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  • News in Brief

    Single-atom magnets store bits of data

    NEW ORLEANS — ­The tiniest electronic gadgets have nothing on a new data-storage device. Each bit is encoded using the magnetic field of a single atom — making for extremely compact data storage, although researchers have stored only two bits of data so far.

    “If you can make your bit smaller, you can store more information,” physicist Fabian Natterer of the École Polytechnique Fédérale...

    03/20/2017 - 16:25 Physics, Technology, Condensed Matter
  • Reviews & Previews

    To understand rivers, let physics be your guide

    Where the River FlowsSean W. FlemingPrinceton Univ.$26.95

    Spend an hour wandering along a river and you may wonder why the water rushing by chose this particular path over any other. While many nature writers might offer philosophical musings on the subject, Where the River Flows author Sean Fleming has physics on his side.

    Physics isn’t the lens through which most people think...

    03/19/2017 - 08:00 Physics, Earth
  • News

    Superfluid helium behaves like black holes

    NEW ORLEANS — Black holes and superfluids make for strange bedfellows: One is famous for being so dense that light can’t escape, and the other is a bizarre liquid that flows without friction. But new computer simulations confirm that superfluid helium follows an unusual rule known from black holes — one with mysterious significance for physics.

    Scientists demonstrated that entropy, a...

    03/16/2017 - 11:13 Physics, Condensed Matter
  • Mystery Solved

    A slowdown at the sun’s surface explained

    Never underestimate the power of a little sunlight.

    Light particles, or photons, emitted from the sun’s surface, could explain a long-standing solar mystery — why the sun’s outermost layers rotate more slowly than its core.

    Because the sun isn’t a solid ball, regions at different depths or latitudes rotate at different rates. For decades, scientists have wondered why the outer 5...

    03/10/2017 - 09:00 Physics
  • Reviews & Previews

    Physics greats of the 20th century mixed science and public service

    The 20th century will go down in history — it pretty much already has — as the century of the physicist. Physicists’ revolutionizing of the scientific world view with relativity and quantum mechanics might have been enough to warrant that conclusion. Future historians may emphasize even more, though, the role of physicists in war and government. Two such physicists, one born at the century’s...

    02/23/2017 - 06:00 History of Science, Science & Society, Physics
  • Teaser

    Sound waves could take a tsunami down a few notches

    A tsunami’s immense wall of water may not be stoppable. But there may be a way to take the ferocious force of nature down a few notches, using a pair of counterwaves.

    If released at the right moment, a type of sound wave known as an acoustic-gravity wave could subdue a tsunami, applied mathematician Usama Kadri of Cardiff University in Wales reports January 23 in Heliyon. These acoustic-...

    02/15/2017 - 09:00 Physics, Oceans
  • News

    Supernova spotted shortly after explosion

    Astronomers have caught a star exploding just hours after light from the eruption first reached Earth. Measurements of the blast’s light suggest that the star rapidly belched gas in the run-up to its demise. That would be surprising — most scientists think the first outward sign of a supernova is the explosion itself.

    “Several years ago, to catch a supernova early would mean to detect it...

    02/13/2017 - 11:00 Astronomy, Physics
  • News in Brief

    Smashing gold ions creates most swirly fluid ever

    High-energy ion collisions have produced the swirliest fluid ever discovered, in a state of matter that mimics the early universe.

    To create the überwhirly liquid, scientists slammed gold ions together at velocities approaching the speed of light at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. Such collisions, performed in Brookhaven’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, cook up an...

    02/08/2017 - 12:00 Physics
  • Feature

    When a nearby star goes supernova, scientists will be ready

    Almost every night that the constellation Orion is visible, physicist Mark Vagins steps outside to peer at a reddish star at the right shoulder of the mythical figure. “You can see the color of Betelgeuse with the naked eye. It’s very striking, this red, red star,” he says. “It may not be in my lifetime, but one of these days, that star is going to explode.”

    With a radius about 900 times...

    02/08/2017 - 08:00 Astronomy, Physics
  • News in Brief

    New data fuel debate on universe’s expansion rate

    A new estimate of how fast the universe is expanding supports one side of an ongoing debate, favoring a more rapid expansion.

    Observations of type 1a supernovas imply a faster expansion rate (known as the Hubble constant) than studies of the cosmic microwave background — light that originated early in cosmic history (SN: 8/6/2016, p. 10). Scientists with the H0LiCOW collaboration have...

    02/02/2017 - 16:38 Cosmology, Physics