BBC: Until now, liquids have been difficult to view at the same resolution as solids using transmission electron microscopes (TEMs), which require liquids to be placed in some sort of container. Silicon nitride or silicon oxide capsules are traditionally used, but they don’t provide a clear view to the liquid contained inside. Jong Min Yuk at the University of California, Berkeley and colleagues have shown that pockets formed in sheets of graphene can be used instead. Because graphene is so thin, it is very nearly transparent and allows for clear, atomic, resolution using TEMs. Yuk and his colleagues used cells made of graphene to observe the formation of platinum nanocrystals in solution. Their technique may allow observation of other nanometer-scale phenomena that take place in liquids.
Science: Yesterday Spain’s national government announced its long-delayed 2012 budget, which includes a severe 25% funding cut in scientific research. The Spanish scientific community was especially disappointed because the cuts were even larger than had been proposed last December and the decrease in science money is larger than the average drop in funding across all the ministries, which is around 17%, writes Elisabeth Pain for Science. This marks the third year in a row that scientists have seen a severe setback in funding.
Talking Points Memo: The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is back online after a four-month long maintenance period. On Thursday, CERN announced that it had achieved the highest-energy level for proton collisions yet recorded in history: 8 trillion electron volts (TeV).
Science: In 2011, Brian Schmidt, Adam Riess, and Saul Perlmutter were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”. The Nobel may not be shared among more than three people, and the three men wanted to recognize the colleagues who had worked alongside them for decades toward the discovery. Schmidt and Riess decided to invite the remaining 17 members of the High-z Supernova Search Team to Stockholm for the Nobel ceremony. Perlmutter invited the 30 members of the Supernova Cosmology Project (SCP). Each laureate was allowed 14 tickets to the various events organized by the Swedish Academy, and Schmidt and Riess had enough tickets to accommodate everybody and their spouses. They gave their spare tickets to Perlmutter. Altogether, the laureates spent roughly $100,000 from the $1.5 million prize to pay for their guests’ airfares, hotel rooms, tuxedo rentals, and other expenses.
Earth Policy Institute: Renewable energy makes up only a small section of the energy market but since 2007 hydropower grew by 7 percent and wind power grew by 36 percent while coal declined slightly says a new report from the Earth Policy Institute. In fact in five US states more than 10 percent of electricity generation came from wind: South Dakota (22%), Iowa (19%),North Dakota (15%), Minnesota (13%) and Wyoming (10%) yet it is Texas that produces the most wind power at 10,400 MW.
SciDev.Net: Agricultural researchers in Rwanda are using x-ray fluorescence (XRF) to determine the mineral content of food crops, writes Aimable Twahirwa for SciDev.Net. In XRF analysis, atoms of a food sample are excited with high-energy, short-wavelength radiation to identify various elements such as iron and zinc and determine their concentration. Of the 15 samples of bio-fortified beans the Rwandan team analyzed, they found 4 to be particularly rich in minerals. The main purpose of the process, which is not only quick but also cheap and nondestructive, is to identify and promote production of nutritious staple foods to reduce “hidden hunger”—the lack of dietary vitamins and minerals. In Rwanda, more than half the children under the age of five and a third of the women are anemic.
Nature: In the wake of the null results from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, some physicists are turning from larger, more powerful particle accelerators to smaller, less expensive ones. At the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Virginia, a continuous dense beam of electrons races around a track, as opposed to the series of higher-energy pulsed beams typically used in many accelerators, including the LHC. Amid the cascade of short-lived particles created when the beam crashes into a thin tungsten target, researchers are hoping to detect evidence of such rare particles as heavy, or dark, photons. Discovery of dark photons could be a first step toward understanding the dark matter that is thought to make up 85% of the matter in the universe. Although experiments like the one at Jefferson Lab are considered a long shot, “it could be that these much smaller, faster, cheaper, upstart, high-intensity, low-energy experiments might actually dig up evidence for new physics before the big monsters,” says Nima Arkani-Hamed, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
Science: Greece’s austerity measures over the last four years have included a temporary reduction in the country’s annual payment to the European Space Agency and a 30% reduction in national research funding. Now Konstantinos Kokkinoplitis, the country’s general secretary for research and technology, is facing a €10 million ($13 million) budget shortfall. He must choose between lowering Greece’s global science presence further or making additional funding cuts to 11 national resource centers. Last month, directors of those centers met with Kokkinoplitis and discussed reducing Greece’s €17 million annual subscription to CERN. One option would be for CERN to pay half of Greece’s subscription this year and be reimbursed in 2013 or 2014. Another option would be to reduce the amount of matching funds that Greece is required to contribute to European Union–backed projects. Kokkinoplitis has started negotiations with CERN to work out details.
NPR: Today NPR aired the first in a three-part series on the history of Silicon Valley. It all started with William Shockley, a Nobel Prize–winning inventor of the transistor, who decided to start a lab in the late 1950s in his hometown of Palo Alto, California, located in the Santa Clara Valley. His dream was to make transistors out of silicon. Shockley recruited brilliant scientists to work for him, but turned out to be a terrible manager. When eight of the scientists he hired went looking for another company to work for, a Harvard MBA named Arthur Rock proposed the then novel idea of starting their own company instead. Rock worked hard to find an investor, finally ending up with Sherman Fairchild, owner of Fairchild Camera and Instrument in New York.
The new company—Fairchild Semiconductor, located just one mile from Shockley’s lab—developed the first commercially successful integrated circuit, or microchip, which became the industry standard. Despite the company’s success, its West Coast executives grew frustrated with its East Coast investors, whose more traditional business plan did not include such things as stock options for employees. So the original eight scientists started breaking away to start their own companies, one of which was Intel, founded in 1968. More technology companies were drawn to the area, and in 1971 a series of articles appeared in a trade newspaper under the title “Silicon Valley USA”—and the name stuck.
Arstechnica: The Square Kilometer Array, which has been proposed for either South Africa or Australia and New Zealand, will be a massive project comprising thousands of radio telescopes linked together. Because of its size, it is expected to produce more than one exabyte (1 billion gigabytes) of data every day—approximately twice the global daily traffic of the internet. To meet the necessary computing power and energy needs of the new telescope array, the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy and IBM announced today an initial €32.9 million ($43.6 million), five-year collaboration to research extremely fast but low-power exascale computer systems. Once completed, the telescope array will be used to explore evolving galaxies, dark matter, and the origins of the universe. But the advances in computing technology that the project has sparked will benefit more than just the field of astronomy.