space.com: There is a certain type of cosmic explosion that becomes, in a flash, the brightest thing in the universe, emitting for a few seconds as much radiation as a million galaxies, mainly at gamma radiation wavelengths. Most astronomers agree that only the birth of a black hole could supply enough spark for one of these intense flashes, but there remains a great deal of uncertainty over what converts the newborn black hole’s energy into the radiation that astronomers detect.
Recent observations suggest that this “converter” is a high-powered magnetic beam, and not–as many theorists believe–a high-speed jet of hot material.
The Australian: Prime Minister John Howard has decided to take immediate steps to make possible an expanded nuclear industry in Australia, which could ultimately include nuclear power stations, uranium enrichment and nuclear waste treatment. He told Australians over the weekend they must face the reality that nuclear power stations “will come”, probably in 10 years.
Howard is putting the nuclear power option at the heart of his election campaign on the economy and climate change, defying a Labor scare campaign and claims he was committing political suicide. “It’s not political suicide to tell the truth,” Mr Howard told the Nine Network’s Sunday program. “There are only two ways that you can run power stations … in this country. You can do it on fossil fuel or you can do it with nuclear power.
News@Nature: A team of researchers has, for the first time, hacked into a network protected by quantum encryption says Nature’s Geoff Brumfiel.
Quantum cryptography uses the laws of quantum mechanics to encode data securely and most researchers consider such quantum networks to be nearly 100% uncrackable. But, by using a “quantum-mechanical wiretap,” a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) were able to ‘listen in’. The trick allowed them to tease out about half of the data, in a way that couldn’t be detected by those transmitting or receiving the message.
The group admits that their hack isn’t yet capable of eavesdropping on a real network. “It is not something that currently could attack a commercial system,” says Jeffrey Shapiro, a physicist at MIT and one of the authors on the study. But they expect that one day it will be able to do so, if quantum encryption isn’t adequately adapted to stop such hackers from succeeding.
NPR: As Congress continues to prepare legislation related to the American Competitiveness Initiative, a call to increase the number of graduates with science and engineering skills in the US to compete in the global economy, a report on NPR suggest that the majority of engineering graduates in India and China are so poor in terms of skills, that they cannot get employment. In fact, according to NPR’s Vivek Wadhwa a US skills shortage isn’t the reason for so many companies are exporting science and technology jobs overseas, cheap labor is.
Reuters: A mathematical formula can now predict how the frothy head on a beer changes over time, a finding that may have a wide range of commercial uses beyond pulling the perfect pint, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
The formula explains how the tiny bubbles that make up foam grow — an explanation that could lead to the development of products such as metal shrink wrap.
USA Today: The world’s most ambitious particle collider — which scientists hope could reveal what matter is made of — might not be fully functional until next year, months after its scheduled start-up date, officials at the European Organization for Nuclear Research said Thursday.
Scientists have been scrambling to redesign a key U.S.-built part of the collider — located in a tunnel deep beneath the Swiss and French countryside outside Geneva — that broke “with a loud bang and a cloud of dust” during a high-pressure test for the collider last month.
Officials at the organization, known by the French initials CERN, said the possible delays are the result of the magnet failure and cooling processes that have been slower than expected for the 17-mile tunnel.
The aim of the CERN experiment is to make subatomic particles — in this case protons — travel at nearly the speed of light until they collide, emitting a shower of even smaller particles that will reveal mysteries about the makeup of matter.
“It’s possible now, even likely that the November date will fall off the map and we will be going straight into high energy running next spring,” CERN spokesman James Gillies said. “We’re mostly there, actually. There are problems happening here and there and it would be strange if there weren’t at a project of this magnitude.”
China is looking to fuel its nuclear power industry with largely self-developed technology by 2020 as it gradually reduces its reliance on imported technology, a senior academic of the nation’s top science institute said yesterday.
China’s first self-developed pressurized water reactor is expected to be put to use by 2017, Ouyang Yu, an academic of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.
Science: In quantum physics, decoherence is a catch-all term that usually implies degradation of the purity of a quantum state. Over the past few decades it has been used as a guide to understand the loss of the two-body coherence called entanglement, which is an intrinsically quantum effect. In this context, it is relevant to fundamental questions such as: Why is the world mostly classical when we believe quantum theory provides all of the governing principles? The answer lies in the critical role of “largeness”; simply put, larger bodies lose coherence more quickly. This is the essential ingredient in producing nearly instantaneous decay of entanglement between two large bodies or between a large body and a small one. The role of largeness is seen when decoherence occurs increasingly faster with the size of the environment. Preservation of coherence is important in maintaining steady behavior of quantum systems whose coordinated action is critical, for example, among the working units of quantum computers when they become available.
A small body (spin, photon, atom, exciton, quantum dot, Cooper pair, etc.), on the other hand, can continue to behave as a quantum mechanical unit, even if not macroscopically entangled. A topic that remains open in almost all decoherence discussions, however, is the preservation or destruction of two-body quantum coherence when both bodies are small. For example, it has been predicted only recently that the one-body and two-body responses to a noisy environment can follow surprisingly different pathways to complete decoherence. Experimental entry into this new domain is needed, and impressive results are now reported on page 579 of this week’s Science magazine. The researchers have devised an elegantly clean way to check and to confirm the existence of so-called “entanglement sudden death,” a two-body disentanglement that is novel among known relaxation effects because it has no lifetime in any usual sense–that is, entanglement terminates completely after a finite interval, without a smoothly diminishing long-time tail.
R&D magazine: Stanford Univ. and the U.S. Dept. of Energy are looking to ‘turn conventional wisdom on its head’ with the LINAC Coherent Light Source.
About seven months ago, the Dept. of Energy’s (DOE) Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC), Menlo Park, Calif., broke ground for the linear accelerator (LINAC) Coherent Light Source (LCLS). The project is an extremely powerful, $400-million laser, designed to photograph molecules and chemical reactions that previously were impossible to see. And, although excavation crews have not completed boring through the sandstone to complete the new tunnel for the LCLS, collaborators of the project have taken a major step into making it a reality.
Washington Post: NASA Administrator Michael D. Griffin held an unusual meeting with the staff of the inspector general who oversees his agency and then ordered that video recordings of the meeting be destroyed, a House panel said yesterday.
In a letter to Griffin, the chairman of the Science and Technology subcommittee on investigations and oversight demanded an explanation from the NASA administrator and accused him of improperly trying to influence the watchdog office’s decisions on what it should investigate.
In addition, the letter from Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said the order to destroy the meeting tapes, which was issued by NASA’s chief of staff, “appears on its face to be nothing less than the destruction of evidence.”
In a response yesterday, NASA spokesman David Mould said that the meeting was proper, and was a way for Griffin to discuss outstanding issues with the inspector general’s staff and to express support for a strong watchdog office