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Molecules/Matter & Energy

Particles found surfing on hot plasma, plus spinning atoms and a new deep-Earth mineral in this week’s news

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5:34pm, March 20, 2011
Particles gone surfing
Physicists have caught electrons in the act of surfing — not on water, but on hot plasma. German scientists zapped the plasma with a high-intensity laser pulse, then watched as bunches of electrons scooted along a wake left in the plasma by moving electrical charges. The findings, reported online March 13 in Nature Physics, reveal the first time anyone has seen such electron surfing in real time. Future studies could lead to better ways of imaging quickly moving atoms and molecules, the scientists say. —Alexandra Witze


Atoms never forget
An ensemble of hundreds of spinning atoms arranged like X’s and O’s on a tic-tac-toe board, described in a new paper in the March 17 Nature, could be a way to store information in a quantum computer. Using a laser and microwaves, a team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany changed the direction
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