Molecules/Matter & Energy

The electron is still round, plus waterfall-jumping objects, a blood-clotter spotter and more in this week’s news

Light beam heavy on information Scientists in Europe and Israel have crammed more information into a single beam of light than ever before. An infrared laser can carry 26 terabits every second over 50 kilometers of fiber optic cable. Other systems have achieved as much as 100 terabits per second but require hundreds of lasers. The new all-optical device, described in Nature Photonics in May 22, draws very little power and could help to keep Internet data and TV channels flowing smoothly. It was made possible by new techniques in encoding and decoding the information at either end. — Devin Powell Electron still round The most precise measurement of the electron’s shape to date has found no evidence that it’s anything other than spherical. Physicists at Imperial College London were hoping to spot signs of the electron dipole moment — a proposed internal structure of the electron that would profoundly affect theories about why the universe has so little antimatter ( SN: 2/12/11, p. 22 ). The new measurement, published in the May 26 Nature , is only about 50 percent better than previous measurements and doesn’t break any new theoretical ground. But it’s the first time that such a test has been made by applying electric fields to the electrons of molecules instead of atoms — a technique that promises even greater sensitivity as it is further optimized. — Devin Powell Tea leaf contamination Objects can jump up small waterfalls. Two scientists at the University of Havana in Cuba discovered this while pouring hot water into a cup of a tealike herb called yerba mate. Some of the small flakes climbed up the falling water and into the container. Scientists have seen vortices of water carry objects upstream in rivers, streams and other horizontal flows. But the new finding shows that the eddies can also defy gravity. The paper, posted online at on May 12, warns that this might be a previously unconsidered route for contamination in chemical, medical or industrial processes that require liquid to be poured over drops of less than a centimeter. — Devin Powell Blood-clotter spotter Researchers have developed a real-time method for assessing levels of an important blood clotting protein. Such information might prevent dangerous massive bleeding or equally dangerous clots. The test, described in an upcoming Angewandte Chemie International Edition , employs a molecular chain that when added to drawn blood, grabs onto thrombin, a protein that kicks off the cellular clotting cascade. Using the technique to monitor thrombin levels in patients undergoing hip-replacement surgery, the researchers from Germany found that the test gave a sensitive measure of whether blood was preparing to clot. — Rachel Ehrenberg

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