Particles to Paintings: Recent Developments in Physics
The year has barely begun, yet the world of physics is teeming with new discoveries, theories and innovations. Here are just a few of the developments which have taken place over the last month.
Cutting up electrons
It is possible to chop up an apple into pieces but it is not possible to divide a fundamental particle any further. However, physicists have now used supercomputers to create a simulation in which the fundamental particle, the electron, split in half. In the simulation, a virtual model of a crystal atom was cooled down to near absolute zero, where it became a “quantum fluid”. At this stage, a virtual electron which was placed in the fluid, fractured into two pieces, enabling the scientists to observe and measure the motion of the individual fragments.
The creation of antimatter is a topic which has been extensively fantasised about in science fiction. However, due to its tendency to destroy itself and anything used to hold it, it has been very difficult to create and contain in reality. A new method for cooling anti-hydrogen to very low temperatures using a precise laser beam has been proposed. Reducing the energies of the anti-hydrogen atoms would make it much easier to take measurements of them and compare them to those of hydrogen atoms; it is also believed that the cooled atoms could be contained for a longer period of time.
Sending Mona Lisa to the moon
Following in the footsteps of Armstrong and Aldrin, Mona Lisa went to the moon this month; not quite in person though. The image was beamed from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) through a series of laser pulses. This was the first time that laser communication was done successfully at such a distance. The use of laser pulses over radio waves could pave the way for faster, better planetary communication in the future.
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