Physics News of the Week: Compact Fusion Reactors and a Watery Moon of Saturn

| October 19, 2014 | 0 Comments

This week, as always, some amazing physics papers were released, so here’s a quick summary including the links to original articles. For more news register for our email newsletter here.

1. Lockheed Martin Pursues Compact Fusion Reactor Concept (Oct 16)

Lockheed Martin, an American global aerospace, defense and security company, has recently made it to the headlines by announcing that they are on the verge of producing compact nuclear fusion devices.”We are on the fast track to developing compact nuclear fusion reactors to serve the world’s ever-growing energy needs,” said Thomas McGuire — the compact fusion project lead. “Our scientists and engineers are looking at the biggest natural fusion reactor for inspiration – the Sun. By containing the power of the sun in a small magnetic bottle, we are on the fast track to developing compact fusion reactors to serve the world’s ever-growing energy needs.”

Such reactors, according to scientists and engineers from Lockheed Martin, could be used in countless different ways, such as to power commercial flights and, of course, to produce safe energy. “We have a long ways to go, and there are lots of challenges, but we have a path to do it and a community of fusion researchers and national labs,” said  McGuire. One of the main short term goals of the company is producing a working prototype in about 5 years. Find out more here.

Nuclear fusion that powers the Sun might soon become a source for clean and safe energy

2. Light Bending Material Facilitates the Search for New Particles (Oct 16)

Identifying particles created in the giant accelerators is not an easy task. Fortunately, the task has recently got easier thanks to a material designed by Philippe Tassin and colleagues from Chalmers University of Technology.

To investigate the matter’s smallest constituents, physicists have particles colliding with each other at very high speeds.To identify them researchers need to detect the cone of light — known as Cherenkov radiation — formed around a particle that travels faster than light in a transparent material. Now Chalmers researchers have designed a material that manipulates the Cherenkov cone so that also particles with high momentum get a distinct light cone angle. “The result is that even particles with large momentum can be efficiently separated and identified,” said Philippe Tassin.

3. Death Star Moon” May Be Wonky or Watery (Oct 16)

According to a recently released study, one of the Saturn’s moons named Mimas (nicknamed “The Death Star” due to a similar appearance) is likely wonky or watery. The conclusions presented in the study at Science Magazine are that there is a vast ocean beneath its surface, or, alternatively, the moon has a rocky core with a weird shape resembling a rugby ball.

Measuring the movement of the planet scientists found that it was wobbling, which is not at all unusual. However, the magnitude of the wobble was much bigger than expected. To explain such a behaviour of the moon scientists came up with two possible explanations: the wobble could arise from a core that was squashed or elongated by 20-60km or a normal spherical core and crust, but separated by a “global ocean”. A better understanding of Saturn moons could offer a glimpse in the complicated science of planet and moon formation.

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