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  • Reviews & Previews

    The quest for quasicrystals is a physics adventure tale

    The Second Kind of ImpossiblePaul J. SteinhardtSimon & Schuster, $27

    When Paul Steinhardt made a discovery that he had been working toward for more than 20 years, he did not cry “Eureka!” On that winter morning in the lab in 2009, he writes, he and a colleague “were dead silent, because no words were necessary.”

    Steinhardt had just found a natural quasicrystal, a solid...

    02/19/2019 - 08:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    Laser light can contain intricate, beautiful fractals

    Fractals commonly show up in nature, from spiral-shaped seashells to heads of cauliflower. Now physicists have found these complex, self-repeating patterns in a very unnatural spot: laser light.

    Peer closely at a small section of a fractal, and it looks just like the whole. About 20 years ago, researchers predicted that this type of pattern could appear in light from certain types of...

    02/05/2019 - 08:00 Physics
  • News

    Lasers could send messages right to a listener’s ear

    Lasers can send sounds straight to a listener’s ear, like whispering a secret from afar.

    Using a laser tuned to interact with water vapor in the air, scientists created sounds in a localized spot that were loud enough to be picked up by human hearing if aimed near a listener’s ear. It’s the first time such a technique can be used safely around humans, scientists from MIT Lincoln...

    02/01/2019 - 11:03 Physics, Technology
  • News

    Physicists aim to outdo the LHC with this wish list of particle colliders

    If particle physicists get their way, new accelerators could one day scrutinize the most tantalizing subatomic particle in physics — the Higgs boson. Six years after the particle's discovery at the Large Hadron Collider, scientists are planning enormous new machines that would stretch for tens of kilometers across Europe, Japan or China.

    The 2012 discovery of the subatomic particle,...

    01/22/2019 - 06:00 Physics
  • News

    A new gravitational wave detector is almost ready to join the search

    In the quest for better gravitational wave detectors, scientists are going cold.

    An up-and-coming detector called KAGRA aims to spot spacetime ripples by harnessing advanced technological twists: chilling key components to temperatures hovering just above absolute zero, and placing the ultrasensitive setup in an enormous underground cavern.

    Scientists with KAGRA, located in Kamioka...

    01/18/2019 - 07:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • Feature

    150 years on, the periodic table has more stories than it has elements

    Recognize these rows and columns? You may remember a detail or two about this mighty table’s organization from a long-ago chemistry class. Elements are ordered according to their number of protons, or atomic number. Metals are mostly to the left and nonmetals to the right. The column at the far right holds the noble gases, named for their general unwillingness to interact with other elements...

    01/08/2019 - 11:29 Chemistry, Physics
  • News in Brief

    A weird type of zirconium soaks up neutrons like a sponge

    When radiochemist Jennifer Shusterman and her colleagues got the first results of their experiment, no one expected what they saw: Atoms of a weird version of the element zirconium had enthusiastically absorbed neutrons.

    “People were quite surprised and we had lots of discussions,” says Shusterman, of Hunter College of the City University of New York.

    The source of this fuss was...

    01/07/2019 - 11:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    High-speed video reveals physics tricks for shooting a rubber band

    Scientists are taking aim at the physics of rubber band bombardments.

    Using high-speed video, researchers have analyzed what happens to a rubber band when it’s launched from a thumb. The results offer some tips for how to make a clean shot, Boston University mechanical engineers Alexandros Oratis and James Bird report in a paper in press in Physical Review Letters.

    The researchers...

    01/04/2019 - 09:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    The physics of fluids explains how crowds of marathon runners move

    Marathoners queuing up for a big race tend to go with the flow, surging toward the start line like a fluid.

    Using footage of runners moving in groups toward the start of the Chicago Marathon, researchers developed a theory that treats the crowd like a liquid to explain its movement. The theory correctly predicted the motion of crowds of runners at marathons in two other locations,...

    01/03/2019 - 14:00 Physics
  • News

    These sound waves can levitate and move particles in new ways

    A new machine uses ultrasonic waves to make particles dance in midair like marionettes on (invisible) strings.

    Unlike other devices that also use sound radiation to manipulate matter, the new system can move several objects in different directions at once (SN: 4/19/14, p. 8). This kind of levitation technology, described online the week of December 17 in Proceedings of the National...

    12/17/2018 - 15:00 Physics, Technology