Physics News of the Week: Asymmetry in Topological Insulators and Voyager 1 News

| August 18, 2013 | 0 Comments

Another warm summer week has passed and it’s time to take a look at what has been going on in the world of physics. This week we have some great news from material scientists, an update on gravitational waves and the controversial news about Voyager 1. To receive these news and other related material to your email, register for our email newsletter.

1. Asymmetry in Topological Insulators (August 13)

One of the main aims of computer and material scientists is the development of the next generation of computers — quantum computers. Now, according to the recent research by the scientists at US National Renewable Energy Laboratory, new materials called topological insulators have the potential to become the building blocks for a quantum computer.  In particular scientists discovered that topological insulators behave asymmetrically at the sub-atomic level.

The research offers a key in understanding topological insulators, which might open the doors for super fast quantum computers that might run on almost no electricity. Read the full report here.

So has Voyager finally left the solar system or not?

2. Voyager 1 Has Finally Left the Solar System? (August 15)

NASA’s Voyager 1, carrying Earthly greetings on a gold plated phonograph record, has finally left the solar system according to a new study. The new model by Marc Swisdak and his fellow scientists James F. Drake and Merav Opher explains the recent data from Voyager 1 and concludes that it has left the solar system.

For those carefully following physics news, it’s easy to notice that there had been a number of articles announcing that the spacecraft had already left the heliosphere. Time after time, however, the news were false. So what’s the controversy? The problem lies in the difficulties of interpreting the observations of Voyager 1 instruments. According to NASA scientists, Voyager 1 will leave heliosphere when the equipment of the spacecraft will stop detecting solar particles and start seeing galactic particles.

Last summer, however, NASA scientists announced some unexpected results — spacecraft has passed a boundary, which was marked by a drop and then a rise of solar particles and other strange data. The interpretation was as follows — Voyager 1 has entered “heliosheath depletion region,” however, it is still in the heliosphere.  Swisdak and colleagues, however, offer a new interpretation, that would explain the data. Read the full report here. Also, for subscribers, the paper can be found here, also at arXiv.

3. Listening to Black Holes (August 16)

As professor David Blair (one of the physicists working on the new gravity wave detectors says): “Gravitational wave astronomy is going to be the new astronomy that’s likely to really revolutionize our understanding of the universe.” And now, due to an addition of a of a new technique called ‘quantum squeezing’ at the world’s largest gravitational wave detector makes a big step towards gravitational wave astronomy.

“This is a major breakthrough that makes us even more confident that in a few years we will begin to directly measure the ripples in space,” Blair commented. Due to ‘quantum squeezing’ even very subtle gravitational waves will become detectable. Read the full article here.

More news:

Try Clapping Your Wet Hands: A Physics Lesson from Virginia Tech Engineers
Is Economics More Like History than Physics?
Google’s Doodle Marks the Birthday of Erwin Schrodinger

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