Another week has passed and it’s time to do a summary of the most important and interesting news from this week. For more news visit our news section. Also, if you would like to receive these news straight to your email, along with other related material, register for our email newsletter.
1. New Insights into the Physics of Ball Lightning (August 7)
Ball lightning is the rarest form of lightning, which has perplexed great scientists for many years. One of the main problems in the investigation of ball lightning is that it is really hard to study this phenomena in laboratory conditions. The new study, which has recently appeared in The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, describes easier and better ways of creating ball lighting in a lab. In particular, the newly released study presented experimental techniques of creating ball lightning, plus various techniques of making the ball of lightning last longer. Read more here.
The mysterious dark energy dominates the universe
2. Surprises from the Depths of Earth (August 9)
The key to understanding the evolution of our planet hides in the deep lower mantle of Earth — a region 660 – 2900 km below the surface. By studying the conditions below the surface, scientists are able to gaze into the early history of the planet. Now, scientists at the Carnegie Institution, with colleagues at the University of Illinois, have been able to experimentally simulate the pressure conditions in the deep lower mantle to measure thermal conductivity using a new measurement technique. The results obtained were surprising — the heat transfer is lower than other predictions, also conductivity has less dependence on pressure conditions than predicted.
“The results provide important bounds on the degree to which heat is transferred by convection as opposed to conduction in the lower mantle,” said Russell J. Hemley — director of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory. “The next step will be to examine effects of different mineral components on the thermal conductivity and to better understand the atomic scale basis of convective motion of these materials within the broader context of mantle dynamics.” Read the full article here.
3. A Proposed “Portal” to the Mystery of Dark Energy (August 9)
One of the biggest problems in modern cosmology and particle physics is the nature of dark energy. More precisely, it is not clear why dark energy, which dominates the energy density of the universe, has a very small, yet not zero, value.
Now, two physicists — Lawrence Krauss (Arizona State University) and James Dent (University of Louisiana-Lafayette) — have proposed that a possible key to the problem of dark energy might be the newly discovered Higg’s boson. In the new paper called “Higgs Seesaw Mechanism as a Source for Dark Energy” physicists propose a mechanism of small coupling between the Higgs particle, and possible new particles, which could result in the existence of another background field in nature — a field that would contribute to the energy density of empty space.
“We demonstrate that the simplest small mixing, related to the ratios of the scale at which electroweak physics operates, and a possible Grand Unified Scale, produces a possible contribution to the vacuum energy today of precisely the correct order of magnitude to account for the observed dark energy,” Krauss said. “Our paper demonstrates that a very small energy scale can at least be naturally generated within the context of a very simple extension of the standard model of particle physics.” Read the full report here. Also the paper can be found here.