Science

Looking up: the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment uses a unique “half-pipe” design Canada has finished the construction of the country’s largest radio telescope. The C$16m Canadian Hydrogen Intensity-Mapping Experiment (CHIME) near Penticton, British Columbia, is the first research telescope to be built in Canada in more than 30 years. A ceremony to mark the completion of the telescope was attended yesterday by Canadian science minister Kirsty Duncan. CHIME is located at the National Research Council of Canada’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, which is about 260 km east of Vancouver. The observatory boasts four 100 m-long u-shaped cylinders of metal mesh and collects radio waves with wavelengths between 37–75 cm – similar to the wavelength used by mobile phones. Signals collected by the CHIME telescope will be digitally sampled nearly one billion times per second, then processed to produce an image of the sky. Bizarre bursts Astronomers will use the telescope to map a quarter of the observable universe …

Chemical reaction: the magneto-optical trap used to study hypermetallic alkaline earth oxides A magneto-optical trap has been used by physicists in the US to study how ions and atoms interact to create hypermetallic alkaline earth oxides – materials that have potential technological applications. Hypermetallic alkaline earth oxides are linear molecules in which an oxygen atom is sandwiched between two alkaline earth atoms. The properties of these oxides can be finely tuned through the choice of the alkaline earth atoms, creating structures that could prove useful for a wide range of applications including nonlinear optics, materials science or chemical synthesis. Currently these oxides are made and studied in plasmas and this means that it is difficult to both control the process and to gain insights into how they form. Quantum control Now, Prateek Puri and colleagues at the University of California Los Angeles, University of Connecticut and the University of Missouri have come up with a …

Dropping in: droplets formed over water (right) migrate to a dry patch Look closely at a cup of coffee or tea and you might see a white mist hovering over the surface. This is thought to be micron-sized droplets of liquid, which physicists know can levitate over the surface of a hot liquid. Sometimes, the levitating droplets can even arrange themselves in a regular 2D array as they hang in the air. This phenomenon is poorly understood, yet it has important implications for the thermodynamics of evaporation – and could also have a range of applications from chemical manufacturing to delivering drugs to patients. Newer model Now, Oleg Kabov and colleagues at Novosibirsk State University and the National Tomsk Polytechnic Research University in Russia as well as Southern Methodist University in the US have seen a similar array of tiny droplets over a hot solid surface. They developed a new model to explain the effect, …

Cool running: rooftop cooling panels With about 15% of the world’s electricity used for cooling, making air-conditioning systems more efficient could go a long way to ease future energy demand. A group of scientists in sunny California reckons it can do just that via “radiative cooling” – a process requiring essentially no external source of power that transmits unwanted heat into the cold of outer space via infrared emission. The researchers have shown that a device able to reflect almost all incoming radiation from the Sun while simultaneously emitting in the infrared could reduce electricity consumption from air conditioners by at least a fifth. Objects emit electromagnetic radiation with a spectrum that peaks at a particular wavelength depending on the object’s temperature. Radiative cooling exploits the fact that the peak at room temperature lies in a narrow range of infrared wavelengths (8–13 μm) that pass through the Earth’s atmosphere with relatively little absorption. This allows an …

Euratom funded: the Joint European Torus The UK government wants to agree a “far-reaching” science and innovation agreement with the European Union (EU) after the country leaves the block in 2019. In a “position paper” on science and innovation published today, the UK government states that science will be an important part of the UK’s future partnership with the EU, adding that it hopes to have a “full and open discussion” with the EU about a future collaboration. The 16 page document says that the UK wants Europe to maintain its world-leading role in science and innovation, and will continue playing its part. “It is the UK’s ambition to build on its unique relationship with the EU to ensure that together we remain at the forefront of collective endeavours to better understand, and make better, the world in which we live,” the paper states. On the Horizon The biggest funding initiative in the EU is the …

Danger zone: Japan’s Mount Ontake Volcanic ballistics are fragments of lava and rock – ranging in size from a few centimetres to tens of metres in diameter – expelled by explosive eruptions at temperatures reaching over 1000 °C. Hurtling through the air at speeds reaching hundreds of metres per second, they travel in parabolic arcs and are capable of striking ground up to 10 km from the volcano that launched them. Despite presenting a significant hazard to people and infrastructure, vulnerability assessments for these ballistics – from which risk-management strategies can be developed – are lacking. In a new study, however, Tom Wilson and colleagues at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the Mount Fuji Research Institute in Japan, simulated the impact of volcanic projectiles by using a pneumatic cannon to fire real volcanic rocks into sections of wall and roof claddings. This is the first ballistics study to use rocks of realistic sizes and …

Black-hole haven: artist’s impression of the Milky Way Astronomers in Japan say they have the best evidence yet that intermediate-mass black holes (IMBHs) exist – and what’s more, there could be one in the Milky Way. Weighing in at 100,000 solar masses, the object is on the heavy side for a IMBH and could have been created in a dwarf galaxy that then merged with the Milky Way. There is very good evidence that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) dominate the centres of many galaxies. These behemoths have masses equivalent to 100,000 to billions of Suns and their huge gravitational fields can drive spectacular emissions of radiation. At the other end of the mass scale, there is also strong evidence for the existence of “stellar mass” black holes (several to tens of solar masses) from indirect astronomical observations and the detection of the gravitational waves that are given off when pairs of black holes merge. Coalescing …

Hitting targets: first neutrons at the China Spallation Neutron Source The ¥2.2bn ($330m) China Spallation Neutron Source (CSNS) has produced its first neutrons. The facility is the fourth spallation neutron source to be built in the world. When it opens to users in 2018, the CSNS will have a wide range of applications in areas such as materials science, life sciences, physics, chemical industry and energy. Neutron bunches The neutron source is located some 30 km south-east of Dongguan and is one of the largest scientific facilities in China. Construction began in 2012 and the CSNS features a 200 m-long 80 MeV linear accelerator that feeds protons into a 1.6 GeV 238 m circumference synchrotron. In July 2017, the facility managed to accelerate a proton beam to 1.6 GeV for the first time. The protons are then fired into a solid tungsten target that will produce a 100 kW beam of neutrons with 25 bunches of particles released every second. The facility …

Stark effect: the optical cavity A new type of optical quantum memory that could be integrated with other components on a chip has been unveiled by physicists in the US. The device overcomes an important challenge facing researchers trying to make quantum computers based on light – how to efficiently capture a photon within a sub-micron-sized structure. From sending messages that could never be bugged to linking together quantum computers in a “quantum Internet”, the ability to exchange quantum information may be vital to the future of technology. This will not be possible, however, without quantum memories to store quantum states and release them when needed. In the Internet of today, information is sent between computers through a distributed series of nodes called routers. “Packets [of information] are maybe stored for some time and then they are sent,” says Andrei Faraon of the California Institute of Technology, “There is some control over the timing of …

Up and running: first experiments on the European X-ray Free Electron Laser will begin in mid-September The €1.22bn European X-ray Free Electron Laser (E-XFEL) in the Hamburg region of Germany has been inaugurated at a ceremony held today at the lab. The opening was attended by several officials including Germany’s research minister Johanna Wanka and the mayor of Hamburg, Olaf Scholz. The 3.4 km-long E-XFEL uses a superconducting linear accelerator to accelerate electrons before passing them through an “undulator” where they produce coherent X-ray beams 27,000 times per second and with a luminance a billion times higher than that of the best conventional X-ray sources. Each pulse will last less than 100 fs (10–13 s), allowing researchers to create movies of chemical reactions and decipher the molecular composition of viruses and cells. Two instruments Experiments will begin in mid-September for two months and on two instruments: one called Femtosecond X-Ray Experiments and the other Single Particles, Clusters, and …

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