Ultra-Simple Desktop Device Slows Light to a Crawl

Though Einstein put his foot down and demanded that nothing can move faster than light, a new device developed at the University of Rochester may let you outpace a beam by putting your foot down on the gas pedal. At 127 miles per hour, the light in the new device travels more than 5 million times slower than normal as it passes through a ruby just a few centimeters long. Instead of the complex, room-filling mechanisms previously used to slow light, the new apparatus is small and, in the words of its creator, “ridiculously easy to implement.” Such a simple design will likely pave the way for slow light, as it is called, to move from a physical curiosity to a useful telecommunications tool. The research is being published in this week’s Physical Review Letters.

New Crystalline Structures May Open Door to Molecular Filters

Imagine a mask that could allow a person to breathe the oxygen in the air without the risk of inhaling a toxic gas, bacterium or even a virus. Effectively filtering different kinds of molecules has always been difficult, but a new process by researchers at the University of Rochester may have paved the way to creating a new kind of membrane with pores so fine they can separate a mixture of gases. Industries could use these types of membranes for extracting hydrogen from other gases for fuel cells that will power the next generation of automobiles.

Researchers create highest resolution optical image ever

Researchers at the University of Rochester have created the highest resolution optical image ever, revealing structures as small as carbon nanotubes just a few billionths of an inch across. The new method should open the door to previously inaccessible chemical and structural information in samples as small as the proteins embedded in a cell’s membrane. The research appears in today’s issue of Physical Review Letters.

Cells Dine on Their Own Brains to Stay Fit

Eating your own brain may not sound like a sensible approach to prolonging your life, but researchers at the University of Rochester have discovered that some single-celled organisms essentially do just that to keep themselves healthy. Scientists studied the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and found that contrary to what biologists have believed, the cell would “eat” its own nucleus to rid itself of aged or damaged sections. Though it’s long been known that cells frequently break down and recycle various cell parts in a process called autophagy (after the Greek for “self-eating”), biologists thought that eating the nucleus was strictly off-limits.

Evolution of Galaxy-Spanning Magnetic Fields Explained

Researchers have uncovered how giant magnetic fields up to a billion, billion miles across, such as the one that envelopes our galaxy, are able to take shape despite a mystery that suggested they should collapse almost before they?d begun to form. Astrophysicists have long believed that as these large magnetic fields grow, opposing small-scale fields should grow more quickly, thwarting the evolution of any giant magnetic field. The team discovered instead that the simple motion of gas can fight against those small-scale fields long enough for the large fields to form.

Statistics Help Infants Build Knowledge of Visual World

A baby’s first look at the world is likely a dizzying array of shapes and motion that are meaningless to a newborn, but researchers at the University of Rochester say they have now shown that babies use relationships between objects to build an understanding of the world. By noting how often objects appear together, infants can efficiently take in more knowledge than if they were to simply see the same shapes individually, says the paper published in the current issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Physicists Puzzle Over Unexpected Findings in ‘Little’ Big Bang

Scientists have recreated a temperature not seen since the first microsecond of the birth of the universe and found that the event did not unfold quite the way they expected. The interaction of energy, matter, and the strong nuclear force in the ultra-hot experiments conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) was thought to be well understood, but a lengthy investigation has revealed that physicists are missing something in their model of how the universe works.

New planet detection technique can spot even small worlds around distant stars

An extrasolar planet has been discovered using a new technique that will allow astronomers to detect planets no other current method can. Planets around other stars have been previously detected only by the effect they have on their parent star, limiting the observations to large, Jupiter-like planets and those in very tight orbits. The new method uses the patterns created in the dust surrounding a star to discern the presence of a planet that could be as small as Earth or in an orbit so wide that it would take hundreds of years to observe its effect on its star.

Time to adjust the compass?

Working high in the Canadian Arctic, researchers from the University of Rochester say they’ve found that several aspects of the powerhouse that drives the Earth’s magnetic field may be related. That’s new in itself. But the team also thinks it may indicate our planet’s about ready for a pole reversal, in which all compasses will begin pointing south.

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