Sunday, December 31, 2017

Biggest Highlight of the Year

This is the last day of 2017, and man, what a year it has been.

To me, the most monumental discovery and event of the year is the serendipitous observation of the merging of two neutron stars. This celestial event was observed by both conventional astronomical observatories via the detection of EM radiation (light), and by VIRGO/LIGO, which detected the gravitational waves. To many people, this marks the distinct beginning of gravitational astronomy.

There are already papers pouring out of this event, and many more to come. There are already strict constraints on alternative gravitational theories just from this one event. I expect many more to fall as we continue to shake the tree.

Who knows if such an event will occur again some time soon (or within my lifetime), but this is exciting stuff where a new channel and method to observe such event has opened up. I definitely consider this as one of the top monumental discoveries in my lifetime.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Thursday, December 21, 2017

"Quantum Materials"

This news report highlights the discover of a semimetal known as they Weyl-Kondo semimetals. I've mentioned something similar in a previous post.

However, it should be noted that there are already a lot of material whose properties "... cannot be explained by classical physics...", and many of them are now considered to be common materials, mostly used in our modern electronics.

In fact, early on in the development of quantum mechanics, superconductivity was discovered. We now know that, as stated by Carver Mead, superconductivity is the clearest manifestation of quantum mechanics. People at that time just didn't realize it back then because they don't have the QM tools yet at their disposal.


Saturday, December 02, 2017

Atomic Age Began 75 Years Ago Today

December 2, 1942, to be exact.

This is an article on the history of the first controlled nuclear fission that was conducted at the University of Chicago 75 years ago that marked the beginning of the atomic/nuclear age.

They called this 20x6x25-foot setup Chicago Pile Number One, or CP-1 for short – and it was here they obtained world’s the first controlled nuclear chain reaction on December 2, 1942. A single random neutron was enough to start the chain reaction process once the physicists assembled CP-1. The first neutron would induce fission on a uranium nucleus, emitting a set of new neutrons. These secondary neutrons hit carbon nuclei in the graphite and slowed down. Then they’d run into other uranium nuclei and induce a second round of fission reactions, emit even more neutrons, and on and on. The cadmium control rods made sure the process wouldn’t continue indefinitely, because Fermi and his team could choose exactly how and where to insert them to control the chain reaction.

Sadly, other than a commemorative statue/plaque, there's not much left of this historic site. One of the outcome of this work is the creation of Argonne National Lab just outside of Chicago, where, I believe, the research on nuclear chain reaction continued at that time. Argonne now no longer carries any nuclear research work.