Antimatter Atoms Trapped for First Time

November 19, 2010

For the first time, scientists have trapped antimatter atoms—mysterious, oppositely charged versions of ordinary atoms—a new study says.

Though the achievement is “a big deal,” it doesn’t mean the antimatter bombs and engines of science fiction will be igniting anytime soon, experts say.

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What’s the Matter with the Higgs Boson?

November 17, 2010

The search is on for the Higgs boson, and it seems likely that soon we’ll find this mysterious particle that creates matter in the universe. But what if we don’t? In this week’s “Ask a Physicist,” we’ll find out.

The Higgs boson has the unique distinction of being the only particle in our standard model of particle physics that we haven’t yet discovered. We may be on the verge of detecting it in the next few years, and yet, for some reason, almost nobody has asked anything about it, even though I’ve been chomping at the bit to write about it.

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The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

October 17, 2009


Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, have ended up with the theory that the Future is trying to stop us from creating a Higgs boson particle… While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.

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The World’s Biggest Laser Powers Up

March 26, 2009


The most energetic laser system in the world, designed to produce nuclear fusion–the same reaction that powers the sun–is up and running. Within two to three years, scientists expect to be creating fusion reactions that release more energy than it takes to produce them. If they’re successful, it will be the first time this has been done in a controlled way–in a lab rather than a nuclear bomb, that is–and could eventually lead to fusion power plants.

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Asian nations vie for stake in moon

November 10, 2008


When India’s Chandrayaan-1 lunar orbiter reaches its destination on 8 November, it will join two others – and neither is American, Russian or European. For the first time, probes from China, Japan and India will be orbiting the moon. This signals the latest stage in a new space race in which Asian nations are seeking a place alongside the established space powers. Both China and India are looking for helium-3 in the lunar crust as a possible fuel for nuclear fission reactors on Earth. The moon is estimated to have a millions tonnes of the stuff, the result of billions of years of bombardment by the solar winds.

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September 11, 2008

After years of waiting, It was really satisfying yesterday to see the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) come online to an amazing amount of media coverage and be successful.  However, that was only the first test for the LHC and the really interesting stuff we are still waiting for.  So while we wait for the ‘big-bang’ experiments, I thought it would be a good time to talk about a couple of other projects which arguably are just as important as the work being done at the LHC.

The fist is ITER project, a joint international research and development project that aims to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of Fusion energy.  Fusion is the energy source of the sun and the stars. On earth, fusion research is aimed at demonstrating that this energy source can be used to produce electricity in a safe and environmentally benign way, with abundant fuel resources, to meet the needs of a growing world population.  ITER is very early in its development and its likely we won’t see anything like the spectacle surounding the LHC for 20+ years.  This is partly due to the enormous amount of energy it takes to start a Fusion reaction and the extreme temperatures (think the Sun) it produces.


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Temperature Conditions of a Supernova Recreated

May 30, 2008

Scientists are one step closer to attaining the ultimate goal: producing temperatures high enough to sustain fusion, the reaction that powers our Sun and the possible future for global energy production. Researchers at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK, have attained temperatures higher than the surface of the Sun, 10 million Kelvin (or Celsius), by using a powerful one petawatt laser called Vulcan. This experiment goes beyond the quest for fusion power; generating these high temperatures recreates the conditions of cosmological events such as supernova explosions.

This is some awesome research. An international collaboration of researchers from the UK, Europe, Japan and the US have succeeded in harnessing an equivalent of 100 times the world energy production into a tiny spot, measuring a fraction of the width of a human hair. That’s a whopping one petawatt of energy (one thousand million million watts, or enough to power ten trillion 100W light bulbs) focused on a volume measuring about 0.000009 metres (9µm) across. Vulcan blasted its target with the one petawatt laser beam for a mere 1 picosecond (one millionth of a millionth of a second). This may seem miniscule, but this microscopic period of time allowed the target material to be heated to the 10 million degrees Kelvin.

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