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  • News in Brief

    Scientists have chilled tiny electronics to a record low temperature

    BOSTON — ­Today’s nanoelectronics weather forecast: positively frigid.

    Tiny electronic chips have been cooled to a record low temperature, dipping below a thousandth of a kelvin for the first time ever, scientists reported March 6 at a meeting of the American Physical Society.

    To reach the frosty temperature, the scientists incorporated tiny bits of metal on the chip, which act...

    03/08/2019 - 15:37 Physics
  • Science Visualized

    How droplets of oil or water can glow vibrant colors

    Oil and water may not mix, but the two have now revealed a new example of structural color, in which an object’s hue arises from its shape.

    Studying droplets made of two layers of clear oil, researchers discovered that, depending on a viewer’s perspective, the tiny blobs glowed a variety of vibrant colors under white light. In a petri dish, same-sized droplets changed color as the dish...

    03/08/2019 - 14:00 Physics, Materials
  • Mystery Solved

    Microwaved grapes make fireballs, and scientists now know why

    Here’s a recipe for homemade plasma: Cut a grape in half, leaving the two sections connected at one end by the grape’s thin skin. Heat the fruit in a microwave for a few seconds. Then, boom: From the grape erupts a small plasma fireball — a hot mixture of electrons and electrically charged atoms, or ions.

    This trick has been floating around the internet for decades, and previous...

    03/08/2019 - 09:00 Physics
  • News in Brief

    Japan puts plans for the world’s next big particle collider on hold

    Physicists awaiting approval to build the world’s first “Higgs factory” will have to wait a while longer.

    Japan had been expected to decide by March 7 whether it would host the International Linear Collider — a particle smasher that would produce subatomic particles called Higgs bosons far more efficiently than CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. Instead, Japanese officials encouraged the...

    03/07/2019 - 12:32 Physics, Technology
  • News

    Hidden ancient neutrinos may shape the patterns of galaxies

    Shadowy messengers from the Big Bang have seemingly left their mark on ring-shaped patterns imprinted on the sky.

    Subatomic particles called neutrinos, released just one second after the universe’s birth 13.8 billion years ago, continually stream through the universe and are exceedingly hard to spot. But circular patterns of galaxies scattered across the sky reveal signs of the shy...

    03/04/2019 - 11:00 Cosmology, Physics, Astronomy
  • Science Visualized

    Here’s how long the periodic table’s unstable elements last

    On the periodic table, most elements have at least one stable form. But others have only unstable forms, all of which decay by emitting radiation and transforming into different elements until becoming one that’s stable. The timescale of radioactive decay is known as an element’s half-life, the time it takes for a sample of an element to be reduced by half.

    Generally for the elements...

    03/01/2019 - 11:02 Chemistry, Physics
  • Feature

    Extreme elements push the boundaries of the periodic table

    The rare radioactive substance made its way from the United States to Russia on a commercial flight in June 2009. Customs officers balked at accepting the package, which was ensconced in lead shielding and emblazoned with bold-faced warnings and the ominous trefoil symbols for ionizing radiation. Back it went across the Atlantic.

    U.S. scientists enclosed additional paper work and the...

    02/27/2019 - 06:00 Chemistry, Physics
  • Editor's Note

    Scientists set sail for the elusive island of stability

    On March 6, 1869, Dmitrii Mendeleev’s periodic table was unveiled, and we’ve launched a yearlong celebration of the 150th anniversary of his iconic work. In this issue, we’re looking ahead to imagine the periodic table of the future, as scientists strive to create bizarre new elements. And we also set ourselves a science visualization challenge: charting the half-lives of all the...
    02/26/2019 - 06:15 Science & Society, Chemistry, Physics
  • News in Brief

    Supernovas show the universe expands at the same rate in all directions

    The cosmos doesn’t care whether you’re looking up or down, left or right: In all directions, the universe is expanding at the same clip. When compared across large swaths of the sky, expansion rates agree to better than 1 percent, researchers report in a paper in press in Physical Review Letters.

    Observations of exploding stars, or supernovas, indicate that the universe is not only...

    02/22/2019 - 07:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • 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