How to Keep Electronics Warm in Space? Use Hot Wax

by Ryan McGillicuddy figures by Sean Wilson When I think of the challenges associated with exploring space, I usually think of explosive rockets, speeding meteorites, deadly radiation, and the empty vacuum of space. Admittedly, my first worry about space is not the freezing temperatures. But in reality, temperature control in space is a challenge that NASA constantly faces. For example, the sun-facing side of the … Continue reading How to Keep Electronics Warm in Space? Use Hot Wax

The Frustrating Search for New Physics

by Daniel Ang figures by Aparna Nathan Particle physics says that the universe shouldn’t exist. This is a radical claim! But if the current theories that underlie particle physics are correct and complete, then the Big Bang that birthed the universe would have simply resulted in a massive flash of light. Nothing else would remain – no stars, planets or galaxies. And neither you nor … Continue reading The Frustrating Search for New Physics

Biologists and Physicists Work Together to Image Subcellular Interactions Like Never Before

Antibiotics, while life-saving, can also wreak havoc on healthy systems. The drugs work by attacking the protein-synthesizing center (ribosomes) in bacteria. When the ribosomes in human cells are mistaken for bacterial ribosomes, antibiotics can cause a range of side effects from nausea to kidney failure. To understand what conditions cause healthy cells to be attacked, scientists are implementing novel imagining techniques to study interactions between … Continue reading Biologists and Physicists Work Together to Image Subcellular Interactions Like Never Before

In a Ghostly Mirror Rainbow

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

Building the Smallest Chemical Beaker

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

ARIEL: Exploring strange new worlds and boldly observing what no telescope has observed before.

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.

Sticky Light: Physicists discover new Photon Interactions

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

A Freeway for Light: Topology Protects Lasers from Defects

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

Help me “photophoretic-trap volumetric displays.” You’re our only hope.

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.

It takes two to see (infrared photons anyway)

In a rainbow, the shortest visible wavelength of light is approximately 400nm (blue) and the longest 700nm (red), where all others colors outside this range are invisible to humans.
Except not quite. Artal et. al. demonstrate that the eye’s visual acuity for infrared light (1000nm), is almost the same as for visible green light. The exploited effect in the eye converts two-invisible photons into a single visible one. Importantly, this demonstrated sensitivity to infrared light could enable future ophthalmic devices to help patients with eye conditions, such as cataracts, that make them opaque to visible light. Continue reading It takes two to see (infrared photons anyway)