying heat with them and producing a cooling effect.

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