Talking Points Memo: A team of researchers from MIT led by Karthik Raman has developed a device that can store digital data at a density of 1000 TB/in2. That’s three orders of magnitude larger than the storage density of the latest magnetic disk drives. The new device’s storage medium consists of molecules, each about 1 nm in diameter, that were made by combining graphene fragments with zinc atoms. By attaching the molecules to an electrode layer, the researchers could switch the molecules’ conductivity between two values, representing the 0 and 1 of binary data storage. However, the development still faces several difficulties before it can be used in commercial applications. Currently the material needs to be cooled to -22 °C, which although comparatively warm, is not convenient for regular use. The material also has a conductivity differential of only about 20%, which is not a large enough difference to be reliably and repeatedly overwritten. And the material creation process would need to be scaled up as well. Raman believes that it will be several years before the technique will be commercialized.
Ars Technica: Hydrogen is the simplest of atoms, formed by a single electron orbiting a single proton. Because of its simplicity, hydrogen is useful for determining many basic characteristics of particles. One such characteristic is the size of the proton, which researchers have measured to be roughly 0.88 fm. An international team of researchers has applied the same electron scattering technique normally used to measure the size of the proton to a variant of hydrogen in which the electron is replaced by a muon. The muon shares many of the same characteristics as the electron, but is 207 times heavier. Because the technique’s precision depends on mass, the muon measurements were more precise. The researchers were surprised, however, to discover that the resulting measurement of 0.84 fm was not only more precise than the value derived from electron scattering, but also smaller by more than seven standard deviations. What is causing the discrepancy is not known. But if muons interact with protons in a different way than electrons do, entirely new physics could be at work.
BBC: Humans, birds, and seals are known to use the stars to help them move around at night. Now it looks like certain insects may have that ability as well. African dung beetles roll dung into round balls and then push them somewhere to eat later. Because they can operate at night as well as during the day, Marie Dacke of Lund University in Sweden wondered how they find their way in the dark. She and her colleagues brought some beetles to the Johannesburg planetarium, where they watched the bugs perform under different types of star fields. Because they can push the balls in straight lines under starry skies but not when skies are overcast, the researchers conclude that they somehow get their bearings from the stars, in particular the band of light provided by the Milky Way. The researchers report their findings in the journal Current Biology.
Science: Two days ago, a small, Twin Otter plane is believed to have crashed in a remote, mountainous area of Antarctica. Three men were on board—two pilots and a mechanic, all Canadian. The plane had been traveling from the US Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station to an Italian research base, where it was to be used as part of Italy’s scientific program. About 10:00 GMT Wednesday the plane’s emergency transmitter sounded, indicating the plane had gone down in the Queen Alexandra mountain range. Because of bad weather and poor visibility, rescue planes have so far been unable to locate the aircraft. The condition of the men on board is unknown.