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  • News in Brief

    A filter that turns saltwater into freshwater just got an upgrade

    Smoothing out the rough patches of a material widely used to filter saltwater could make producing freshwater more affordable, researchers report in the Aug. 17 Science.

    Desalination plants around the world typically strain salt out of seawater by pumping it through films made of polyamide — a synthetic polymer riddled with tiny pores that allow water molecules to squeeze through, but...

    08/16/2018 - 14:00 Materials, Chemistry, Sustainability
  • News

    Strange metals are even weirder than scientists thought

    Curiouser and curiouser: Strange metals are getting a little stranger.

    Normal metals such as copper and aluminum are old hat — physicists have a strong grasp on the behavior of the electrons within. But strange metals behave in mysterious ways, and researchers have now uncovered an additional oddity. A type of strange metal called a cuprate behaves unexpectedly when inside a strong...

    08/06/2018 - 06:00 Condensed Matter, Materials, Physics
  • News

    A star orbiting a black hole shows Einstein got gravity right — again

    A single star, careening around the monster black hole in the center of the Milky Way, has provided astronomers with new proof that Albert Einstein was right about gravity.

    More than 100 years ago, Einstein’s general theory of relativity revealed that gravity is the result of matter curving the fabric of spacetime (SN: 10/17/15, p. 16). Now, in a paper published July 26 in Astronomy...

    07/26/2018 - 08:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • Letters to the Editor

    Readers share their experiences with DNA ancestry tests

    Hacking it

    Fleets of autonomous taxis coordinated by an algorithm could curb traffic congestion and vehicle pollution, Maria Temming reported in “Fleets of self-driving taxis could be choreographed to cut traffic” (SN: 6/23/18, p. 5).

    “And what happens when the system gets hacked?” asked online reader RME76048. “Sounds like a primo target for an ambitious hacker.”

    A control...

    07/25/2018 - 07:15 Technology, Physics, Genetics
  • News

    The Planck satellite’s picture of the infant universe gets its last tweaks

    A spacecraft that revealed details of the hidden tapestry of the infant cosmos has had its last hurrah.

    Scientists have unveiled the final result from the European Space Agency’s Planck satellite, which observed the oldest light in the universe — the cosmic microwave background — from 2009 to 2013. During its mission, the spacecraft provided new details of the intricate patterns woven...

    07/24/2018 - 08:00 Physics, Astronomy
  • News

    A new kind of spray is loaded with microscopic electronic sensors

    Talk about cloud-connected devices.

    Using tiny 2-D materials, researchers have built microscopic chemical sensors that can be sprayed in an aerosol mist. Spritzes of such minuscule electronic chips, described online July 23 in Nature Nanotechnology, could one day help monitor environmental pollution or diagnose diseases.

    Each sensor comprises a polymer chip about 1 micrometer thick...

    07/23/2018 - 11:00 Technology, Chemistry, Materials
  • Science Visualized

    How a particle accelerator helped recover tarnished 19th century images

    With the aid of a particle accelerator, scientists are bringing back ghosts from the past, revealing portraits hidden underneath the tarnished surface of two roughly 150-year-old silver photographic plates.

    Researchers used an accelerator called a synchrotron to produce strong, but nondamaging beams of X-rays to scan the damaged photographs, called daguerreotypes, and map their chemical...

    07/09/2018 - 07:00 Chemistry, Physics
  • News

    Designer diamonds could one day help build a quantum internet

    A new kind of artificial diamond is a cut above the rest for quantum memory.

    Unlike other synthetic diamonds, which could either store quantum information for a long time or transmit it clearly, the new diamond can do both. This designer crystal, described in the July 6 Science, could be a key building block in a quantum internet. Such a futuristic communications network would allow...

    07/06/2018 - 11:43 Materials, Quantum Physics, Technology
  • News

    Mini machines can evade friction by taking quantum shortcuts

    SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — To evade friction, try taking a quantum shortcut.

    Two teams of physicists are building tiny machines designed to operate with the maximum possible efficiency. According to thermodynamics, there’s an ultimate limit to the efficiency of machines known as heat engines — including steam engines and car engines — which convert heat into motion or other types of energy...

    06/29/2018 - 15:21 Quantum Physics
  • News

    A tiny version of this physics toy is revealing quantum secrets

    SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A simple toy is helping scientists understand new details of a mysterious quantum process.

    The rhythmic click-clacking of the metal balls in Newton’s cradle has long entertained physics students. Now, scientists have re-created the toy on an atomic scale, using it to probe how quantum systems reach a balanced state known as thermal equilibrium.

    Leave a mug...

    06/28/2018 - 11:03 Quantum Physics