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  • richardmitnick 9:05 am on April 27, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "New findings suggest laws of nature not as constant as previously thought", , , , , Electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality., Electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look while towards the opposite direction it gradually decreases., If electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision., Not only does a universal constant seem annoyingly inconstant at the outer fringes of the cosmos it occurs in only one direction which is downright weird., Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe- one that is the same- statistically in all directions., The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universe – without it all matter would fly apart., The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force., The universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “New findings suggest laws of nature not as constant as previously thought” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    27 Apr 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    Not only does a universal constant seem annoyingly inconstant at the outer fringes of the cosmos, it occurs in only one direction, which is downright weird.

    1
    Scientists examining the light from one of the furthermost quasars in the universe were astonished to find fluctuations in the electromagnetic force. Picture: Shutterstock

    Those looking forward to a day when science’s Grand Unifying Theory of Everything could be worn on a t-shirt may have to wait a little longer as astrophysicists continue to find hints that one of the cosmological constants is not so constant after all.

    In a paper published in prestigious journal Science Advances, scientists from UNSW Sydney reported that four new measurements of light emitted from a quasar 13 billion light years away reaffirm past studies that found tiny variations in the fine structure constant.

    UNSW Science’s Professor John Webb says the fine structure constant is a measure of electromagnetism – one of the four fundamental forces in nature (the others are gravity, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force).

    “The fine structure constant is the quantity that physicists use as a measure of the strength of the electromagnetic force,” Professor Webb says.

    “It’s a dimensionless number and it involves the speed of light, something called Planck’s constant and the electron charge, and it’s a ratio of those things. And it’s the number that physicists use to measure the strength of the electromagnetic force.”

    The electromagnetic force keeps electrons whizzing around a nucleus in every atom of the universe – without it, all matter would fly apart. Up until recently, it was believed to be an unchanging force throughout time and space. But over the last two decades, Professor Webb has noticed anomalies in the fine structure constant whereby electromagnetic force measured in one particular direction of the universe seems ever so slightly different.

    “We found a hint that that number of the fine structure constant was different in certain regions of the universe. Not just as a function of time, but actually also in direction in the universe, which is really quite odd if it’s correct … but that’s what we found.”

    Looking for clues

    Ever the sceptic, when Professor Webb first came across these early signs of slightly weaker and stronger measurements of the electromagnetic force, he thought it could be a fault of the equipment, or of his calculations or some other error that had led to the unusual readings. It was while looking at some of the most distant quasars – massive celestial bodies emitting exceptionally high energy – at the edges of the universe that these anomalies were first observed using the world’s most powerful telescopes.

    “The most distant quasars that we know of are about 12 to 13 billion light years from us,” Professor Webb says.

    “So if you can study the light in detail from distant quasars, you’re studying the properties of the universe as it was when it was in its infancy, only a billion years old. The universe then was very, very different. No galaxies existed, the early stars had formed but there was certainly not the same population of stars that we see today. And there were no planets.”

    He says that in the current study, the team looked at one such quasar that enabled them to probe back to when the universe was only a billion years old which had never been done before. The team made four measurements of the fine constant along the one line of sight to this quasar. Individually, the four measurements didn’t provide any conclusive answer as to whether or not there were perceptible changes in the electromagnetic force. However, when combined with lots of other measurements between us and distant quasars made by other scientists and unrelated to this study, the differences in the fine structure constant became evident.

    A weird universe

    “And it seems to be supporting this idea that there could be a directionality in the universe, which is very weird indeed,” Professor Webb says.

    “So the universe may not be isotropic in its laws of physics – one that is the same, statistically, in all directions. But in fact, there could be some direction or preferred direction in the universe where the laws of physics change, but not in the perpendicular direction. In other words, the universe in some sense, has a dipole structure to it.

    “In one particular direction, we can look back 12 billion light years and measure electromagnetism when the universe was very young. Putting all the data together, electromagnetism seems to gradually increase the further we look, while towards the opposite direction, it gradually decreases. In other directions in the cosmos, the fine structure constant remains just that – constant. These new very distant measurements have pushed our observations further than has ever been reached before.”

    In other words, in what was thought to be an arbitrarily random spread of galaxies, quasars, black holes, stars, gas clouds and planets – with life flourishing in at least one tiny niche of it – the universe suddenly appears to have the equivalent of a north and a south. Professor Webb is still open to the idea that somehow these measurements made at different stages using different technologies and from different locations on Earth are actually a massive coincidence.

    “This is something that is taken very seriously and is regarded, quite correctly with scepticism, even by me, even though I did the first work on it with my students. But it’s something you’ve got to test because it’s possible we do live in a weird universe.”

    But adding to the side of the argument that says these findings are more than just coincidence, a team in the US working completely independently and unknown to Professor Webb’s, made observations about X-rays that seemed to align with the idea that the universe has some sort of directionality [Astronomy and Astrophysics].

    “I didn’t know anything about this paper until it appeared in the literature,” he says.

    “And they’re not testing the laws of physics, they’re testing the properties, the X-ray properties of galaxies and clusters of galaxies and cosmological distances from Earth. They also found that the properties of the universe in this sense are not isotropic and there’s a preferred direction. And lo and behold, their direction coincides with ours.”

    Life, the universe, and everything

    While still wanting to see more rigorous testing of ideas that electromagnetism may fluctuate in certain areas of the universe to give it a form of directionality, Professor Webb says if these findings continue to be confirmed, they may help explain why our universe is the way it is, and why there is life in it at all.

    “For a long time, it has been thought that the laws of nature appear perfectly tuned to set the conditions for life to flourish. The strength of the electromagnetic force is one of those quantities. If it were only a few per cent different to the value we measure on Earth, the chemical evolution of the universe would be completely different and life may never have got going. It raises a tantalising question: does this ‘Goldilocks’ situation, where fundamental physical quantities like the fine structure constant are ‘just right’ to favour our existence, apply throughout the entire universe?”

    If there is a directionality in the universe, Professor Webb argues, and if electromagnetism is shown to be very slightly different in certain regions of the cosmos, the most fundamental concepts underpinning much of modern physics will need revision.

    “Our standard model of cosmology is based on an isotropic universe, one that is the same, statistically, in all directions,” he says.

    “That standard model itself is built upon Einstein’s theory of gravity, which itself explicitly assumes constancy of the laws of Nature. If such fundamental principles turn out to be only good approximations, the doors are open to some very exciting, new ideas in physics.”

    Professor Webb’s team believe this is the first step towards a far larger study exploring many directions in the universe, using data coming from new instruments on the world’s largest telescopes. New technologies are now emerging to provide higher quality data, and new artificial intelligence analysis methods will help to automate measurements and carry them out more rapidly and with greater precision.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:57 am on April 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours", , , , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Hungry galaxies grow fat on the flesh of their neighbours” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    24 Apr 2020

    Big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones, modelling has shown.

    1
    Distribution of dark matter density overlayed with the gas density. This image cleanly shows the gas channels connecting the central galaxy with its neighbours. Image: Gupta et al/ASTRO 3D.

    Big galaxies get bigger by merging with smaller ones, modelling has shown.
    Dark matter

    Distribution of dark matter density overlayed with the gas density. This image cleanly shows the gas channels connecting the central galaxy with its neighbours. Image: Gupta et al/ASTRO 3D.

    Galaxies grow large by eating their smaller neighbours, new research reveals.

    Exactly how massive galaxies attain their size is poorly understood, not least because they swell over billions of years. But now a combination of observation and modelling from researchers led by UNSW’s Dr Anshu Gupta from Australia’s ARC Centre of Excellence for All Sky Astrophysics in 3 Dimensions (ASTRO 3D) has provided a vital clue.

    In a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, the scientists combine data from an Australian project called the Multi-Object Spectroscopic Emission Line (MOSEL) survey with a cosmological modelling program running on some of the world’s largest supercomputers in order to glimpse the forces that create these ancient galactic monsters.

    By analysing how gases within galaxies move, Dr Gupta said, it is possible to discover the proportion of stars made internally – and the proportion effectively cannibalised from elsewhere.

    “We found that in old massive galaxies – those around 10 billion light years away from us – things move around in lots of different directions,” she said.

    “That strongly suggests that many of the stars within them have been acquired from outside. In other words, the big galaxies have been eating the smaller ones.”

    Because light takes time to travel through the universe, galaxies further away from the Milky Way are seen at an earlier point in their existence. Dr Gupta’s team found that observation and modelling of these very distant galaxies revealed much less variation in their internal movements.

    “We then had to work out why ‘older’, closer big galaxies were so much more disordered than the ‘younger’, more distant ones,” said second author ASTRO 3D’s Dr Kim-Vy Tran, who like Dr Gupta, is based at UNSW.

    “The most likely explanation is that in the intervening billions of years the surviving galaxies have grown fat and disorderly through incorporating smaller ones. I think of it as big galaxies having a constant case of the cosmic munchies.”

    3
    Distribution of dark matter particles around the galaxy. Big galaxies have been eating the smaller ones, this piece of research shows.

    The research team – which included scientists from other Australian universities plus institutions in the US, Canada, Mexico, Belgium and the Netherlands – ran their modelling on a specially designed set of simulations known as IllustrisTNG.

    This is a multi-year, international project that aims to build a series of large cosmological models of how galaxies form. The program is so big that it has to run simultaneously on several of world’s most powerful supercomputers.

    “The modelling showed that younger galaxies have had less time to merge with other ones,” said Dr Gupta.

    “This gives a strong clue to what happens during an important stage of their evolution.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:06 am on April 20, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Self-aligning microscope smashes limits of super-resolution microscopy", , , , UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Self-aligning microscope smashes limits of super-resolution microscopy” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    20 Apr 2020

    An ultra-precise microscope that surpasses the limitations of Nobel Prize-winning super-resolution microscopy will let scientists directly measure distances between individual molecules.

    1
    A T cell with precise localisation of T cell receptors (pink) and CD45 phosphatase (green). Image: Single Molecule Science

    UNSW medical researchers have achieved unprecedented resolution capabilities in single-molecule microscopy to detect interactions between individual molecules within intact cells.

    The 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded for the development of super-resolution fluorescence microscopy technology that afforded microscopists the first molecular view inside cells, a capability that has provided new molecular perspectives on complex biological systems and processes.

    Now the limit of detection of single-molecule microscopes has been smashed again, and the details are published in the current issue of Science Advances.

    While individual molecules could be observed and tracked with super-resolution microscopy already, interactions between these molecules occur at a scale at least four times smaller than that resolved by existing single-molecule microscopes.

    “The reason why the localisation precision of single-molecule microscopes is around 20-30 nanometres normally is because the microscope actually moves while we’re detecting that signal. This leads to an uncertainty. With the existing super-resolution instruments, we can’t tell whether or not one protein is bound to another protein because the distance between them is shorter than the uncertainty of their positions,” says Scientia Professor Katharina Gaus, research team leader and Head of UNSW Medicine’s EMBL Australia Node in Single Molecule Science.

    To circumvent this problem, the team built autonomous feedback loops inside a single-molecule microscope that detects and re-aligns the optical path and stage.

    “It doesn’t matter what you do to this microscope, it basically finds its way back with precision under a nanometre. It’s a smart microscope. It does all the things that an operator or a service engineer needs to do, and it does that 12 times per second,” says Professor Gaus.

    Measuring the distance between proteins

    With the design and methods outlined in the paper, the feedback system designed by the UNSW team is compatible with existing microscopes and affords maximum flexibility for sample preparation.

    “It’s a really simple and elegant solution to a major imaging problem. We just built a microscope within a microscope, and all it does is align the main microscope. That the solution we found is simple and practical is a real strength as it would allow easy cloning of the system, and rapid uptake of the new technology,” says Professor Gaus.

    To demonstrate the utility of their ultra-precise feedback single-molecule microscope, the researchers used it to perform direct distance measurements between signalling proteins in T cells. A popular hypothesis in cellular immunology is that these immune cells remain in a resting state when the T cell receptor is next to another molecule that acts as a brake.

    Their high precision microscope was able to show that these two signalling molecules are in fact further separated from each other in activated T cells, releasing the brake and switching on T cell receptor signalling.

    “Conventional microscopy techniques would not be able to accurately measure such a small change as the distance between these signalling molecules in resting T cells and in activated T cells only differed by 4–7 nanometres,” says Professor Gaus.

    “This also shows how sensitive these signalling machineries are to spatial segregation. In order to identify regulatory processes like these, we need to perform precise distance measurements, and that is what this microscope enables. These results illustrate the potential of this technology for discoveries that could not be made by any other means.”

    Postdoctoral researcher, Dr Simao Pereira Coelho, together with PhD student Jongho Baek – who has since been awarded his PhD degree – led the design, development, and building of this system. Dr Baek also received the Dean’s Award for Outstanding PhD Thesis for this work.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:33 am on March 19, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How humans are teaching AI to become better at second-guessing", AI systems are being taught the subtleties of human behaviour so that they may be better placed to predict our intentions., Dr Lina Yao at UNSW Engineering is principal investigator in a project to get AI systems and human-machine interfaces up to speed with the finer nuances of human behaviour., Dr Yao and her team are developing a prototype human-machine interface system designed to capture the intent behind human movement., UNSW-University of New South Wales, We can learn and predict what a human would like to do when they’re wearing an EEG [electroencephalogram] device.   

    From University of New South Wales: “How humans are teaching AI to become better at second-guessing” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    19 Mar 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    AI systems are being taught the subtleties of human behaviour so that they may be better placed to predict our intentions.

    1
    AI systems of the future will be more attuned to the nuances of human behaviour- intent prediction. Picture: Shutterstock.

    One of the holy grails in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) is giving machines the ability to predict intent when interacting with humans.

    We humans do it all the time and without even being aware of it: we observe, we listen, we use our past experience to reason about what someone is doing, why they are doing it to come up with a prediction about what they will do next.

    At the moment, AI may do a plausible job at detecting the intent of another person (in other words, after the fact). Or it may even have a list of predefined, possible responses that a human will respond with in a given situation. But when an AI system or machine only has a few clues or partial observations to go on, its responses can sometimes be a little…robotic.

    Humans and machines

    Dr Lina Yao, a senior lecturer at UNSW Engineering, is principal investigator in a project to get AI systems and human-machine interfaces up to speed with the finer nuances of human behaviour. She says the ultimate goal is for her research to be used in autonomous AI systems, robots and even cyborgs, but the first step is focused on the interface between humans and intelligent machines.

    “What we’re doing in these early phases is to help machines learn to act like humans based on our daily interactions and the actions that are influenced by our own judgment and expectations – so that they can be better placed to predict our intentions,” she says. “In turn, this may even lead to new actions and decisions of our own, so that we establish a cooperative relationship.”

    Dr Yao would like to see awareness of less obvious examples of human behaviour integrated into AI systems to improve intent prediction. Things like gestures, eye movement, posture, facial expression and even micro-expressions – the tell-tale physical signs when someone reacts emotionally to a stimulus but tries to keep it hidden.

    This is a tall order, as humans themselves are not infallible when trying to predict the intention of another person.

    “Sometimes people may take some actions that deviate from their own regular habits, which may have been triggered by the external environment or the influence of another person’s actions,” she says.

    All the right moves

    Nevertheless, making AI systems and machines more finely tuned to the ways that humans initiate an action is a good start. To that end, Dr Yao and her team are developing a prototype human-machine interface system designed to capture the intent behind human movement.

    “We can learn and predict what a human would like to do when they’re wearing an EEG [electroencephalogram] device,” Dr Yao says.

    “While wearing one of these devices, whenever the person makes a movement, their brainwaves are collected which we can then analyse.

    “Later we can ask people to think about moving with a particular action – such as raising their right arm. So not actually raising the arm, but thinking about it, and we can then collect the associated brain waves.”

    Dr Yao says recording this data has the potential to help people unable to move or communicate freely due to disability or illness. Brain waves recorded with an EEG device could be analysed and used to move machinery such as a wheelchair, or even to communicate a request for assistance.

    “Someone in an intensive care unit may not have the ability to communicate, but if they were wearing an EEG device, the pattern in their brainwaves could be interpreted to say they were in pain or wanted to sit up, for example,” Dr Yao says.

    “So an intent to move or act that was not physically possible, or not able to be expressed, could be understood by an observer thanks to this human-machine interaction. The technology is already there to achieve this, it’s more a matter of putting all the working parts together. ”

    Partners for life

    Dr Yao says the ultimate goal in developing AI systems and machines that assist humans is for them to be seen not merely as tools, but as partners.

    “What we are doing is trying to develop some good algorithms that can be deployed in situations that require decision making,” she says.

    “For example, in a rescue situation, an AI system can be used to help rescuers take the optimal strategy to locate a person or people more precisely. Such a system can use localisation algorithms that use GPS locations and other data to pinpoint people, as well as assessing the window of time needed to get to someone, and making recommendations on the best course of action.

    “Ultimately a human would make the final call, but the important thing is that AI is a valuable collaborator in such a dynamic environment. This sort of technology is already being used today.”

    But while working with humans in partnership is one thing; working completely independently of them is a long way down the track. Dr Yao says autonomous AI systems and machines may one day look at us as belonging to one of three categories after observing our behaviour: peer, bystander or competitor. While this may seem cold and aloof, Dr Yao says these categories may dynamically change from one to another according to their evolving contexts. And at any rate, she says, this sort of cognitive categorisation is actually very human.

    “When you think about it, we are constantly making these same judgments about the people around us every day,” she says.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:45 pm on March 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , That a nuclear spin can be controlled with electric instead of magnetic fields has far-reaching consequences., The discovery: controlling the nucleus of a single atom using only electric fields., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Engineers crack 58-year-old puzzle on way to quantum breakthrough” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    12 Mar 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    A mishap during an experiment led UNSW quantum computing researchers to crack a mystery that had stood since 1961.

    1
    Professor Andrea Morello, Dr Vincent Mourik and Dr Serwan Asaad. Picture: UNSW

    A happy accident in the laboratory has led to a breakthrough discovery that not only solved a problem that stood for more than half a century, but has major implications for the development of quantum computers and sensors.

    In a study published today in Nature, a team of engineers at UNSW Sydney has done what a celebrated scientist first suggested in 1961 was possible, but has eluded everyone since: controlling the nucleus of a single atom using only electric fields.

    “This discovery means that we now have a pathway to build quantum computers using single-atom spins without the need for any oscillating magnetic field for their operation,” says UNSW’s Scientia Professor of Quantum Engineering Andrea Morello. “Moreover, we can use these nuclei as exquisitely precise sensors of electric and magnetic fields, or to answer fundamental questions in quantum science.”

    That a nuclear spin can be controlled with electric, instead of magnetic fields, has far-reaching consequences. Generating magnetic fields requires large coils and high currents, while the laws of physics dictate that it is difficult to confine magnetic fields to very small spaces – they tend to have a wide area of influence. Electric fields, on the other hand, can be produced at the tip of a tiny electrode, and they fall off very sharply away from the tip. This will make control of individual atoms placed in nanoelectronic devices much easier.

    A new paradigm

    Professor Morello says the discovery shakes up the paradigm of nuclear magnetic resonance, a widely used technique in fields as disparate as medicine, chemistry, or mining.

    “Nuclear magnetic resonance is one of the most widespread techniques in modern physics, chemistry, and even medicine or mining,” he says. “Doctors use it to see inside a patient’s body in great detail while mining companies use it to analyse rock samples. This all works extremely well, but for certain applications, the need to use magnetic fields to control and detect the nuclei can be a disadvantage.”

    Professor Morello uses the analogy of a billiard table to explain the difference between controlling nuclear spins with magnetic and electric fields.

    “Performing magnetic resonance is like trying to move a particular ball on a billiard table by lifting and shaking the whole table,” he says. “We’ll move the intended ball, but we’ll also move all the others.

    “The breakthrough of electric resonance is like being handed an actual billiards stick to hit the ball exactly where you want it.”

    Amazingly, Professor Morello was completely unaware that his team had cracked the longstanding problem of finding a way to control nuclear spins with electric fields, first suggested in 1961 by a pioneer of magnetic resonance and Nobel Laureate, Nicolaas Bloembergen.

    “I have worked on spin resonance for 20 years of my life, but honestly, I had never heard of this idea of nuclear electric resonance,” Professor Morello says. “We ‘rediscovered’ this effect by complete accident – it would never have occurred to me to look for it. The whole field of nuclear electric resonance has been almost dormant for more than half a century, after the first attempts to demonstrate it proved too challenging.”

    Out of curiosity

    The researchers had originally set out to perform nuclear magnetic resonance on a single atom of antimony – an element that possesses a large nuclear spin. One of the lead authors of the work, Dr Serwan Asaad, explains: “Our original goal was to explore the boundary between the quantum world and the classical world, set by the chaotic behaviour of the nuclear spin. This was purely a curiosity-driven project, with no application in mind.”

    “However, once we started the experiment, we realised that something was wrong. The nucleus behaved very strangely, refusing to respond at certain frequencies, but showing a strong response at others,” recalls Dr Vincent Mourik, also a lead author on the paper.

    “This puzzled us for a while, until we had a ‘eureka moment’ and realised that we were doing electric resonance instead of magnetic resonance.”

    Dr Asaad continued: “What happened is that we fabricated a device containing an antimony atom and a special antenna, optimized to create a high-frequency magnetic field to control the nucleus of the atom. Our experiment demands this magnetic field to be quite strong, so we applied a lot of power to the antenna, and we blew it up!”

    Game on

    “Normally, with smaller nuclei like phosphorus, when you blow up the antenna it’s ‘game over’ and you have to throw away the device,” says Dr Mourik.

    “But with the antimony nucleus, the experiment continued to work. It turns out that after the damage, the antenna was creating a strong electric field instead of a magnetic field. So we ‘rediscovered’ nuclear electric resonance.”

    After demonstrating the ability to control the nucleus with electric fields, the researchers used sophisticated computer modelling to understand how exactly the electric field influences the spin of the nucleus. This effort highlighted that nuclear electric resonance is a truly local, microscopic phenomenon: the electric field distorts the atomic bonds around the nucleus, causing it to reorient itself.

    “This landmark result will open up a treasure trove of discoveries and applications,” says Professor Morello. “The system we created has enough complexity to study how the classical world we experience every day emerges from the quantum realm. Moreover, we can use its quantum complexity to build sensors of electromagnetic fields with vastly improved sensitivity. And all this, in a simple electronic device made in silicon, controlled with small voltages applied to a metal electrode.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:23 am on March 10, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater", Better water filtration systems may be needed to combat expected increases in natural groundwater contaminants., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales Sydney: “Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    10 Mar 2020
    Caroline Tang

    Climate change and urbanisation are set to threaten groundwater drinking water quality, new research from UNSW Sydney shows.

    1
    Groundwater is the main source of drinking water for more than half the world’s population, but new research from UNSW Science shows its quality and availability is under threat from the looming impacts of climate change and urbanisation. Photo: Shutterstock.

    More than half of the world’s population faces a looming threat to the quality and availability of their drinking water because climate change and urbanisation are expected to cause an increase in groundwater organic carbon, a new UNSW study has found.

    The research, published in Nature Communications overnight, examined the largest global dataset of 9404 published and unpublished groundwater dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations from aquifers in 32 countries across six continents.

    DOC is a naturally occurring component of groundwater, but the higher its concentration, the more difficult and expensive it is to make groundwater drinkable. In Australia, groundwater is widely used as the main source of drinking water for many cities and towns.

    Lead author Dr Liza McDonough, of the Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre at UNSW, said the study forecasted elevated DOC concentrations because of projected changes in temperature and rainfall due to climate change, as well as increased urbanisation.

    “We identified groundwater DOC concentration increases of up to 45 per cent, largely because of increased temperatures in the wettest quarter of the year – for example, in a number of south-eastern states in the United States. We predict increases in DOC in these locations could increase water costs for a family of four by US$134 per year,” Dr McDonough said.

    “Other areas such as eastern China, India and parts of Africa already experience severe groundwater contamination issues. These may be further compounded, particularly in south-eastern China, by groundwater DOC increases associated with large predicted increases in temperature in the wettest quarter of the year by 2050.

    “Generally, we expect urbanisation to increase groundwater DOC concentrations by up to 19 per cent, compared to agricultural or natural land use, likely as the result of contamination – for example, through leaking septic and sewer systems.”

    2
    Groundwater is the main source of drinking water for more than half the world’s population. Photo: Shutterstock.

    The research, a collaboration between UNSW, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Southern Cross University, British Geological Survey, and the University of Bradford, found four major contributing factors to groundwater DOC levels: climate, land use, inorganic chemistry and aquifer age.

    Health threat

    Dr McDonough said increased groundwater DOC, whether naturally occurring or due to contamination, also posed a threat to human health.

    “Groundwater is Earth’s largest source of freshwater and provides essential drinking water for more than 50 per cent of the world’s population,” she said.

    “But, because most health impacts caused by DOC are related to the formation of by-products of water treatment chlorination and depend on concentrations of other water chemical parameters, the World Health Organization and many countries – including Australia – do not regulate DOC concentrations in drinking water directly.”

    Dr McDonough said that while DOC is a naturally occurring, key element of groundwater it could combine with, and transport, potentially dangerous heavy metals otherwise bound to rocks and sediment where groundwater occurs.

    “This is a concern when, for example, more than 100,000 lifetime cancer cases in the United States alone can be attributed to drinking water contaminants,” she said.

    3
    Groundwater is also used for agriculture. Photo: Shutterstock

    Water treatment costs to rise

    Dr McDonough said it was important to understand what caused high DOC concentrations in groundwater.

    “An increase in groundwater DOC concentration impacts the ability and therefore cost to make groundwater drinkable,” she said.

    “For example, we projected a 16 per cent increase in annual household water costs in some parts of the United States because of rising water treatment costs – due to the need to implement additional water treatment measures to remove increased DOC concentrations.

    “The decrease in groundwater quality and substantial increase in water treatment costs will also compound existing constraints on groundwater resources, including availability.”

    Wet vs arid climates

    Dr McDonough said the impacts on groundwater DOC levels from climate change and urbanisation, while likely to occur globally, differed by geography and climate.

    “Our research found that in arid climates, groundwater DOC concentrations increased with higher rainfall because microbes can better break down organic matter, such as leaves, under warm and increasingly wet conditions,” she said.

    “Increased temperatures in arid environments, however, reduced groundwater DOC concentrations because when conditions are too hot and dry, vegetation and organic matter sources are limited.

    “By contrast, increased rain in warm and wet environments decreased groundwater DOC concentrations because heavy rainfall dilutes the DOC in groundwater.”

    4
    Better water filtration systems may be needed to combat expected increases in natural groundwater contaminants. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Water treatment solutions

    Dr McDonough said she looked forward to conducting further research to determine the best water treatment options for areas where groundwater DOC concentrations are anticipated to increase.

    “Our next step is to investigate how the character of DOC changes when you have different aquifer minerals, because some types of organic matter can stick to certain mineral surfaces and ultimately reduce this type of organic matter remaining in the water,” she said.

    “This will help provide guidance on the most suitable water treatment options in areas where DOC concentrations are expected to increase.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:55 pm on March 2, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Scientists seize rare chance to watch faraway star system evolve", A ‘Hot Neptune’., , , , , How a planet might naturally develop before its orbit is disturbed by external forces., The DS Tuc binary system., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Scientists seize rare chance to watch faraway star system evolve” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    02 Mar 2020
    Sherry Landow

    At only 1 per cent the age of the Sun, the DS Tuc binary system shows us how a planet might naturally develop before its orbit is disturbed by external forces.

    1
    Young stars are surrounded by dense disks of gas and dust – the raw materials for creating planets. Over time, the disk scatters and disappears, making new planets visible to outside observers. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

    A young planet located 150 light-years away has given UNSW Sydney astrophysicists a rare chance to study a planetary system in the making.

    The findings, recently published in The Astronomical Journal, suggest that the planet DS Tuc Ab – which orbits a star in a binary system – formed without being heavily impacted by the gravitational pull of the second star.

    “We expected the pull from the second star to tilt the rotating disk of gas and dust that once surrounded the main star – a process that would skew the orbit of the planet,” says Dr Benjamin Montet, Scientia Fellow at UNSW Sydney and lead author of the study.

    “Surprisingly, we found no evidence the planet’s orbit was impacted. We also found the planet formed through relatively calm processes – which means it could be possible for Earth-like planets to survive in binary systems like this.”

    Dr Montet worked with an international team of researchers at the Magellan Telescopes located at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. They used the Planet Finder Spectrograph to measure the Rossiter-McLaughlin effect, which is the relative angle between the orbit of the planet and the spin of its star.

    Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph on the Magellan II Clay telescope at Las Campanas, Chile, Altitude 2,380 m (7,810 ft)

    They discovered the planet DS Tuc Ab orbits its star in a relatively flat plane, at approximately 12 degrees incline from the star’s rotational axis. This low incline – called obliquity – suggests that the pull from the companion star did not significantly tilt the orbit of the protoplanetary disk where DS Tuc Ab formed.

    While planets in the solar system all have a low obliquity, it’s unusual for planets like DS Tuc Ab.

    “Most similar planets orbit their star at random angles, sometimes reaching up to 90 degrees above the axis of their star,” Dr Montet says.

    “The DS Tuc system is the first piece of evidence that higher orbital angles don’t get defined early on in a star’s life – they are an effect that happens only later on.”

    At 40 million years old, the gas giant DS Tuc Ab is considered a ‘pre-teen’ in planetary years. There are fewer than ten planets we know about that are this young.

    Its age is a unique chance for astrophysicists to study a system in development before external influences interfere.

    “To find out how long planetary systems last, we need systems that are too young to go through dynamical interactions, but old enough to have formed planets. The DS Tuc system is exactly in that niche,” Dr Montet says.

    2
    DS Tuc Ab is a Neptune-sized planet, but that’s where their similarities end. Unlike our Neptune, which takes 165 years to orbit the Sun, this ‘Hot Neptune’ orbits its star in only 8.1 days. Image: Shutterstock.

    DS Tuc Ab: a ‘Hot Neptune’

    The planet DS Tuc Ab is a Neptune-sized gas planet that orbits its star closely and quickly – one lap around its star takes only 8.1 days. These types of planets are known as ‘Hot Neptunes’ for their fast speeds and proximity to their stars.

    Hot Neptunes are unlike anything we have in the solar system.

    Even the smallest and closest planet to our Sun, Mercury, takes almost 100 days to complete its orbit. Our closest gas planet, Jupiter, takes over 4300 days.

    Giant gas planets are unlikely to develop close to their stars. The current understanding is that they form further away and, over time, a force causes them to move closer to their stars.

    Scientists want to know what that force is.

    “There are two main theories about how Hot Neptunes came to be so close to their stars,” says Dr Montet.

    “One theory is that an external force – potentially a multi-body nearby collision – ‘kicks’ them closer in, where they wobble and eventually settle on a new orbit.

    “Another theory is that smooth processes within the planetary disk create a force that gradually pulls the planet closer to the star.”

    Testing the obliquity can help scientists uncover which force was at play. Planets with low obliquities are understood to be formed by smooth disk processes, while more dramatic processes will lead to random or high obliquities.

    However, astrophysicists have recently been intrigued by the suggestion that wide binary stars can tilt the orbit of young planets around their stars – while this process would be smooth, it would result in planets with high orbital inclinations.

    “If true, this would upend our theory of planet formation!” says Dr Montet.

    While that theory was not supported by the low obliquity of DS Tuc Ab, scientists are looking to the skies for more young binary systems to test.

    Carnegie 6.5 meter Magellan Baade and Clay Telescopes located at Carnegie’s Las Campanas Observatory, Chile. over 2,500 m (8,200 ft) high


    Researchers gazed at the DS Tuc system 150 light-years away using the Magellan Telescopes at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile.

    The next generation of planetary systems

    When it comes to learning from star systems, many of the systems we can observe today provide an inaccurate history of the system’s past.

    “Present-day systems are not pure laboratories,” says Dr Montet.

    “Over billions of years, planet-planet and planet-star interactions can scatter, torque, migrate, and disturb orbits, making what we see today very different to how they initially formed.”

    Planets take between 10 and 100 million years to form, but most of the planets visible from Earth are much older. The DS Tuc system is 45 million years old – only 1 per cent the age of the Sun.

    “DS Tuc Ab is at an interesting age,” says Dr Montet. “The protoplanetary disk has dissipated, and we can see the planet, but it’s still too young for the orbit of other distant stars to manipulate its path.

    “It gives us the chance to understand planet formation dynamics in a way that a five billion-year-old star doesn’t.”

    DS Tuc A is the youngest star for which the spin-orbit alignment has ever been measured.

    Searching the skies

    DS Tuc Ab is only visible from the Southern Hemisphere. It was discovered last year through NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission – an all-sky surveying mission that aims to discover thousands of exoplanets near bright stars.

    NASA/MIT TESS replaced Kepler in search for exoplanets

    Montet worked closely with researchers at Harvard and Carnegie universities, who also measured DS Tuc Ab’s obliquity but used the Doppler tomography method.

    “The first exoplanet searches were done in facilities in the Northern Hemisphere, and so they missed a lot of the planets far south,” says Dr Montet.

    “NASA’s TESS mission is changing that. It’s finding all these planets around stars that previously hadn’t been searched.”

    Dr Montet and his team are leading an effort to find and characterise more planets around young stars. They hope to study how stellar activity, such as stellar flares and starspots, could affect planet detection and habitability.

    “Finding young planets is challenging. We really need to understand the behaviour of the parent star to be able to find the shallow signals of these planets which can be overwhelmed by starspots and flares,” says Adina Feinstein, a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Chicago and co-author of the study.

    “There’s no reason why Earth-like planets couldn’t form and survive in Hot Neptune systems like this one,” Dr Montet says.

    “We just have to go out and find them.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:14 pm on February 26, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Caves face new unknown after unprecedented bushfires", Subsurface geology, UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: ” Caves face new unknown after unprecedented bushfires” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    26 Feb 2020
    Caroline Tang

    Caves are easily forgotten when fire rips through the bush, but despite their robustness the long-term impact of frequent, unprecedented fire seasons presents a new challenge for subsurface geology.

    1
    Minaret limestone formations in the Jenolan Caves, NSW. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Famous caves at tourist hotspots survived the brunt of the Australian bushfire crisis this summer, but the unprecedented nature of the fires presents a new uncertainty for these unique underground ecosystems, according to a UNSW Sydney geologist.

    The bushfires affected many rare karst landforms in south-eastern Australia, including popular tourist attractions such as the Jenolan, Wombeyan and Buchan caves.

    UNSW Professor Andy Baker, part of a team which was the first to research the effect of fire on caves and karst, said this was a crucial area to study because of the landforms’ unique geodiversity and values. The fires impacted several research sites where Prof Baker and his collaborators are studying the effects of fire on caves.

    “Think of the Marble Arch at Jenolan, Victoria Arch at Wombeyan or Mount Sebastopol in the Macleay Karst Arc. Sebastopol, for example, is a distinctive mountain with significant indigenous values,” Prof Baker said.

    2
    Marble Arch at Jenolan. Gour pools (rimstones) and flowstone beside the walkway in the Marble Arch Caves showcave. Shadowgate

    3
    Victoria Arch at Wombeyan. https://www.nationalparks.nsw.gov.au

    “Caves are important refugia and habitat, such as bat roosts which serve as maternity or hibernation sites. But what happens to the bat populations when the ecosystem outside is burnt? Where do they go? Can they survive? We don’t know.

    “We can also find evidence of past fires through stalagmites – mineral deposits which rise from the cave floor – so, while fires destroy what’s on the surface, the more protected subsurface is a good place to look for historical climate information and to put today’s fires into context.”

    Stalagmites are the counterpart of stalactites, which grow down from the ceiling of a cave.

    Prof Baker said that in the next 12 months, he expected the aftermath of the fires to flush nutrients to the subsurface, change cave hydrology and slow down the karstification process (when limestone is exposed to carbonic acid in soil and dissolves, it creates distinctive landforms – karst).

    “Some hydrological changes may be permanent or long lasting, and the slow-down in karstification can last several years,” he said.

    “These effects decrease the weaker the fire and deeper the cave.”

    Fires unprecedented for karst regions

    Prof Baker said the fires disproportionately affected NSW’s karst because it was concentrated in national parks in the main firegrounds, such as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

    “Many areas have burnt before, but this is the first time we have seen so many sites burn at the same time, in the same fire season – so, the spatial coverage is one of the reasons why these bushfires are unprecedented,” he said.

    “The fires are also unprecedented because of the rainforest areas that burnt, and these areas contain karst. For example, most of the Macleay karst up north is subtropical or temperate rainforest and some of the fires burnt into the subtropical rainforest.

    “Macleay is where I cave with a group that includes volunteer firefighters and citizen scientists. I have never seen such extensive fire there before.

    “It’s probably the first time fire has affected the rainforest in a very long time because rainforest, unlike other forests and trees, has not evolved and adapted to fire – these trees shouldn’t catch fire – so, it might not grow back and that’s a major concern.”

    Prof Baker has worked with Kempsey Speleological Society to monitor the climate and hydrology of some caves in the temperate and subtropical rainforest of the Macleay region since 2014.

    “A number of these caves were burnt by the large Carrai-Carrai East fires between October and December last year,” he said.

    “We explored one of these caves in November, in what was one of the first research trips to investigate the impact of fire on karst.

    “So, our long-term monitoring dataset is now a rare and valuable baseline to investigate the effects of fire on cave climate and hydrology.”

    Fires unprecedented for karst regions.

    Prof Baker said the fires disproportionately affected NSW’s karst because it was concentrated in national parks in the main firegrounds, such as the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

    “Many areas have burnt before, but this is the first time we have seen so many sites burn at the same time, in the same fire season – so, the spatial coverage is one of the reasons why these bushfires are unprecedented,” he said.

    “The fires are also unprecedented because of the rainforest areas that burnt, and these areas contain karst. For example, most of the Macleay karst up north is subtropical or temperate rainforest and some of the fires burnt into the subtropical rainforest.

    4
    Macleay karst

    “Macleay is where I cave with a group that includes volunteer firefighters and citizen scientists. I have never seen such extensive fire there before.

    “It’s probably the first time fire has affected the rainforest in a very long time because rainforest, unlike other forests and trees, has not evolved and adapted to fire – these trees shouldn’t catch fire – so, it might not grow back and that’s a major concern.”

    Prof Baker has worked with Kempsey Speleological Society to monitor the climate and hydrology of some caves in the temperate and subtropical rainforest of the Macleay region since 2014.

    “A number of these caves were burnt by the large Carrai-Carrai East fires between October and December last year,” he said.

    “We explored one of these caves in November, in what was one of the first research trips to investigate the impact of fire on karst.

    “So, our long-term monitoring dataset is now a rare and valuable baseline to investigate the effects of fire on cave climate and hydrology.”

    4
    How cave dripwater chemistry works when there is no fire. Image: UNSW Science

    Tracing fire history in karst

    Yanchep National Park in Western Australia was one of the coastal karst areas devastated by fire before Christmas.

    5

    Yanchep National Park

    Prof Baker visited this month to research the impact of the 2019 fire compared to a blaze in 2005 at the same location.

    Yanchep is also the main research site for Prof Baker’s new three-year Australian Research Council Discovery Project which aims to reconstruct fire history from cave stalagmites, a collaboration with researcher Dr Pauline Treble of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO).

    The karst area was the subject of the researchers’ initial work on the effects of fire on caves and karst and implications for fire management, which began in 2013.

    ANSTO started monitoring the caves after an intense wildfire burnt 1200 hectares of Yanchep National Park in February 2005.

    The monitoring, which continued until 2011, examined the hydrology and water chemistry of water percolating from the surface to the cave.

    6
    How cave dripwater chemistry responds after fire. Image: UNSW Science.

    Prof Baker said the researchers, led by then UNSW Honours student Gurinder Nagra, published the results in 2016 [HESS] and it became the first ever study on the effects of fire on caves.

    “The research showed that the fire killed large trees, and so the surface was no longer shaded. This made the surface hotter, increased evaporation and therefore, the cave became drier,” he said.

    “The dead trees left ash deposits on the surface and the soluble components of the ash were carried via water to the cave. The most abundant soluble ash materials are nutrients and therefore, fire caused the export of nutrients to the subsurface.

    “What’s more, the fires decreased the amount of limestone dissolved, thus slowing down the growth of stalagmites and stalactites in the cave.”

    Prof Baker said the Yanchep karst was also important because WA’s distinct seasons encouraged regular growth markings on stalagmites, making them more precise for dating purposes and therefore, better for tracing fire history.

    “Annual growth layers – like tree rings – are one way of dating stalagmites but they only appear where you have a strong annual climate,” he said.

    “We can count back the years in the chemistry of the stalagmites and if we can count every single year, then we know exactly when fires occurred – which can be quite interesting.”

    8
    River Cave in the Jenolan Caves, NSW. Photo: Shutterstock.

    Long-term impact of fires uncertain

    Prof Baker is reviewing the data he collected at Yanchep and looks forward to further research, but he said the long-term impact of fire on caves and karst – particularly, if unprecedented fires become more frequent – was unknown.

    “Fire is a natural process – so it’s something that’s always happened. But if these fires are unprecedented because of the spatial scale of the country that’s burnt, and the fires are occurring simultaneously and becoming more frequent, then that becomes something the caves have not seen before,” he said.

    “If more regular nutrient input – the dissolved ash – flows into the subsurface systems, the hydrology may change more, and the underground ecosystem may not be able to cope with receiving nutrients on this scale; but we don’t know.

    “In the long-term, there might be permanent changes, for example, a famous stalagmite in a tourist cave which people remember because it always drips water might stop dripping because the conduit is blocked, or maybe a formation that was growing quickly starts to slow down in a few years because the trees have died on the surface.

    “And, if overlying forests are intensely burnt, the slowing of karst processes could last many years – until the forest has recovered.”

    10
    Yanchep National Park, WA after fire hit the area in late 2019. Photo: UNSW Science.

    Prof Baker’s research papers include:

    Hydrological and geochemical responses of fire in a shallow cave system
    Effects of wildfire on long-term soil CO2 concentration: implications for karst processes
    A post-wildfire response in cave dripwater chemistry
    Selected publications

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:13 am on February 21, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , HB11 Energy, , Laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Pioneering technology promises unlimited, clean and safe energy” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    21 Feb 2020
    Yolande Hutchinson
    UNSW Sydney External Relations
    0420 845 023
    y.hutchinson@unsw.edu.au

    Dr Warren McKenzie
    HB11 Energy
    0400 059 509

    Professor Heinrich Hora
    UNSW Physics
    0414 471 424

    A UNSW spin-out company has secured patents for its ground-breaking approach to energy generation.

    1
    HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Picture: Shutterstock

    UNSW Sydney spin-out company, HB11 Energy, has been granted patents for its laser-driven technique for creating fusion energy. Unlike earlier methods, the technique is completely safe as it does not rely on radioactive fuel and leaves no toxic radioactive waste.

    HB11 Energy secured its intellectual property rights in Japan last week, following recent grants in China and the USA.

    Conceived by UNSW Emeritus Professor of theoretical physics Heinrich Hora, HB11 Energy’s concept differs radically from other experimental fusion projects.

    “After investigating a laser-boron fusion approach for over four decades at UNSW, I am thrilled that this pioneering approach has now received patents in three countries,” Professor Hora said.

    “These granted patents represent the eve of HB11 Energy’s seed-stage fundraising campaign that will establish Australia’s first commercial fusion company, and the world’s only approach focused on the safe hydrogen – boron reaction using lasers.”

    The preferred fusion approach employed by most fusion groups is to heat Deuterium-Tritium fuel well beyond the temperature of the sun (or almost 15 million degrees Celsius). Rather than heating the fuel, HB11’s hydrogen-boron fusion is achieved using two powerful lasers whose pulses apply precise non-linear forces to compress the nuclei together.

    “Tritium is very rare, expensive, radioactive and difficult to store. Fusion reactions employing Deuterium-Tritium also shed harmful neutrons and create radioactive waste which needs to be disposed of safely. I have long favored the combination of cheap and abundant hydrogen H and boron B-11. The fusion of these elements does not primarily produce neutrons and is the ideal fuel combination,” Professor Hora said.

    Most other sources of power production, such as coal, gas and nuclear, rely on heating liquids like water to drive turbines. In contrast, the energy generated by hydrogen-boron fusion converts directly into electricity allowing for much smaller and simpler generators.

    The two-laser approach needed for HB11 Energy’s hydrogen-boron fusion only became possible recently thanks to advances in laser technology that won the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics.

    2
    Schematic of a hydrogen-boron fusion reactor.

    Hora’s reactor design is deceptively simple: a largely empty metal sphere, where a modestly sized HB11 fuel pellet is held in the center, with apertures on different sides for the two lasers. One laser establishes the magnetic containment field for the plasma and the second laser triggers the ‘avalanche’ fusion chain reaction.

    The alpha particles generated by the reaction would create an electrical flow that can be channeled almost directly into an existing power grid with no need for a heat exchanger or steam turbine generator.

    “The clean and absolutely safe reactor can be placed within densely populated areas, with no possibility of a catastrophic meltdown such as that which has been seen with nuclear fission reactors,” Professor Hora added.

    With experiments and simulations measuring a laser-initiated chain reaction creating one billion-fold higher reaction rates than predicted (under thermal equilibrium conditions), HB11 Energy stands a high chance of reaching the goal of ‘net-energy gain’ well ahead of other groups.

    “HB11 Energy’s approach could be the only way to achieve very low carbon emissions by 2050. As we aren’t trying to heat fuels to impossibly high temperatures, we are sidestepping all of the scientific challenges that have held fusion energy back for more than half a century,” Dr Warren McKenzie, Managing Director of HB11 Energy, said.

    “This means our development roadmap will be much faster and cheaper than any other fusion approach,” Dr McKenzie added.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U NSW Campus

    Welcome to UNSW Australia (The University of New South Wales), one of Australia’s leading research and teaching universities. At UNSW, we take pride in the broad range and high quality of our teaching programs. Our teaching gains strength and currency from our research activities, strong industry links and our international nature; UNSW has a strong regional and global engagement.

    In developing new ideas and promoting lasting knowledge we are creating an academic environment where outstanding students and scholars from around the world can be inspired to excel in their programs of study and research. Partnerships with both local and global communities allow UNSW to share knowledge, debate and research outcomes. UNSW’s public events include concert performances, open days and public forums on issues such as the environment, healthcare and global politics. We encourage you to explore the UNSW website so you can find out more about what we do.

     
      • richardmitnick 2:40 pm on February 23, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Many people could not find this article. I had over 2000 views on the article in the blog. But not one signed up to receive the blog. I notified UNSW of the problem.

        Like

    • Mark Peak 10:11 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

      Richard,
      I’m happy to receive your blog. There did not appear to be link to request it. I am very interested in seeing the advances in more environmentally friendly forms of energy and being kept abreast of what is discovered and can be made available globally.

      Like

      • richardmitnick 10:43 am on February 24, 2020 Permalink | Reply

        Mark- Thank you so very much for taking the blog. The events around this article are very strange. Apparently somehow the original article disappeared even though I found a copy. I am in the U.S. but for my blog I follow a lot of universities and institutions in Australia, which as a country is a hotbed of Basic and Applied Scientific Research, just up my alley. UNSW is a very important center for research. I generally do about ten blog posts per day and get around 250 views per day. For this post from UNSW I have received over 3,000 views. I did write to UNSW to let them know about this set of events. I am sure I am not the only person who notified the university. Again, thanks for your interest and your comment.

        Like

  • richardmitnick 3:08 pm on February 11, 2020 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Artificial atoms create stable qubits for quantum computing", Researchers describe how they created artificial atoms in a silicon ‘quantum dot’- a tiny space in a quantum circuit where electrons are used as qubits (or quantum bits)., UNSW-University of New South Wales   

    From University of New South Wales: “Artificial atoms create stable qubits for quantum computing” 

    U NSW bloc

    From University of New South Wales

    12 Feb 2020
    Lachlan Gilbert

    In a breakthrough for quantum computing, researchers at UNSW Sydney have made improved qubits using concepts from high school chemistry.

    1
    A silicon qubit high-frequency measurement stage, which is positioned inside a dilution refrigerator to cool the chip to around 0.1 degrees above absolute zero. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    Quantum engineers from UNSW Sydney have created artificial atoms in silicon chips that offer improved stability for quantum computing.

    In a paper published today in Nature Communications, UNSW quantum computing researchers describe how they created artificial atoms in a silicon ‘quantum dot’, a tiny space in a quantum circuit where electrons are used as qubits (or quantum bits), the basic units of quantum information.

    Scientia Professor Andrew Dzurak explains that unlike a real atom, an artificial atom has no nucleus, but it still has shells of electrons whizzing around the centre of the device, rather than around the atom’s nucleus

    “The idea of creating artificial atoms using electrons is not new, in fact it was first proposed theoretically in the 1930s and then experimentally demonstrated in the 1990s – although not in silicon. We first made a rudimentary version of it in silicon back in 2013 [Nature Communications],” says Professor Dzurak, who is an ARC Laureate Fellow and is also director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, where the quantum dot device was manufactured.

    “But what really excites us about our latest research is that artificial atoms with a higher number of electrons turn out to be much more robust qubits than previously thought possible, meaning they can be reliably used for calculations in quantum computers. This is significant because qubits based on just one electron can be very unreliable.”

    Chemistry 101

    Professor Dzurak likens the different types of artificial atoms his team has created to a kind of periodic table for quantum bits, which he says is apt given that 2019 – when this ground-breaking work was carried out – was the International Year of the Periodic Table.

    “If you think back to your high school science class, you may remember a dusty chart hanging on the wall that listed all the known elements in the order of how many electrons they had, starting with Hydrogen with one electron, Helium with two, Lithium with three and so on.

    “You may even remember that as each atom gets heavier, with more and more electrons, they organise into different levels of orbit, known as ‘shells’.

    “It turns out that when we create artificial atoms in our quantum circuits, they also have well organised and predictable shells of electrons, just like natural atoms in the periodic table do.”

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    Dr Andre Saraiva, Mr Ross Leon and Professor Andrew Dzurak in the UNSW lab where they ran the experiments on their quantum device. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    Connect the dots

    Professor Dzurak and his team from UNSW’s School of Electrical Engineering – including PhD student Ross Leon who is also lead author in the research, and Dr Andre Saraiva – configured a quantum device in silicon to test the stability of electrons in artificial atoms.

    They applied a voltage to the silicon via a metal surface ‘gate’ electrode to attract spare electrons from the silicon to form the quantum dot, an infinitesimally small space of only around 10 nanometres in diameter.

    “As we slowly increased the voltage, we would draw in new electrons, one after another, to form an artificial atom in our quantum dot,” says Dr Saraiva, who led the theoretical analysis of the results.

    “In a real atom, you have a positive charge in the middle, being the nucleus, and then the negatively charged electrons are held around it in three dimensional orbits. In our case, rather than the positive nucleus, the positive charge comes from the gate electrode which is separated from the silicon by an insulating barrier of silicon oxide, and then the electrons are suspended underneath it, each orbiting around the centre of the quantum dot. But rather than forming a sphere, they are arranged flat, in a disc.”

    Mr Leon, who ran the experiments, says the researchers were interested in what happened when an extra electron began to populate a new outer shell. In the periodic table, the elements with just one electron in their outer shells include Hydrogen and the metals Lithium, Sodium and Potassium.

    “When we create the equivalent of Hydrogen, Lithium and Sodium in the quantum dot, we are basically able to use that lone electron on the outer shell as a qubit,” Ross says.

    “Up until now, imperfections in silicon devices at the atomic level have disrupted the way qubits behave, leading to unreliable operation and errors. But it seems that the extra electrons in the inner shells act like a ‘primer’ on the imperfect surface of the quantum dot, smoothing things out and giving stability to the electron in the outer shell.”

    Watch the spin

    Achieving stability and control of electrons is a crucial step towards silicon-based quantum computers becoming a reality. Where a classical computer uses ‘bits’ of information represented by either a 0 or a 1, the qubits in a quantum computer can store values of 0 and 1 simultaneously. This enables a quantum computer to carry out calculations in parallel, rather than one after another as a conventional computer would. The data processing power of a quantum computer then increases exponentially with the number of qubits it has available.

    It is the spin of an electron that we use to encode the value of the qubit, explains Professor Dzurak.

    “Spin is a quantum mechanical property. An electron acts like a tiny magnet and depending on which way it spins its north pole can either point up or down, corresponding to a 1 or a 0.

    “When the electrons in either a real atom or our artificial atoms form a complete shell, they align their poles in opposite directions so that the total spin of the system is zero, making them useless as a qubit. But when we add one more electron to start a new shell, this extra electron has a spin that we can now use as a qubit again.

    “Our new work shows that we can control the spin of electrons in the outer shells of these artificial atoms to give us reliable and stable qubits. This is really important because it means we can now work with much less fragile qubits. One electron is a very fragile thing. However an artificial atom with 5 electrons, or 13 electrons, is much more robust.”

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    The trio will look next at how the rules of chemical bonding apply to artificial atoms to create artificial molecules. Picture: UNSW/Ken Leanfore

    The silicon advantage

    Professor Dzurak’s group was the first in the world to demonstrate quantum logic between two qubits in silicon devices in 2015 [Nature], and has also published a design for a full-scale quantum computer chip architecture based on CMOS technology [Nature Communications], which is the same technology used to manufacture all modern-day computer chips.

    “By using silicon CMOS technology we can significantly reduce the development time of quantum computers with the millions of qubits that will be needed to solve problems of global significance, such as the design of new medicines, or new chemical catalysts to reduce energy consumption”, says Professor Dzurak.

    In a continuation of this latest breakthrough, the group will explore how the rules of chemical bonding apply to these new artificial atoms, to create ‘artificial molecules’. These will be used to create improved multi-qubit logic gates needed for the realisation of a large-scale silicon quantum computer.

    Research collaborators and funding

    Other authors on the paper include Drs. Henry Yang, Jason Hwang, Tuomo Tanttu, Wister Huang, Kok-Wai Chan and Fay Hudson, all from Professor Dzurak’s group, as well as long-time collaborators Dr Arne Laucht and Professor Andrea Morello from UNSW. Dr Kuan-Yen from Aalto University in Finland assisted the team, while Professor Kohei Itoh from Keio University in Japan provided enriched silicon-28 wafers from which the devices were made. The qubit devices incorporated nano-scale magnets to help enable qubit operation, and these were designed with support from a team led by Professor Michel Pioro-Ladrière at Université de Sherbrooke in Canada, including his PhD student Julien Camirand Lemyre.

    The project was funded with support from the Australian Research Council, the US Army Research Office, Silicon Quantum Computing Proprietary Limited, and the Australian National Fabrication Facility, with Drs Saraiva and Yang acknowledging support from Silicon Quantum Computing. The Canadian team received support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the National Science Engineering Research Council of Canada.

    See the full article here .


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