Tag Archives: quantum

After 85 Years, Physicists Confirm Weyl Particle

Photo portrait of Hermann Weyl.
Hermann Weyl. Photo courtesy ETH-Bibliothek Zurich.

In 1928, the equations of British physicist Paul Dirac helped to describe the workings of the subatomic particles known as fermions. Within a year, other theorists – including a contemporary and schoolmate of Einstein’s named Hermann Weyl – had come up with solutions to Dirac’s equations that meant two other, quite odd types of fermions might also exist.

Proving them right would take some time, and Weyl’s quasiparticle assumed a kind of legendary status until 2015, when three separate teams confirmed its existence (my article says two, but a third popped up after I wrote it). Read on to find out more about this “ghost particle” and how it could transform electronics.

Meet Weyl, the Massless Particle That Could Upend Electronics

Top 5 Large Hadron Collider Findings

Photo of man examining accelerator
Photo courtesy CERN

When physicists at CERN cranked up the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on Sept. 10, 2008, they had high (if contradictory) hopes. Like a child at Christmas, they wanted to get exactly what was on their wish list – the Higgs boson, some proof of supersymmetry – but also yearned for some wonderful surprise; because, if everything they predicted was right on the money, then particle physicists might well weep, for they would have no new worlds to conquer.

Years later, the LHC still hasn’t destroyed the planet or crushed physicists’ hopes. In fact, it’s made some amazing and somewhat perplexing discoveries. In this article, I take a (relatively) nontechnical look back at five the five most major findings so far.

5 Discoveries Made By the Large Hadron Collider (So Far)

10 History-making Hispanic Researchers

Photo of Luis Alvarez with balloons.
When not doing Nobel prize-winning research, Luis Alvarez built President Eisenhower an indoor golf-training machine, analyzed the Zapruder film and tried to locate an Egyptian pyramid’s treasure chamber using cosmic rays. Photo courtesy Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory

Far too many scientists who made major contributions to knowledge and human health go unremarked, forgotten save for the occasional postage stamp or Google doodle. So when I was offered the chance to write about a few of the many outstanding scientists who came from Spanish-speaking lands, cultures and ancestors, I was understandably excited…and a little nervous. On the one hand, combining such a varied assemblage of people under one term – especially the political term Hispanic – wasn’t ideal. On the other hand, it gave me the chance to explore, and raise awareness of, a remarkably diverse array of persons, backgrounds and accomplishments. I hope you’ll find their stories as inspiring as I did.

10 Hispanic Scientists You Should Know

Laser Communications Gets a Zap(pa) from Moon Unit

Photo by ESO Photo Ambassador Yuri Beletsky. Unrelated to the NASA experiment but cool nonetheless.

Lasers rank among the most vital and widespread technologies in the industrialized world, but for years they were considered a solution looking for a problem. One possible application lay in communications: Lasers, being of higher frequency and energy than radio, held the potential to communicate more information per second.

Fast-forward to October 2013, when NASA pulled off one of the most impressive proofs-of-concept in history. That month, a spacecraft orbiting the moon sent data 239,000 miles to Earth via a pulsed laser beam at a download rate of 622 megabits per second (by comparison, high-speed consumer data plans are usually measured in the tens of megabits). Everyone from cryptographers to high-speed Wall Street traders sat up and took notice. Sound cool? Read on as I explain…

How Laser Communication Works

Let’s do the space-time warp again

Black hole The Large Hadron Collider isn’t going to spawn one, and our own sun will never become one, but it’s fun to think about what might happen if a black hole lurked its way into our cosmic neighborhood. It’s the cosmological equivalent of a ghost story, pitting our bite-sized planet against the reality-bending might of the ultimate bogeyman.

So, what would happen? Let’s just say that, if you’ve ever wondered how taffy feels, you’re about to gain some insight. Still, you might be surprised at some of the crazy ways the scenario plays out—and at the mind-blowing experiences you would have if you could survive the trip.

What if a Black Hole Formed Near Our Solar System?