Physics News of the Week: Element 117 Confirmed

| May 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

Another great week has passed and, as always, we have some great news from the world of physics. Below you can find 3 top news summarized, including useful links. To receive these news weekly to your email box, register for our email newsletter.

1. New Insights into the Uncertainty Principle (April 29)

So recently a group of researchers from three countries has provided substantial new insights into the fundamental tenet of quantum physics — Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle — with the first rigorous formulation supporting it as Heisenberg envisioned it. Quantum mechanics requires that we devise approximate joint measurements because the theory itself prohibits simultaneous ideal measurements of position and momentum — and this is the content of the uncertainty relation proven by the researchers. “Curiously, since Werner Heisenberg, one of the founders of quantum mechanics, gave an intuitive formulation of this principle, it was only recently that serious attempts were made to make the statement precise enough so that one could check its validity,” said Paul Busch, Professor of Mathematical Physics at the University of York. 

The results of this research — a proof of a variety of formulations of measurement error (and disturbance) relations — highlights the fundamental limits of measurements in quantum physics and might play the role in the rapidly growing field of quantum cryptography. 

A new element (117) will be added to the periodic table 

2. Superheavy Element 117 Confirmed (May 2)

Led by researchers at Germany’s GSI laboratory, the team created atoms of element 117, matching the heaviest atoms ever observed, which are 40 per cent heavier than an atom of lead. The experiment was performed by an international team of chemists and physicists headed by Prof. Christoph Düllmann, who holds positions at GSI, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU), and the Helmholtz Institute Mainz (HIM). 

A special berkelium target material, essential for the synthesis of element 117, was produced over an 18-month-long campaign. This required intense neutron irradiation at ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor, followed by chemical separation and purification at ORNL’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center. Approximately 13 milligrams of the highly-purified isotope Bk-249, which itself decays with a half-life of only 330 days, were then shipped to Mainz University. There, the facilities and expertise are available to transform the exotic radioisotope into a target, able to withstand the high-power calcium-ion beams from the GSI accelerator. The last step was to firmly confirm the identity of the element, which was successful.

“This is an important scientific result and a compelling example of international cooperation in science, advancing superheavy element research by leveraging the special capabilities of national laboratories in Germany and the U.S.,” said ORNL Director Thom Mason.

3. Evidence of a Toroidal Magnetic Field around a Magnetar (May 2)

Magnetars are a class of neutron star, which are known for the strength of their magnetic fields. The strongest of these fields that have been measured so far are as strong as 10¹¹ Tesla.

For some time now, space scientists have theorized that magnetars might also have a second doughnut-shaped field around their equators. In this new effort, the researchers appear to have found evidence for just such a magnetic field surrounding the magnetar  4U 0142+61. In studying the magnetar, the researchers were analyzing the strong x-ray emissions that come from its poles—pulsating every 8.7 seconds. But then they noticed something else, the pulse was not consistent, the reason for which, according to the researchers, was the new magnetic field.

More news:

Physics Students Devise Concept for Star-Wars Style Deflector Shields
A Step Closer to the Secrets of the Fountain of Youth
NASA’s New Prototype Spacesuit



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  1. Graig says:

    Those very first locks were built into large wooden bolts or crossbars locked throughout noblemen’s doors.

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