Europium and terbium are two rare earth elements that share a colorful similarity: they emit bright red and green light, respectively, when exposed to ultraviolet light. In the image above, there are five thin polymer films embedded with different concentrations of europium and terbium. The far-left film contains primarily terbium, hence the bright green light, while the far-right film contains primarily the red light-emitting europium. … Continue reading In a Ghostly Mirror Rainbow
After a new star is born, the surrounding gas and dust flattens out into a rotating disk. Some of that matter will condense, eventually forming the planets that circle the star. Unfortunately, it is challenging to watch the formation of a new planet. Light from the star tends to drown out light from the planet. Astronomers have only been able to spot planet-like-objects in these … Continue reading It’s a planet! Scientists find newborn planet for the first time
Typically, if you want to understand the foundation of something, building from the ground up sounds like a sensible approach. However, researchers in Dr. Ni’s group at Harvard have taken this idea a step further by building molecules one atom at a time. The group’s goal is to better understand the minimal requirements and exact properties of chemical reactions. For comparison, while every chemistry class … Continue reading Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker
by Katherine J. Wu In space, no one would hear you scream. But make a quick detour down to the surface of Venus, and all bets are off. Because even if you scream on another planet with no one else around to hear it, you’ll certainly make a sound – just not quite the one you’d make on Earth. And with that cliffhanger, let’s tap … Continue reading You Asked: If you were able to talk on another planet, how would you sound?
Since the first exoplanet discovery in the 1990s, scientists have learned of the diverse and abundant nature of exoplanets, having now found more than 3700. With such a large and disparate sample set, ESA (European Space Agency) has set its sights on learning how these planets form and what their chemistry is like. A new telescope, or ‘mission’, ARIEL (Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey), has … Continue reading ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.
Move aside Harry Potter, science has invisibility cloaks too. The non-magical version was inspired by polar bear fur and works by having, excellent thermal insulating properties. Polar bear hair has a hollow core which effectively prevents the infrared emission, or heat signature, of the polar bear from escaping the fur. This helps the bear retain its heat and stay warm. Because of this efficient reflection of … Continue reading Scientists make a polar bear-inspired invisibility cloak
by George Touloumes figures by Brad Wierbowski Would you ever consider eating meat that was grown in a lab instead of raised on a farm? What if it were both healthier and more sustainable than conventional meat? Silicon Valley venture capital firms and major meat companies like Tyson Foods are now investing tens of millions of dollars in bioengineering research to produce exactly that kind … Continue reading Making Steak out of Spinach: How bioengineering could change meat production
Light is made of little particles called photons that usually don’t interact. Imagine how strange it would be if the light from your window ricocheted off the light from computer screen! Our brains couldn’t make sense of these images and we’d be stuck in a blurry—albeit bright—world. Professors Vladan Vuletic and Mikhail Lukin, at MIT have made this mindbender a reality. By shining a weak laser … Continue reading Sticky Light: Physicists discover new Photon Interactions
If you want to admire the beauty behind the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics – topological phases of matter, take a course in topology, followed by graduate-level solid state physics. But if you ask for a concrete application of this topic, you now have an excellent example. Harnessing the concept of topology, scientists have engineered a new way to channel light in lasers. Originally a … Continue reading A Freeway for Light: Topology Protects Lasers from Defects
Anyone who has seen Star Wars envisions the future of visual displays as “holograms,” where 3D objects materialize out of light in thin air. However, anyone who has looked at a true hologram will likely have been disappointed at the reality. Not only does the image not pop out in its full glorious 3-dimensions in front of you, but the object is typically only visible … Continue reading Help me “photophoretic-trap volumetric displays.” You’re our only hope.