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Colliding particles can make black holes
ScienceNow    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
You've heard the controversy. Particle physicists predict the world's new highest-energy atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, might create tiny black holes, which they say would be a fantastic discovery. Some doomsayers fear those black holes might gobble up Earth -- physicists say that's impossible -- and have petitioned the United Nations to stop the $5.5 billion LHC. Curiously, though, nobody had ever shown that the prevailing theory of gravity, Einstein's theory of general relativity, actually predicts that a black hole can be made this way. Now a computer model shows conclusively for the first time that a particle collision really can make a black hole. More

Quantum computer simulates hydrogen molecule just right
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Almost three decades ago, Richard Feynman told an electrified audience at MIT how to build a computer so powerful that its simulations "will do exactly the same as nature." Physicists have finally designed and built a computer that's closing in on meeting Feynman's challenge. More

Spasers set to sum: A new dawn for optical computing
NewScientist    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
It's a laser, but not as we know it. For a start, you need a microscope to see it. Gleaming eerily green, it is a single spherical particle just a few tens of nanometers across. Tiny it might be, but its creators have big plans for it. With further advances, it could help to fulfill a long-held dream: to build a super-fast computer that computes with light. Read the associated Physical Review Letters article. More

Jostling balls reveal secrets of ultrathin films
PhysicsWorld    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Depositing extremely thin crystalline layers of different materials on a substrate -- a process known as "epitaxy" -- is key to the manufacture of semiconductor devices. But physicists have long been puzzled as to why some materials form flat ordered layers, whereas others grow as rough mound-like structures. Researchers have now gained key insights into epitaxy by creating crystalline layers made of "colloidal"
particles, which are bigger than atoms and so move much more slowly.

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Water still has a few secrets to tell
PhysOrg    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail
We are used to thinking of water as a substance with relatively few secrets left. Its basic structure has been studied by high school students for decades, and water is considered essential to our survival, as it is so abundant. We tend to think that we've got water pretty well figured out, and what we know about it is of vital importance to life on Earth. But, as a team at Chalmers University of Technology in Goteborg, Sweden, recently found, water isn't as straightforward as we might think. Read the associated Physical Review Letters article. More

Asteroids get a surface makeover when they pass near Earth
Scientific American    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Many asteroids have a reddish tint as a result of sun-induced weathering and bombardment by micrometeorites, but a select few retain a relatively pristine gray appearance. In the Jan. 21 issue of Nature planetary scientist Richard Binzel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues report a finding that may clear up the asteroid-coloration mystery once and for all.

Science adds a new class of stars: Electroweak
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Scientists have proposed a new class of star, one with an exotic stellar engine that would emit mostly hard-to-detect neutrinos instead of photons. These objects, dubbed "electroweak stars," are plausible because of the Standard Model of physics --  though none have been detected yet -- partly because they wouldn't shine very brightly in visible light. A team of physicists at Ohio's Case Western Reserve University describes the structure of such stars in a paper recently submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters. More

Acoustic levitation could be used on Mars
PhysOrg    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The presence of fine dust on the Moon and Mars may present problems for explorers, such as coating solar panels, penetrating seals and interfering with machinery. Human explorers would also be endangered if there was a possibility of inhaling the extremely fine dust particles. Now scientists at the University of Vermont are considering a novel solution: acoustic levitation. More

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