Seeing with Gravity: How invisible particles can be observed in outer space

Everyone on Earth is familiar with gravity to some extent; it is the force that pulls us down to the planet’s surface. In fact, all objects with mass tug on other objects moving around them because of gravity. The strength of the gravitational pull depends on the mass of the object, and is often too weak to notice. However, for things as massive as galaxies, … Continue reading Seeing with Gravity: How invisible particles can be observed in outer space

Worth the Weight: The kilogram is finally being redefined

In a basement vault near Paris, under a series of nested bell jars, sits a one kilogram platinum-iridium cylinder. Even as it wears away or collects dust particles, it is still exactly one kilogram. That’s because it is the kilogram: “Le Grand K.” For more than 100 years, it has been the international standard for the unit of mass, even though its mass has changed … Continue reading Worth the Weight: The kilogram is finally being redefined

The Electron Electric Dipole Moment: How the Shape of the Electron’s Field could Hint at New Particles

The matter in our universe is made of atoms; atoms are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons; and protons and neutrons are made of quarks. In our current theory of particle physics, electrons and quarks are elementary particles–they are the foundation of everything else. The full catalog of all known elementary particles and their interactions is called the Standard Model (SM). The SM has been … Continue reading The Electron Electric Dipole Moment: How the Shape of the Electron’s Field could Hint at New Particles

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