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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Ball Lightning(Skyrmion). What Is It?

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

An Amazing Discovery!

Amherst College
Amherst Physicists Create New Quantum Particle
in Campus Lab

Professor David Hall, his student research team and collaborators at Aalto University in Finland are the first in the world to make and observe the elusive skyrmion.

March 2, 2018 by Caroline Hanna

Relatively few people in history can say that they have seen, first-hand, the mysterious and uncommon electrical phenomenon of “ball lightning”—glowing, spherical objects in the sky that mostly appear during thunderstorms and are not fully understood by scientists.

But Physics Professor David S. Hall ’91 and his students are in the rarest company of all: They and a handfulof colleagues are the only people in the world to have made and observed a microscopic simile of ball lightning.

Hall, members of his student research team and his collaborators at Aalto University in Finland recently  (created a three-dimensional skyrmion—a quasiparticle consisting of a knotted configuration of atomic magnetic moments, or spins—in a quantum gas in Hall’s lab. Scientists predicted the existence of the skyrmion theoretically more than 40 years ago, but this is the first time such an object has been observed inan experiment.

Hall and his colleagues’ findings were published by Science Advances in a paper titled Synthetic Electromagnetic Knot in a Three-Dimensional Skyrmion. Featuring the thesis research of Andrei-HoriaGheorghe ’15 and Wonjae Lee ’16 and computational contributions of visiting scholar Tuomas Ollikainen, the work builds on the collaboration’s previous studies of Bose-Einstein condensates, monopoles andquantum knots.

“The experiment is conceptually simple, but the phenomenon is both beautiful and remarkably complex,” said Hall. “Our own understanding of these skyrmions has evolved over several years, and it has taken us
almost as long again to find accessible ways to communicate our results to the wider scientific community.”

Hall and his team created the environment for the skyrmion after cooling a gas of rubidium atoms to tens of billionths of degrees above absolute zero in an atomic refrigerator in hislab. “When supercooled, all atoms in the gas end up in the state of minimum energy,” explained Hall. “The state no longer behaves like an ordinary gas, but like a single giant atom.”

To create the skyrmion, the physicists then applied a tailored magnetic field to the supercooled gas, which influenced the orientation of the magnetic moments of its constituent atoms. The characteristic knotted
structure of the skyrmion emerged after less than one thousandth of a second.

Remarkably, the skyrmion is accompanied by a knotted synthetic magnetic field that strongly influences the
quantum gas, said Hall. Such a knotted magnetic field is a central feature of a topological theory of ball lightning, which describes a plasma of hot gas magnetically confined by the knotted field. According to the
theory, the ball lightning can last much longer than an ordinary lightning bolt because it is very difficult to untie the magnetic knot that confines the plasma.

“It is remarkable that we could create the synthetic electromagnetic knot—that is, quantum ball lightning—essentially with just two counter-circulating electric currents,” said Mikko Möttönen, leader of the theoretical effort at Aalto University. “[This shows that] it may be possible that a natural ball lighting could arise in a normal lightning strike.”

Hall said that while the hot plasma of ball lightning might be a million times hotter than the ultracold gases with which his team works, he nevertheless found it interesting that such disparate physical contexts share
common themes. He also noted the fact “the physics studied at large fusion reactors might also be studied on the small optical table [upon which much of his research equipment is located] that will soon make its brief journey across campus to the new science center.”

Hall’s experiments are supported by the National Science Foundation(grant no. PHY-1519174), and Möttönen’s research by the Academy of Finland through its Centres of Excellence Program (grant nos.
251748, 284621, and 308071), by the European Research Council under Consolidator (grant no. 681311) (QUESS), by the Magnus Ehrnrooth Foundation, by the Education Network in Condensed Matter and
Materials Physics, and by the KAUTE Foundation through its researchers abroad program.

David Hall
Amherst College
220 South Pleasant Street
Amherst, MA 01002
(413) 542-2000 Contact Us

Birth of Our Universe

Thursday, March 15th, 2018

Looking back to the early birth of our Universe! How amazing and how insignificant we humans are, our problems, the Earth , and yes, even our Galaxy.

A stunning discovery about the start of the universe

“Dr. Don Lincoln, a senior physicist at Fermilab, does research using the Large Hadron Collider. He is the author of “The Large Hadron Collider: TheExtraordinary Story of the Higgs Boson and Other Stuff That Will Blow Your Mind,” and produces a series of science education videos. Follow him on Facebook. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.”

For millennia, humans have sat under a clear midnight sky and marveled at the spectacle emblazoned across the heavens. The stars seemeternal, as if they have always been there. But there’s just one problem.It isn’t so.

The universe was once entirely dark, with nary a light anywhere throughout the entire cosmos.
And then a single star burst into nuclear flame, sunderingthe void. Then another and another, leading to the stars and galaxies of thefamiliar universe. In what could well be a stunning breakthrough, a group of astronomers have announced that they have found radio signals that appear to provide evidence of the first stars to come into existence. And, just to add abit of spice to the announcement, it’s possible that they might have discovered dark matter, a hypothesized substance that has eluded discovery for decades.

Astronomer Avi Loeb, a professor at Harvard University, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying that “if confirmed, this discovery deserves two Nobel Prizes,” one for observing the signal of the first stars and the other for
detecting dark matter. He went on to conservatively point out that both claims are extraordinary and require extraordinary evidence. He urged caution.

And this caution is warranted. The observed signal is very small. Radio sources in our own Milky Way galaxy can be 10,000 times stronger than the observed signal. The researchers needed to work very hard to remove this
dominant signal. It’s like trying to hear someone whispering to you while at a rock concert. If you know the song and vocalist very well, you could — at least in principle — mask out the band and recover the whisper. But if the amplifiers had a crackle or the lead singer had a cold, you might get it wrong.

New data could support or falsify this measurement. Observation of the first stars is more likely to be confirmed, with observation of dark matter being less certain. However, if confirmed, it is certainly true that this faint radio signal could be an enormous step forward in our understanding of the birth of the universe.

It’s perhaps important to remember that this work is only possible because of publicly funded science. While most people acknowledge the role of science in generating new technologies that improve our lives, publicly funded science has been responsible for discovery after discovery, leading us to an
understanding of the world around us that scientists a mere hundred years ago could only dream of. The birth of the universe

While most people know something of the scientific explanation for how the universe came into existence, not everyone knows the full story of what physics has discovered. Just shy of 14billion years ago, the universe was created in an event called the Big Bang. All of the matter and energy of the visible universe was concentrated into a tiny volume that “exploded,” for the lack of a better word, and began expanding. The universe was unimaginably hot, glowing brighter than a steel furnace, with energy converting into matter and back again. Within three minutes, the nuclei of hydrogen and helium had formed, buffeted by an energetic bath of electrons. This swarm of charged particles glowed brightlyand yet did not let light pass through it. From the point of view of light, the entire universe was a glowing, yet opaque, wall. For 380,000 years, the universe expanded and cooled until it reached the temperature of 3,000 Kelvin (about 5,000 °F). At that temperature, hydrogen and helium nuclei could capture electrons, making atoms of hydrogen and helium. And, with that singular event, the universe went dark. This was the beginning of what are called the Dark Ages. The universe continued to expand and cool, filled with clouds of hydrogen and helium. Then Gravity took over, with slightly denser areas of the universe pulling the gas into denser and denser clumps. While the universe on the whole was cooling, the temperature at the center of these clumps was rising; after about 180 million years eventually becoming so high that the gas started to experience nuclear fusion. And the first stars were born.

Now it turns out that it is not so easy to directly see the light of those distant stars. After all, they were embedded in clouds of cool hydrogen gas that absorbed the light. And it was with that absorption that they revealed themselves. While hydrogen absorbed the light of the stars, it re-emitted that energy in an easily identifiable way. Young stars burn hot and emit lots of ultraviolet light — the same kind thatgives you a sunburn. Hydrogen gas absorbs the light and knocks the electronsinto higher energy orbits. Eventually the electrons lose energy and they settle back into the lowest orbit in one of two configurations.

Hydrogen consists of one proton and one electron and both particles act like little magnets, with a north pole and a south pole. In an atom of hydrogen, the north poles of the proton and electron can point in the same or oppositedirection. If they point in opposite directions, that’s the end of the line — theyare in a stable configuration. But if the north poles point in the same direction, they’ll stay that way for a short time, and then the north pole of the electron will flip and point in the direction opposite to the proton. This is
exactly what happens with ordinary magnets. When the electron flips, it emits a characteristic wavelength (21 cm or 1420MHz, approximately the same frequency as 4G cellular service). By detecting that radiation, scientists could indirectly detect the existence of the early stars.

The Big Bang caused the universe to expand, which has the consequence of
stretching the wavelength of the radiation emitted by hydrogen and decreasing the frequency. Today, this radiation is only about 78 MHz, or just below the range of FM radio.

By studying the sky’s spectrum, astronomers determined that the period of time that the stars were heating the hydrogen gas clouds ranged from about 180 million to 260 million years after the Big Bang. After 260 million years,the gas had heated enough to be transparent to the light from stars. To give
some perspective of the magnitude of the achievement, the Hubble Space Telescope has only been able to directly image galaxies that existed no earlier than 400 million years after the Big Bang. This discovery has cut in half the
period of the universe for which we previously had no data.
The role of dark matter

While seeing evidence for the very first stars is exciting enough, there is another consequence of this research that might well be paradigm-changing. The size of the observed signal is twice as big as predictions. This means that
either the gas of the early universe was much colder than expected, or the residual background radiation from the Big Bang was much hotter. So, which was it? Truthfully, scientists don’t know. It appears to be that the
hydrogen gas cooled much more effectively than can be explained by current theories. Several possible explanations were tested and the one that the authors claim to be most probable is that the early hydrogen gas interacted more strongly than expected with dark matter.

Dark matter is a proposed substance that explains many astronomical anomalies, like galaxies that rotate tooquickly to be explained by the gravityof observed matter and even clusters of dozens or hundreds of galaxies that are moving so quickly that they shouldn’t be bound together. Dark matter doesn’t interact with light or any electromagnetic radiation and only makes its presence known through itsgravitational interactions. If dark matter interacted with ordinary matter in the early universe, it could cool off the gas and this would explain thereported discrepancy.
As with all extraordinary claims, the key is verification by independent researchers. And, until confirmation is found, it is important to be skeptical.Other astronomers will attempt to replicate the measurement.

And new technology may come in handy. There is a telescope planned, called the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which was designed by a consortium of NASA and the Canadian and European space agencies. It is designed to directly measure light from very early stars, whose wavelengthhas been shifted to longer wavelengths by the expansion of the universe. JWST is the successor for the Hubble telescope and it is expected to revolutionize astronomy to the same degree that the Hubble telescope did. JWST is scheduled to launch in about 18 months.

A Special Telescope to the Stars is Being Built

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

While most of us“Move on our petty pace from day to day,” the real work is being done behind the scenes, one baby step at a time, to prepare humanity one day to fly to the stars.

Casting a $20 Million Mirror for
the World’s Largest Telescope

The glass arcs that will let astronomers peer back
millions of years are decades in the making

by Celia Gorman

Building a mirror for any giant telescope is no simple feat. The sheer size of the glass, the nanometer precision of its curves, its carefully calculated optics,and the adaptive software required to run it make this a task of herculean
proportions. But the recent castings of the 15-metric ton, off-axis mirrors forthe Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) forced engineers to push the design andmanufacturing process beyond all previous limits.

Building the GMT is not a task of years, but of decades. The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) and a team at the University of Arizona’s Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory cast the first of seven mirrors back in2005; they expect to complete construction of the telescope in 2025. Once complete, it’s expected to be the largest telescope in the world. The seven 8.4-meter-wide mirrors will combine to serve as a 24.5-meter mirror telescope with 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. This will allow
astronomers to gaze back in time to, they hope, the materialization of galaxies.

Each mirror costs US $20 million dollars and takes more than two years to build. Every stage of the manufacturing process calls for careful thought and meticulous planning. To begin, more than 17,000 kilograms of special glass
are ordered and inspected for flaws. Next, a crew must build a 15-metric ton ceramic structure to serve as a mold for the glass, which they carefully place one chunk at a time. The glass is slowly melted and continuouslyspun in a furnace to create a parabolic shape, then cooled by fractions of degrees over the course of three months. And that’s only the beginning. Once cooled, massive machinery lifts the mirror and tilts it to a vertical position. Engineers purge the ceramic mold from the mirror, wait for it to
dry, and then rotate it again. They grind and refine the back of the mirror with exacting precision. Then they reposition the mirror in order to shape and polish the front face to within 20 nanometers of perfection—a process
that takes about 18 months. Along the way, it undergoes four optical tests, some of which were engineered specifically for this project.

Any mammoth mirror requires much of the same engineering, but six of the seven GMT mirrors have an off-axis, parabolic shape. Producing an off-axis mirror at this scale is a new achievement for the Caris Mirror Laboratory and for the field in general.

Once four of the mirrors are complete, they must be transported to the Chilean Andes, where the giant telescope will be constructed on the peak of a mountain range. Even the transport to Chile will be a challenge—so much so that the teams have yet to decide exactly how they’ll pull it off. Still, GMTO says it is on course for the four-mirror installation and “First Light” in 2023, when the telescope will be turned to the night skies for the first time.

And then we’ll all get a chance to peer into the maternity ward of the cosmos and see galaxies being born.

An Unusual, But Fitting Ending

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Antimatter/ Carl Anderson

Physicists began speculating in the late 19th century that there may exist particles and matter that are exact opposites of the matter that surrounds us, mirror-image anti-atoms and perhaps even whole anti-solar systems where matter and antimatter might meet and annihilate one another. But in 1932, American physicist Carl Anderson discovered the first physical evidence that antimatter was more than just an idea.

Anderson was photographing and tracking the passage of cosmic rays through a cloud chamber, a cylindrical container filled with dense water vapor, lit from the outside, and built with a viewing window for observers. When individual particles passed through the sides of the container and into the saturated air, they would leave spiderweb tracks of condensation, like the vapor trails of miniscule airplanes, each type of particle forming a uniquely shaped trail. Anderson noticed a curious pattern – a trail like that of an electron, with an exactly identical, but opposite curve – an electron’s mirror image and evidence of an anti-electron. Anderson named the antimatter particle the positron and won a Nobel Prize for his discovery four years later.

Around 1940, biochemist and science fiction writer Isaac Asimov took up the newly discovered particle, using it as the basis for his fictional “positronic brain,” a structure made of platinum and iridium and his means for imparting humanlike consciousness to the robots in his story collection I, Robot.

The fictional uses of antimatter and the positronic brain have since spread throughout literature and popular entertainment, from the writing of Robert Heinlein to the classic British television series Doctor Who to propulsion systems and the sentient android, Data, in the American science fiction series Star Trek – even to Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, the sequel to his wildly popular DaVinci Code, in which the Illuminati intend to destroy Vatican City using the explosive power of a canister of pure antimatter.
NB: Perhaps this is the way our universe will end, i.e. a sudden flood of positrons from a nearby mirror universe, meeting up with all our negative electrons, which will blow blow up both of them. Certainly a neat way to end everything. See my short story: “What in the World Matters.”

North Korea, An EMP Attack, and Armagedden

Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

Well, if you think the present state of the world is going to “Hell in a handbasket,” the following article will convince you that “You ain’t seen nothing yet.” An EMP (Electromagnetic pulse) attack is the very heart of utter destruction of civilization. Let us hope that not even the North Koreans would proceed with this kind of utter madness.

North Korea Prepping EMP Catastrophe Aimed At U.S. Homefront
Aaron Klein 8 May 2017


TEL AVIV – While the international community and news media focus on North Korean missile tests and the country’s nuclear program, one expert warned on Sunday that North Korea may be secretly assembling the capability to take out significant parts of the U.S. homeland via an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack.

Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security and is the chief of staff of the Congressional EMP Commission.

Speaking on this reporter’s talk radio program, Pry pointed to two North Korean satellites that are currently orbiting the U.S. at trajectories he says are optimized for a surprised EMP attack. “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio” is broadcast on terrestrial radio on New York’s AM 970 The Answer and NewsTalk 990 AM in Philadelphia and online.

Pry was referring to the KMS 3-2 and KMS-4 earth observation satellites launched by North Korea in April 2012 and February 2016 respectively.
He warned: “They are positioning themselves as sort of a nuclear missile age, cyberage version of the battleship diplomacy in my view. So that they can always have one of them (satellites) very close to being over the United States or over the United States.

“Then if a crisis comes up and if we decide to attack North Korea, Kim Jong Un can threaten our president and say, ‘Well, don’t do that because we are going to burn your whole country down.’ Which is basically what he said. I mean, he has made threats about turning the United States into ashes and he connected the satellite program to this in public statements to deter us from attacking.”

“If you wanted to win a New Korean war,” added Pry, “one of the things you would certainly consider doing is taking out the United States homeland itself.”

Pry surmised the North Koreans may be taking the idea from a Soviet plan during the Cold War to attack the U.S. with an EMP as part of a larger surprise assault aimed at crippling the U.S. military.

“During the Cold War, the Russians had a secret weapon they called a fractional orbital bombardment system,” he explained. “And the idea was to do a surprise EMP attack against the United States by disguising a warhead as a satellite. Because a satellite trajectory is different from an ICBM trajectory that is aiming to go into a city. You know, for accuracy on an ICBM you launch it on a lower energy, 45-degree angle that follows a classic ballistic trajectory. Like a rifle. To land your missile on a city.”

Pry continued of the original Russian plan:
But if you put a satellite in orbit it follows a different trajectory. It doesn’t have accuracy but it puts the satellite up there so that it stays in permanent orbit so it looks different in terms of the trajectory. And guys watching their radar screens tend not to get alarmed when they see a missile being launched on that satellite trajectory. Because they assume it is for peaceful purposes. …

So, the idea was to put a nuclear weapon on a satellite. Launch it on a satellite trajectory toward the south so it is also flying away from the United States. Orbit it over the South Pole and come up on the other side of the earth so that it approaches us from the south.

Because we didn’t during the Cold War and even today we still don’t have ballistic missile early radar warnings looking south. We don’t have any national missile defenses to the south. We are blind and defenseless to the south. We can’t see anything coming from that direction. Then when this gets over the United States you light it off so that it does an EMP attack.

Pry stated that in the Soviet plan, “They were mainly interested in paralyzing our strategic forces, our strategic command and control and communications so that we couldn’t talk to our forces. Maybe take out some of the forces themselves. And that would give them time to then launch their mass attack across the North Pole to blow up our ICBMs. So, kill them once with the EMP. Kill them twice by blasting our bases by using their long-range missiles. That was the Russian plan. But the cutting edge of the plan was this surprise EMP attack.”

North Korea, by contrast, “doesn’t have enough missiles or sophisticated missiles to blow up our missile bases and bomber bases. What they seem to be doing with the satellites is the EMP part of the Soviet plan.”

“I think what they are mainly going for is the unhardened electric grid,” Pry surmised. “Transportation, communications, all of the other civilian critical infrastructure that we depend upon to keep our population alive.”

Pry spotlighted recent North Korean nuclear and missile tests minimized by the news media for reported failures. When viewed through the lens of potential preparations for an EMP attack, Pry warned, the tests were actually successes.

Pry wrote about some of those tests in a Newsmax piece last week:
I am looking at an unclassified U.S. Government chart that shows a 10-kiloton warhead (the power of the Hiroshima A-Bomb) detonated at an altitude of 70 kilometers will generate an EMP field inflicting upset and damage on unprotected electronics. …

On April 30, South Korean officials told The Korea Times and YTN TV that North Korea’s test of a medium-range missile on April 29 was not a failure, as widely reported in the world press, because it was deliberately detonated at 72 kilometers altitude. 72 kilometers is the optimum burst height for a 10-Kt warhead making an EMP attack. …

According to South Korean officials, “It’s believed the explosion was a test to develop a nuclear weapon different from existing ones.” Japan’s Tetsuro Kosaka writes in Nikkei, “Pyongyang could be saying, ‘We could launch an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack if things get really ugly.’”
“The April 29 missile launch looks suspiciously like practice for an EMP attack,” Pry wrote. “The missile was fired on a lofted trajectory, to maximize, not range, but climbing to high-altitude as quickly as possible, where it was successfully fused and detonated — testing everything but an actual nuclear warhead.”

This weekend, an editorial published in the North Korean state-run media agency KNCA threatened the White House would be “reduced to ashes.”
The same news agency warned last week that “any military provocation against the DPRK will precisely mean a total war which will lead to the final doom of the US.” DPRK stands for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

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