This week on the podcast, Mike Lucibella and I are bringing you some of our favorite physics news stories from July.
Some very cool technologies were announced or revealed this month. There’s Vantablack, the darkest material ever invented (it absorbs all but .035% of light). It gives the impression of looking down a hole, even when it’s wrapped around a 3D surface. There’s also the announcement that a private company, LightSail, will test a solar sail technology in 2016. Solar sails use the physical force of photons from the sun to gain speed, the way a regular sail might use the force of wind. Solar sails have appeared in science fiction, but they could be a realistic means of getting around in our solar system without having to pack fuel for the voyage.
Scientists at the National Ignition Facility—purportedly the largest laser in the world—used their laser powers to put a bit of diamond under an incredible amount of pressure: 50 million times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure (at sea level) and 14 times the pressure at the center of the Earth. Scientists believe that at the core of gas giant planets like Saturn and Jupiter, solid diamond exists under such extreme pressure. This is a very peculiar situation for any material to be in, and by studying it in a lab, scientists hope to understand a bit more about how these planets formed.
And finally, a big bit of news for the community of scientists searching for dark matter: this month the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy announced funding for three new experiments aiming to identify dark matter. Dark matter makes up about a quarter of all the mass and energy in the universe, with regular matter (like stars, galaxies and people) making up only about 1/5 of that. Identifying the type of particle that makes up dark matter would be a major step in understanding how our universe came to be the way it is; so this is actually exciting news for more than just the dark matter scientists.
Listen to the podcast to learn more.