The 2012 Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded to Serge Haroche and David J. Wineland for ground-breaking work in quantum optics. By probing the world at the smallest scales they've shed light on some of the biggest mysteries of physics and paved the way for quantum computers and super accurate clocks.
If you're bored with your holiday snaps, then why not turn them into fractals? A new result by US mathematicians shows that you can turn any reasonable 2D shape into a fractal, and the fractals involved are very special too. They are intimately related to the famous Mandelbrot set.
The laws of symmetry are unforgiving, but a team of researchers from the US have come up with a pattern-producing technique that seems to cheat them. The new technique is called moiré nanolithography and the researchers hope that it will find useful applications in the production of solar panels and many other optical devices.
In the 1920s the Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger came up with what has become the central equation of quantum mechanics. It tells you all there is to know about a quantum physical system and it also predicts famous quantum weirdnesses such as superposition and quantum entanglement. In this, the first article of a three-part series, we introduce Schrödinger's equation and put it in its historical context.
In the previous article we introduced Schrödinger's equation and its solution, the wave function, which contains all the information there is to know about a quantum system. Now it's time to see the equation in action, using a very simple physical system as an example. We'll also look at another weird phenomenon called quantum tunneling.
In the first article of this series we introduced Schrödinger's
equation and in the second we saw it in action using a simple example. But how should
we interpret its solution, the wave function? What does it tell us
about the physical world?
The eyes of the world will be on London tonight as the opening ceremony will mark the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The ceremony will feature the largest harmonically tuned bell in Europe, there'll be NHS dancers, the Queen will be there too of course, and the grand finale will be the Olympic torch lighting the cauldron. While London has been gearing up for these momentous events, we here at Plus have been busy too.
The Plus team's vehicle of choice is the bicycle, so we're particularly pleased about an announcement that hit the news this month: a clever car mirror that eliminates the dreaded blind spot has been given a patent in the US. The mirror was designed by the mathematician Andrew Hicks, of Drexel University, after years of puzzling over the problem.
Why are we so clever? In evolutionary terms this isn't obvious:
evolution tends to favour cheap solutions and the human brain is
expensive. It consumes about 20% of our body's energy budget yet it only makes up 2% of our body
mass. So why did it make evolutionary sense for us
humans to develop powerful brains? Game theory provides a possible answer.
The holy grail for 21st century physics is to produce a unified theory of everything that can describe the world at every level, from the tiniest particles to the largest galaxies. Currently the strongest contender for such a theory is something called M-theory. So what is this supposed mother of all theories all about?