NASA'S Hubble Space Telescope Reveals the Ring Nebula's True Shape

The Ring Nebula's distinctive shape makes it a popular illustration for astronomy books. But new observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope of the glowing gas shroud around an old, dying, sun-like star reveal a new twist.

How 3D Printers Could Feed Astronauts and Mine Asteroids

If you judged by the recent buzz in the media world, you might think that 3D printers are good for one thing only: creating untraceable guns, on demand, in the privacy of your home. What makes the 3D printer such an intriguing technology, though, is the extremely broad nature of their applications. They can be used to print replacement auto parts (or maybe, someday, entire vehicles). They are great for cranking out rapid prototypes of new kinds of objects--anything from sculptures to false teeth

As chaos celebrates its 50th birthday, biophysicist develops a new method to visualize it

Exactly 50 years after the US-American meteorologist Edward Lorenz discovered chaos (remember the "butterfly effect"?) the topic is still as fascinating as ever. A new visualization technique developed at the University of Vienna helps to make chaos visible to the naked eye. The method, which is being published in Royal Society journal Interface, allows for the intuitive interpretation of chaotic or nearly chaotic phenomena, and thus makes the fascinating world of chaos theory more accessible to the scientific community.

Novel features of helium-3 superfluidity discovered with new SQUID detector chip

( —In order to study many complex phenomena, physicists seek to isolate them in potential wells or boxes with easily described forms and boundary conditions. These features in turn dictate various behaviors of the system under study like, for example, equilibrium states or resonances. In recent times it has emerged that constraining particles on extremely small scales can result in interesting new behaviors. Artificial atom systems, like quantum dots, can be fine-tuned in this way to specific color or conductivity according to their dimension.

Optics: Statistics light the way

A revelation of how photoreceptive cells in the eye distinguish between different light sources could pave the way for a novel class of optical devices.

Plasmonics: A wave without diffraction

Optical computing could benefit from the recent development of a novel electromagnetic wave.

Physics of 'green waves' could make city traffic flow more smoothly

( —If you've been lucky enough to catch all the green lights as you drive down a busy street, you may have been benefiting from intentional synchronization called a "green wave." The green wave concept has been around in the US since the 1920s, but it doesn't always work as it should. When traffic gets backed up for some reason, "green wave breakdown" occurs.

Physicists help design, build cargo X-ray scanners

( —Two SLAC physicists with decades of particle accelerator experience helped a Silicon Valley company design and build X-ray devices that scan cargo containers for nuclear materials and other hazards. A version of this screening system is now in commercial use, and on May 16, the company received national recognition for its successful development from the federal Small Business Administration.

Theorists weigh in on where to hunt dark matter

( —Now that it looks like the hunt for the Higgs boson is over, particles of dark matter are at the top of the physics "Most Wanted" list. Dozens of experiments have been searching for them, but often come up with contradictory results.

New technique may open up an era of atomic-scale semiconductor devices

Researchers have developed a new technique for creating high-quality semiconductor thin films at the atomic scale -- meaning the films are only one atom thick. The technique can be used to create these thin films on a large scale, sufficient to coat wafers that are two inches wide, or larger.


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