Alt-week 7.8.2012: Solar flares, trapping dark matter, and life-sized Lego trees

| July 28, 2012

Alt-week peels back the covers forward some of the more curious sci-tech stories from the hold out seven days.

This week we be hanged by some superhero news, look at to what extent solar panels might shape up in the what is yet to be, explore a Lego forest and remark how to grab dark matter suitable using some household gold and strands of DNA. Not singly that, we discover how the light likes to celebrate the fourth of July by its own firework display. This is alt / week

While the full age of the science community had its eyes firmly fixed adhering one elusive atomic unicorn, small steps were sentient made in finding another — dark good sense. Scientists have hung a lot of plan on this invisible peg, and its real nature is also what makes it not easily to find. After all, how perform you find something that neither emits nor absorbs easy ? Well, as it happens many excellent minds are trying to figure that out, and human being of the latest approaches comes through a bunch of cunning.

The coordinated essay involves University of Michigan’s Katherin Freese and Harvard’s George Church, at the same time with some DNA and some gold. Obviously. The gold is laid out in a thin sheet, with the DNA hanging in the present life it in threads, and the idea is that the clumsy dark good sense will collide with the gold atoms, forcing it out of the sheet and keen through the DNA like grass. As cropped land strand of DNA has an identifier, this also means the trajectory can be worked out. Simple.

You be sure who else’s DNA got messed up? That’s lawful, Spider-man. With the latest installment in the movie franchise hitting cinemas this week, we were pleased to detect out that directors have been consulting scientists speedily to sharpen up their in-pellicle academia. What now? In short, more than have a theater full of tutting students, directors are consulting the community like James Kakalios (author of The Physics of Superheroes not at all less) to make sure they originate “a believable fake reality.” Want to understand exactly what that entails? Well the deficient answer is entertaining on-screen science of energy based on laboratory truths. For the weakly longer, yet no less interesting reply , tune your spidey sense to the video in time.

Us mere mortals might never engender radioactive powers, but we can distil energy from the sun, and that’s affected heroic. This week we saw a reinvigorated study come to light that could draw to the improvement of photovoltaic (PVT) solar systems. Although PVT panels be possible to provide both heat and power, they’re much better suited to the latter. To ingenuity this imbalance, Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University, together with Michael Pathak and Stephen Harrison outlined a separation that uses amorphous — or thin film — silicon. Despite being lighter, cheaper and greener, this stamp of silicon suffers from the “Staebler-Wronski” reality, where efficiency declines in light. No considerable for solar panels obviously.

The new study, however, discovered that by stimulating the thin-film silicon to end for end 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) that is the solar-thermal operating degree of heat, the Staebler-Wronski effect was largely negated. A to a greater distance 10 percent increase in efficiency was achieved through . spike annealing — essentially baking — the small cavity once a day. This means that the as respects heat energy created by PVT panels is improved, and it too means that, in the future, they could subsist used for both purposes, meaning not so much roof-top real estate, and a happier planet (and maybe wallet).

From one hot topic, to not the same: solar flares. This week, of direction, many of us were enjoying fourth of July celebrations. reports that the day-star has been putting on its be in possession of fireworks display, with impressive flares existence seen firing off from sunspot AR1515. The eruptions registered in because a class M5.3 solar squall (with X being the only class higher). The sunspot responsible is well-nigh 100,000 kilometers long (roughly eight spells the earth’s diameter,) and the flares come at a particularly active phase of the current 11 year solar period, — which is expected to peak next year. So, compared to that, San Diego’s “parade” this year might look relatively barren.

While the sun’s energy is as the world goes considered good for most trees, we’re not abiding the ones you see below inclination react in quite the same habitual method. Broken Hill — a small mining incorporated town in Australia — has suddenly found itself surrounded by forest. Not just any old dendriform collection either, these trees are of the rare “life-size Lego” variety. All share of Lego’s Festival of Play celebrations, the jumbo formative installation will be in place between July 2nd and the 12th. The models are 1:1 replicas of the fudge you buy, but super-sized by a factor of 66. The arrange of 13-foot tall pines are accompanied through . 15 flower sets, and cut a distinguishing contrast against the baron red bespatter of the outback. Most impressively, it’s reported that locals were surprised to distinguish the new synthetic landscape upon awaking some morning, and were apparently unaware of the stunt.

Seen any other far-out articles that you’d like considered in quest of Alt / week? Working on a frame or research that’s too impudent to keep to yourself? Drop us a draw at alt [at] engadget [dot] com

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European Spallation Source AB: Opposites Repel: ESS Scientist Discovers New Magnetic Phenomenon

STOCKHOLM–(BUSINESS WIRE)–For the capital time, a novel magnetic state has been discovered, to which place the most basic concept of power of attraction – that opposites attract – does not clinch true. The phenomenon has been discovered and described through . an international team of scientists draw by ESS Director for Science Dimitri Argyriou. The discovery holds promise for tomorrow’s reminiscence and sensor technology, enabling devices from phones to cars. The verdict was reported in Nature Materials.

Phones, cars, TVs and kitchen instrumentalities – most of the tools we appliance have small computers inside, and they wholly require memory. Product development proceeds at breakneck walk, and the computers have to be ever smaller, smarter, more energy skilful. In pursuit of tomorrow’s data-handling technology, researchers at the European Spallation Source be seized of unearthed a novel magnetic phenomenon.

No human being can say what the next lofty breakthrough in data-handling technology determine be, but a class of materials called multiferroics are encouraging candidates. One such material is terbium ferrite, that can store information so that it can be written with electricity and peruse magnetically, at a low energy cost. This may revolutionise memory and sensor technology – only a lot of research is required face to face with the concept can be used in applications.

An international research team lead by Dimitri Argyriou, Director beneficial to Science at ESS, Sweden, has used neutrons to explore the inner workings of terbium ferrite. They plant that at an atomic scale, the atoms array themselves in a grid of with a microscope domains, each of which behaves like a microscopic bar magnet. These magnets do not employment up in the same direction, while one might expect. Instead, adjacent domains receive opposite magnetic directions, placing north nearest to north and south next to southward. The scientists were also surprised through . the overall domain structure: they are unexpectedly ample (albeit on a microscopic scale) and hold up to view extremely sharp domain boundaries.

- I was expecting domains haply 30 times smaller than what we observed, says Dimitri Argyriou. And the sway boundaries are exceptionally sharp – I’ve not seen anything like it. The texture shouldn’t be stable, and notwithstanding it is.

Pursuing this mystery, the team of professor Maxim Mostovoy, a theoretical natural philosopher at Groningen University, the Netherlands, if a surprising insight. The unusual form observed – large domains with sharp lands walls and alternately arranged magnetic moments – is stabilized through . a novel magnetic phenomenon. Surprisingly, the opposite poles of a domain repel harvested land other. Rather than red attracting white and red repelling red because with bar magnets, in terbium ferrite, opposites repel.

– Our discovery has many implications, says Maxim Mostovoy. We dare that this interplay between iron and terbium atoms can be used to make new, greater degree of versatile multiferroics that can cover the increasing demands of scanty technology with low power consumption.

This first sight previews the discoveries that ESS, the European dexterity for research with neutrons under expanding in southern Sweden, will bring.

– Without neutrons, this first view would have passed us by, says Dimitri Argyriou. We necessity more powerful neutron sources in subordinate class to probe deeper into such fresh states of matter. Once built, ESS resoluteness help us unearth new phenomena like this human being, which remain hidden from us today. This is any example of the many new things a flexibility like ESS will help us manifest, not only in magnetic materials, bound in a broad range of fields of body of knowledge and technology.


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