Transparent aluminium is ‘new state of matter’

”What we have created is a completely new state of matter nobody has seen before,’ said Professor Justin Wark of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, one of the authors of the paper. ‘Transparent aluminium is just the start. The physical properties of the matter we are creating are relevant to the conditions inside large planets, and we also hope that by studying it we can gain a greater understanding of what is going on during the creation of ‘miniature stars’ created by high-power laser implosions, which may one day allow the power of nuclear fusion to be harnessed here on Earth.’

The discovery was made possible with the development of a new source of radiation that is ten billion times brighter than any synchrotron in the world such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source. The FLASH laser, based in Hamburg, Germany, produces extremely brief pulses of soft X-ray light, each of which is more powerful than the output of a power plant that provides electricity to a whole city.

The Oxford team, along with their international colleagues, focused all this power down into a spot with a diameter less than a twentieth of the width of a human hair. At such high intensities the aluminium turned transparent.

Whilst the invisible effect lasted for only an extremely brief period – an estimated 40 femtoseconds – it demonstrates that such an exotic state of matter can be created using very high power X-ray sources.

Professor Wark added: ‘What is particularly remarkable about our experiment is that we have turned ordinary aluminium into this exotic new material in a single step by using this very powerful laser. For a brief period the sample looks and behaves in every way like a new form of matter. In certain respects, the way it reacts is as though we had changed every aluminium atom into silicon: it’s almost as surprising as finding that you can turn lead into gold with light!’

via Transparent aluminium is ‘new state of matter’.

The Recent Future / July 29, 2009 / SciFi / 0 Comments

Technology Review: A Vaccine for Colon Cancer

A cancer vaccine with a twist is making headway in clinical trials at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Rather than targeting a cancer-related virus–the way Gardasil targets human papillomavirus to prevent some cervical cancers–the new vaccine triggers the immune system to attack a faulty protein that’s often abundant in colorectal cancer tissue and precancerous tissue.

The Pitt investigators say that if the vaccine is successful, it could potentially obviate the need for repeated colonoscopies in patients at high risk for developing colorectal cancer. These patients have had multiple precancerous polyps, called advanced adenomas, in their intestines, and they are routinely screened by colonoscopy for signs of recurrence.

The vaccine has already proven safe in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer. It is now in clinical trials to gauge the immune response it elicits in patients with a history of advanced adenomas. It works by spurring the body to manufacture antibodies against the abnormal version of a mucous protein called MUC1. While moderate amounts of the protein are found in the lining of normal intestines, high levels of a defective form of MUC1 are present in about half of advanced adenomas and the majority of colorectal cancers.

via Technology Review: A Vaccine for Colon Cancer.

The Recent Future / July 27, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

‘Repulsive’ Side To Light Force Could Control Nanodevices

A team of Yale University researchers has discovered a “repulsive” light force that can be used to control components on silicon microchips, meaning future nanodevices could be controlled by light rather than electricity.

The attractive and repulsive light forces Tang’s team discovered are separate from the force created by light’s radiation pressure, which pushes against an object as light shines on it. Instead, they push out or pull in sideways from the direction the light travels.

via ‘Repulsive’ Side To Light Force Could Control Nanodevices.

The Recent Future / July 15, 2009 / SciFi, Tech / 0 Comments

UQ researchers break the law – of physics – UQ News Online – The University of Queensland

Two UQ Science researchers have proved two famous physical laws that have been widely used for the past 25 years do not always work.

Dr Tony Roberts and PhD student Christophe P. Haynes, from the School of Maths and Physics, showed the fractal-Einstein and Alexander-Orbach laws can fail in some instances, and have derived a new law to replace them.

Dr Roberts said this new discovery had implications for predicting material properties; how disease spreads through society; mapping how wild animals forage for food; and improving the internet.

“We demonstrated unequivocally that two ‘exact’ foundational laws of fractal science, which have been cited over 2000 times in the scientific literature, can fail for a class of fractals,” he said.

via UQ researchers break the law – of physics – UQ News Online – The University of Queensland.

The Recent Future / July 6, 2009 / Tech / 0 Comments

Hope for blindness cure with laser breakthrough | Science | The Observer

One of Britain’s leading eye experts has developed a technique to reverse the disabling effects of age-related macular degeneration AMD, which leaves many older people unable to read, drive or live independently, and eventually robs them of sight in one or both eyes.

Professor John Marshall has developed a way of “cleaning” eyes which, due to the ageing process, have accumulated tiny particles of debris which start to cloud their sight. His pioneering technique uses a painless “short pulse” laser to solve the otherwise intractable problem of how to help the eye’s waste disposal system do its job after it has been weakened by age.

via Hope for blindness cure with laser breakthrough | Science | The Observer.

The Recent Future / July 6, 2009 / Health / 0 Comments

BBC – Earth News – Ant mega-colony takes over world

A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.

Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another.

The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination.

What’s more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together.

Argentine ants Linepithema humile were once native to South America. But people have unintentionally introduced the ants to all continents except Antarctica.

These introduced Argentine ants are renowned for forming large colonies, and for becoming a significant pest, attacking native animals and crops.

In Europe, one vast colony of Argentine ants is thought to stretch for 6,000km 3,700 miles along the Mediterranean coast, while another in the US, known as the “Californian large”, extends over 900km 560 miles along the coast of California. A third huge colony exists on the west coast of Japan.

via BBC – Earth News – Ant mega-colony takes over world.

The Recent Future / July 2, 2009 / Nature / 0 Comments