Saturday, 14 July 2012

Physics stuff from the week 9-15/7/12

"Fifteen years of work by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) team paid off on July 5 with a historic record-breaking laser shot. The NIF laser system of 192 beams delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts or TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to its target. Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than the United States uses at any instant in time, and 1.85 megajoules of energy is about 100 times what any other laser regularly produces today."
This concentration of energy will be a massive boon for attempts to establish nuclear fusion technology, which would produce more power than nuclear fission, while being safer and cheaper.
It will also, of course, enable testing of materials under yet more extreme conditions.

Hubble Space Telescope detects fifth moon of Pluto
'Hubble Space Telescope detects fifth moon of Pluto'
As well as Nix, Charon, and Hydra, the dwarf planet Pluto has at least two other satellites - P4 was discovered about a year ago, and P5's discovery was announced on wednesday.

"What's 100 times stronger than steel, weighs one-sixth as much and can be snapped like a twig by a tiny air bubble? The answer is a carbon nanotube"
"Shorter nanotubes get stretched while longer nanotubes bend. Both mechanisms can lead to breaking."

Cassini's taking pictures of Saturn's rings, again...
But how did it get there, to take them?
Using Titan to slingshot it...
"because Saturn’s rings lie within Saturn’s equatorial plane, they appear as a thin line when viewed by Cassini in a near-zero-degree orbit inclination. From higher inclinations, however, Cassini can view the broad expanse of the rings, making out details within individual ringlets and helping to unlock the secrets of ring origin and formation. Some of those images have already started to come in."

[video] And what's Cassini been doing, while slingshotted by Titan?
Why -- taking some stunning pictures of Titan itself, of course!
"Images from NASA's Cassini spacecraft show a concentration of high-altitude haze and a vortex materializing at the south pole of Saturn's moon Titan, signs that the seasons are turning on Saturn's largest moon."

Aerogel and metallic microlattice, be gone!

Aerographite beats them by both lightness and strength - 0.2 milligrams per cubic centimeter compared to 0.9 - and able to support over 40000 times its own weight!
As well as being 99.99% air, it will spring back to its original shape when compressed.
"The current hope is that because it’s a good conductor of electricity, it can be used as an electrode in new kinds of batteries or perhaps in supercapacitors."
"Interestingly, the team says that if enough of the material were made to allow it to be seen by the naked eye, which they say they can do, it would appear as a black clump of sponge-like material. They also note that they didn’t start out trying to invent a new material but found it came naturally as part of their research into three-dimensionally cross-linked carbon structures."

The race to develop RT superconductors is really on, now...
"The team found the first experimental evidence that a so-called “charge-density-wave instability” competes with superconductivity. Armed with this knowledge, scientists can start to design new materials that will bring superconductors out of the cold and into large-scale real world applications."

Growth of Earth's core may hint at magnetic reversal

"One side of Earth's solid inner core grows slightly while the other half melts... the axis of Earth's magnetic field lies in the growing hemisphere - a finding that suggests shifts in the field are connected to growth of the inner core"

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