Another great week has passed and, as always, let’s take a glance at what’s been going on in the world of science. This week has been special, as the Nobel prize winners have been announced, which caused a fair share of controversy. So here’s a short summary of the most important physics events, which happened this week.
On October 8, after a few delays, the Nobel prize winners in physics have been announced. The winners were theoretical physicists Peter Higgs and François Englert, who developed a theoretical mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass of subatomic particles. Even though the selection of the mentioned scientists was not unexpected, a choice of not including CERN among the winners caused a great controversy. Nobel prizes can be awarded to organizations, which has happened a lot past. However, none organization has been yet awarded with a Nobel prize in science, which has caused a bit of a disappointment to many experts this year. For more information check out this report and this discussion of whether the Nobel physics decision was wrong.
2. Evidence for a New Nuclear Magic Number (October 9)
To understand a nucleus, scientists often employ a so-called shell model, which assumes that neutrons and protons in a nucleus exhibit a shell structure similar to electrons in an atom. Certain configurations appear to be more stable than others, for example, for naturally stable nuclei, shells are completely filled when the number of protons and neutrons is equal to 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82 or 126 (magic numbers).
Now, thanks to the work by scientists from the University of Tokyo, there is evidence for a new nuclear magic number in the unstable, radioactive calcium isotope 54Ca. In particular, the researchers showed that 54Ca is the first known nucleus with 34 neutrons where N = 34 is a magic number.
The 2013 Nobel Prize for Chemistry has been awarded to Martin Karplus, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel for their development of computer models of complex chemical systems. All three scientists have strong links to physics, as they have combined classical and quantum physics while developing computational techniques to describe complex chemical processes. For a full report check out the link above.