Scientists spend their days hypothesising, experimenting and analysing in order to find evidence to better understand our strange Universe. Sometimes, that requires playing the didgeridoo and then falling asleep.
Tagged With physics
Over a thousand light years away, there's a planet that isn't conforming to your so-called rules. It isn't one of the jocks like Earth, or one of the preps like Saturn. WASP-12b probably sits beneath the bleachers dressed in its black outfit with the checkered wristbands it bought from Hot Jupiter Topic, listening to The Cure while making pentagram stick-and-pokes and discussing the inevitability of the Universe's heat death.
The baffling story of US diplomats in Cuba suffering hearing loss and brain damage in some sort of covert "health attack" just gets stranger and more terrifying with every new report. The Associated Press has learned that victims' recollections and symptoms are even more varied and serious than we previously knew.
Since early last week, the Sun has belched out a steady stream of solar flares, including the most powerful burst recorded in the star's current 11-year cycle. It sounds very alarming, but scientists say this is simply what stars do every now and then, and that there's nothing to be concerned about.
Jupiter features the largest and most powerful auroral display in the Solar System. As spectacular as they are, however, very little is known about these dancing displays of Southern and Northern lights. A recent survey by NASA's Juno spacecraft is providing new evidence about Jupiter's auroras — and it's becoming increasingly clear they're not at all like what we expected.
There are weeks where it seems like every piece of physics news mentions quantum computing — but we are nowhere near a quantum iPhone. You probably remember that computers can consist of billions of nanometre-scale transistors etched into silicon. Those chips used to be enormous, room-sized setups where instead of transistors, there were tubes the size of light bulbs. Physicists in the quantum computing world are still trying to pick out the best vacuum tubes.
Science fiction doesn't exist to make movies about the stuff we know about — it explores the unknown physics, astronomy, biology and chemistry where real uncertainty about topics can lead to compelling, believable stories. That's what makes black holes such a popular subject; light can't escape them, maybe they're portals across space and time, and they seem to break the rules. But who needs fiction when there are already incredibly strange mysteries in the real world?
Should you find yourself inside a black hole, you will die. Should you find yourself near a black hole, you will also die. Aside from the fact that these massive, light-trapping monsters are impossible to reach on human timescales, there are simply not many ways measure the plasma surrounding them without dying or destroying the experiment. Scientists have to make do by recreating some of the features in the lab.
The equations of physics are things that we humans created to understand the universe, and it can be hard to disentangle them from the universe's innate properties. It turns out that one of the weirdest things scientists have come up with, what Albert Einstein derisively called "spooky action at a distance", is more than just maths: It's a fact of reality.
Quantum mechanics may force you to think some wild things about the way the universe works, but it has some real applications. One of the theory's main quirks allows for a special kind of quantum link, one that can send incredibly secure messages or transmit data for quantum computing. Tests of these links exist on Earth, in space, and now underwater.
Last year's gravitational wave discovery may have felt like the end of an era — a momentous occasion in which a precise experiment finally ended a hundred-year search to confirm a baffling prediction made by Albert Einstein. The discovery, instead, spawned an entirely new field of astronomy, and the results are finally starting to trickle in.
Move over Jupiter and Saturn, a crap load of diamonds could be found in two of the most mysterious places in the Solar System: Uranus and Neptune. Researchers using the Linac Coherent Light Source at Stanford have demonstrated in the lab — with one of the brightest sources of X-rays on the planet — that the depths of these ice giants are perfect for the formation of diamonds.
Are they stars? Are they lost planets? Brown dwarfs, the galaxy's dark, wandering orbs, are some of space's most perplexing features. They're larger than Jupiter but smaller than stars, glow on their own and, well, they're just really strange. A new analysis seems to explain at least a few of their mysteries.
If you were to rank the wildest things in the universe, there are a few obvious contenders: Gamma rays, fast radio bursts and quasars, for example. But no list would be complete without black holes and the black hole's less-dense cousins, the neutron star. These hyper-compressed things can do some mind-boggling warping to the shape of space itself. So, what happens if one were to eat the other?
On 14 October 2014, our Sun let out a great big burp, a coronal mass ejection that swept through the Solar System at an incredibly fortuitous angle. Several spacecraft (and one intrepid Martian rover) detected the solar blast, resulting in an unprecedented experiment that stretched all the way from Venus to outer reaches of the Solar System.
Physicists make a lot of statements about stuff they hope will happen, but might not happen in their lifetimes. One physicist, for example, thought that in certain cases, the incredibly common but hard-to-detect neutrino particles would somehow make entire atomic nuclei wiggle. He thought it a silly idea to even propose, given how difficult such a measurement would be to make.
You're probably aware that stuff is made from particles. But the second most abundant particle in the universe, the neutrino, refuses to be fully understood. This tiny and elusive speck only barely interacts with the other particles that make up us humans and our galaxy. Its mysteries continue to confound the public and get scientists talking, to this day.
It turns out the recognisable half-circle arch of a rainbow is a complete lie. When you're standing on the ground looking up at a rainbow in the sky, the curvature of the Earth usually blocks its bottom half. But when viewed from a higher vantage point, like from a plane, or the top of a crane, rainbows are magically revealed to be a complete circle.
One of the most well-accepted physical theories makes no logical sense. Quantum mechanics, the theory that governs the smallest possible spaces, forces our human brains to accept some really wacky, uncomfortable realities. Maybe we live in a world where certain observations can force our universe to branch into multiple ones. Or maybe actions in the present influence things earlier in time.