Archive for January 2007

String Theory to be Tested : Theory of everything put to the test

String theory is arguably the most popular theory in theoretical physics; that is, it cannot be proven. The idea, is everything you see around you is made up of tiny strands of energy that vibrate at different frequencies.

Until now, experimental verification has not been possible; but researchers at the University of California, Carnegie Mellon University, and The University of Texas are planning a definitive test with the future launch of the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland that could disprove the current theory.

Similar to the well known U.S. particle collider at Fermi Lab, the Large Hadron Collider, scheduled for November 2007, is expected to be the largest, and highest energy particle accelerator in existence; it will use liquid helium cooled superconducting magnets to produce electric fields that will propel particles to near light speeds in a 16.7 mile circular tunnel. They then introduce a new particle into the accelerator, which collides with the existing ones, scattering many other mysterious subatomic particles about. [More]

Most dense memory circuit ever made – so far

Scientists unveil most dense memory circuit ever made – Yahoo! News

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The most dense computer memory circuit ever fabricated — capable of storing around 2,000 words in a unit the size of a white blood cell — was unveiled by scientists in California.

The team of experts at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) who developed the 160-kilobit memory cell say it has a bit density of 100 gigabits per square centimeter, a new record.

The cell is capable of storing a file the size of the United States’ Declaration of Independence with room left over, Caltech said in a statement.

But the chances of the unit being used in a laptop any time soon is remote, said Caltech chemistry professor James Heath, who led the research.

“It’s the sort of device that Intel would contemplate making in the year 2020,” Heath said. “But at the moment, it furthers our goal of learning how to manufacture functional electronic circuitry at molecular dimensions.” [More]

Ultra-Dense Optical Storage — on One Photon : Ultra-Dense Optical Storage — on One Photon

While the initial test image consists of only a few hundred pixels, a tremendous amount of information can be stored with the new technique.

The image, a “UR” for the University of Rochester, was made using a single pulse of light and the team can fit as many as a hundred of these pulses at once into a tiny, four-inch cell. Squeezing that much information into so small a space and retrieving it intact opens the door to optical buffering—storing information as light.

“It sort of sounds impossible, but instead of storing just ones and zeros, we’re storing an entire image,” says John Howell, associate professor of physics and leader of the team that created the device, which is revealed in today’s online issue of the journal Physical Review Letters. “It’s analogous to the difference between snapping a picture with a single pixel and doing it with a camera—this is like a 6-megapixel camera.” [More]

First pirated HD DVD movie hits BitTorrent

Ars Technica – First pirated HD DVD movie hits BitTorrent

The pirates of the world have fired another salvo in their ongoing war with copy protection schemes with the first release of the first full-resolution rip of an HD DVD movie on BitTorrent. The movie, Serenity, was made available as a .EVO file and is playable on most DVD playback software packages such as PowerDVD. The file was encoded in MPEG-4 VC-1 and the resulting file size was a hefty 19.6 GB.

This release follows the announcement, less than a month ago, that the copy protection on HD DVD had been bypassed by an anonymous programmer known only as Muslix64. The open-source program to implement this was called BackupHDDVD and was released in a manner designed to put the onus of cracking on the user, not the software. To extract an unencrypted copy of the HD DVD source material required obtaining that disc’s volume or title key separately, which the software did not do. However, a key was later released on the Internet, and a method for extracting further keys is allegedly available as well. [More]

The Warming of Greenland

New York Times – The Warming of Greenland

Mr. Schmitt, a 60-year-old explorer from Berkeley, Calif., had just landed on a newly revealed island 400 miles north of the Arctic Circle in eastern Greenland. It was a moment of triumph: he had discovered the island on an ocean voyage in September 2005. Now, a year later, he and a small expedition team had returned to spend a week climbing peaks, crossing treacherous glaciers and documenting animal and plant life.

Despite its remote location, the island would almost certainly have been discovered, named and mapped almost a century ago when explorers like Jean-Baptiste Charcot and Philippe, Duke of Orléans, charted these coastlines. Would have been discovered had it not been bound to the coast by glacial ice.

Maps of the region show a mountainous peninsula covered with glaciers. The island’s distinct shape — like a hand with three bony fingers pointing north — looks like the end of the peninsula.

Now, where the maps showed only ice, a band of fast-flowing seawater ran between a newly exposed shoreline and the aquamarine-blue walls of a retreating ice shelf. The water was littered with dozens of icebergs, some as large as half an acre; every hour or so, several more tons of ice fractured off the shelf with a thunderous crack and an earth-shaking rumble. [More]

The Trouble with Physics

Slashdot book review, by SpaceAdmiral

SpaceAdmiral writes “You’ve likely heard of Lee Smolin’s book The Trouble with Physics. It has created a lot of controversy because it argues that string theory gets far too much attention and money, despite a complete lack of evidence. It accuses string theorists of groupthink. Smolin has dabbled in string theory from time to time but he’s a proponent of the alternative loop quantum gravity. Although irrelevant to this book review, he has also suggested that it is possible that universes reproduce via black holes, making them prone to pressure similar to natural selection (universes that produce a lot of black holes are more successful spawners than those that don’t). In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins quotes Nobel-winner Murray Gell-Mann as once saying, “Smolin? Is he that young guy with those crazy ideas? He may not be wrong.” [More]

Exoskeletal Body Armor

Hamilton Spectator – From bears to bullets

Using the hard-learned lessons of his Project Grizzly experience — a 20-year odyssey that included a National Film Board documentary, an appearance on CNN and personal bankruptcy — he’s ready to start selling his newest idea.

Already, he says, the suit has stood up to bullets from high-powered weapons, including an elephant gun. The suit was empty during the ballistics tests, but he’s more than ready to put it on and face live fire.

“I would do it in an instant,” he said. “Bring it on.”

Yesterday, he returned to Hamilton to show off the suit, hoping to generate some publicity that will get him the meetings he wants with military and police outfitters. [More]

Quantum phase transitions of light Quantum phase transitions of light

As physics and engineering extend their reach to the control of single excitations of nature, we gain the ability to explore and even design the interaction of matter and energy in fundamentally new ways. One of the most interesting opportunities this presents is controllable interactions between many quantum particles — such as electrons — which is traditionally the realm of condensed matter physics. The questions we asked ourselves were these: Can we also do this with light? Can it be useful? We show that the answer is YES!

Cover Letter
Condensed matter and quantum optics are two branches of physics that attempt to understand the complexities of interacting quantum systems. Traditionally, condensed matter has adopted a ‘top down’ approach, by considering large systems of interacting particles, whilst quantum optics has taken a ‘bottom up’ approach by concentrating on individual quantum systems. Such approaches have been warranted because condensed matter systems usually are typified by many interacting particles, but little ability to readout individual constituents, whereas quantum optical systems are relatively easy to interrogate, but it is difficult to create strongly interacting many-body systems.

We unite these two fields by theoretically demonstrating that a quantum optical system comprised of a 2D lattice of cavities, each containing a single two-level atom, can be viewed as being analogous to a Hubbard system, a standard model for the understanding of condensed matter. Such a connection opens up the rich field of condensed matter physics to exploration by the quantum optics community, and because of the superb outcoupling potential of optical cavities, it is likely that new devices may be developed based on these approaches. One example device which could be built would be a 2D lattice of single (or multiple) photon sources, which would self-organise, and could be simultaneously out-coupled, with obvious applications to linear optics quantum computing and quantum communication. [More]

VeriSign Offers Hackers $8,000 Bounty on Vista, IE 7 Flaws

eWeek : VeriSign Offers Hackers $8,000 Bounty on Vista, IE 7 Flaws

VeriSign’s iDefense Labs has placed an $8,000 bounty on remote code execution holes in Windows Vista and Internet Explorer 7.

The Reston, Va., security intelligence outfit threw out the monetary reward to hackers as part of a challenge program aimed at luring researchers to its controversial pay-for-flaw VCP (Vulnerability Contributor Program).

The launch of the latest hacking challenge comes less than a month after researchers at Trend Micro discovered Vista flaws being hawked on underground sites at $50,000 a pop and illustrates the growth of the market for information on software vulnerabilities.

iDefense isn’t the only brand-name player in the market. 3Com’s TippingPoint runs a similar program, called Zero Day Initiative, that pays researchers who agree to give up exclusive rights to advance notification of unpublished vulnerabilities or exploit code. [Read on]

Google developing search engine for uber-telescope

Google developing search engine for uber-telescope | CNET

The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope Project, slated for completion by 2013, is a 3-billion pixel camera/telescope currently being built atop the Cerro Pachon mountain peak in Chile.

When completed, the 8.4-meter Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will generate over 30 terabytes (30,000GB) of multiple color images of visible sky each night, according to LSST Corp., which oversees the project.

Google will collaborate with LSST to develop a search engine that can process, organize and analyze the voluminous amounts of data coming from the instrument’s data streams in real time. The engine will create “movie-like windows” for scientists to view significant space events. [Read on]

Black Hole Grabs Planet-Sized Snack — Black Hole Grabs Planet-Sized Snack

SEATTLE— An ancient X-ray outburst from the supermassive black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy caused surrounding gas clouds to glow brightly in a cosmic light show that is only now being detected.

The output likely involved the consumption of a snack equal in mass to the planet Mercury, researchers said here yesterday at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

Called Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way’s core is located some 27,000 light-years away and has an estimated mass of about three million suns. It is surrounded by several massive iron-rich gas clouds that glow and emit their own X-rays when struck by photons or electrons [image].

No X-ray telescopes were in place when light from the black hole outburst first began to reach Earth about 60 years ago, but astronomers deduced the event based on “light echoes” from the clouds recently recorded by NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. [Read on]

Did NASA accidentally kill life on Mars? – Did NASA accidentally kill life on Mars?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Two NASA space probes that visited Mars 30 years ago may have found alien microbes on the red planet and inadvertently killed them, a scientist is theorizing.

The Viking space probes of 1976-77 were looking for the wrong kind of life, so they didn’t recognize it, a geology professor at Washington State University said.

Given the cold dry conditions of Mars, life could have evolved on Mars with the key internal fluid consisting of a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide, said Schulze-Makuch.

That’s because a water-hydrogen peroxide mix stays liquid at very low temperatures, or -68 degrees Fahrenheit, and doesn’t destroy cells when it freezes. It can suck water vapor out of the air.

The Viking experiments of the 1970s wouldn’t have noticed hydrogen peroxide-based life and, in fact, would have killed it by drowning and overheating the microbes, said Schulze-Makuch.

One Viking experiment seeking life on Mars poured water on soil. That would have essentially drowned hydrogen peroxide-based life, he said. And different experiment heated the soil to see if something would happen which would have baked Martian microbes. [Full Article]

Hubble makes 3D dark matter map

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Hubble makes 3D dark matter map

Astronomers have mapped the cosmic “scaffold” of dark matter upon which stars and galaxies are assembled.

Dark matter does not reflect or emit detectable light, yet it accounts for most of the mass in the Universe.

The study, published in Nature journal, provides the best evidence yet that the distribution of galaxies follows the distribution of dark matter.

This is because dark matter attracts “ordinary” matter through its gravitational pull.

Scientists presented details of their research during a news conference here at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) in Seattle, Washington.

It involved nearly 1,000 hours of observations with the Hubble Space Telescope. [Read on]