Stars are responsible for forging every heavy element in the universe when they fuse hydrogen and when they explode at the ends of their lives. But they also create a strange third type of chemical bond between atoms, caused by their incredible magnetic fields. This previously unknown type of bond could lead to new research in quantum science, perhaps even quantum computing.
There's no way to take a direct picture of something as small and fleeting as a Higgs boson. But physicists can photograph its relatives, directly imaging atomic structures and improving our understanding of atomic physics. Now comes this picture: The first-ever snapshot of a single atom's shadow.
As Moore's Law continues its march, there's the ever-present threat of stuff getting too small to get any smaller. It might be time to tally another one against Moore: Scientists are taking the next logical step and storing images in atomic vapor.
The world’s smallest magnetic data storage unit is made of just 12 atoms, squeezing an entire byte into just 96 atoms, a significant shrinkage in the world of information storage. It’s not a quantum computer, but it’s a computer storage unit at the quantum scale. By contrast, modern hard disk drives use about a million atoms to store a single bit, and a half billion atoms per byte.
Quantum entanglement, the spooky action at a distance that promises to be so useful for things like high-powered computing and security, is generally considered a function of the tiny world. It’s easy — OK, not easy, but relatively practical nowadays — to take two particles or two microscopic things and intertwine their fates. Now for the first time, scientists have accomplished quantum entanglement on the macro scale, entangling two millimeter-sized diamonds.
By Mikkel Andersen, a physicist at the University at Otago in New Zealand, as told to Flora Lichtman
Posted 04.12.2011 at 11:32 am 0 Comments
“We created a method to control individual atoms, to get them exactly where we want them, when we want them: an atom trap. Atoms are very fast, so we use powerful cooling lasers to slow them down. The lasers are on a table floating on air cushions, in a room without windows so we can’t harm people on the street. We need laser beams coming from all directions so there’s a force on the atom opposite its motion regardless of which direction it’s moving. It’s like a bicyclist’s nightmare: Whichever way you go, the wind is against you.
Chemists have messed with the constituent parts of a helium atom and fooled it into behaving like it was hydrogen. This form of alchemy allows a physical test of how atomic mass affects chemical reaction rates.
The trickery involves a particle accelerator, a heavy subatomic particle and some knowledge of quantum mechanics.
Two atomic-scale studies announced in the past week could have major implications for the future of computing and information storage. Last Friday, IBM researchers in Zurich announced they had measured how long a single atom can store information. And Monday, Kiwi researchers announced they had trapped a single atom inside a tractor beam and taken its picture.
And you thought the macros on your camera was good because you got a sweet close up of a flower? Well, the scientists over at Oak Ridge National Laboratory zoom in so tight they can distinguish atoms of different elements. Using a special z-contrast scanning electron microscope, researchers at Oak Ridge took the first picture detailed enough to differentiate different atoms within a chemical compound. This super-high resolution scanning may play an important role in the future of materials chemistry, where tiny atomic differences can have profound effects on the properties of different chemical compounds.
Until the LHC finally gets up to full speed, Brookhaven National Lab's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) remains the world's most powerful heavy ion smasher. And on Monday, they showed off some of that power by announcing that a recent collision resulted in the hottest matter ever recorded.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.