A Little Bit Of Science History Repeating Itself: Boyle’s List

In a recent blog post, [Benjamin Breen] makes an interesting case that 2023 might go down in history as the start of a scientific revolution, and that’s even if LK-99 turns out to be a dud. He points to several biomedical, quantum computing, and nuclear fusion news items this year as proof.

However, we aren’t as convinced that these things are here to stay. Sure, LK-99 was debunked pretty quickly, but we swim in press releases about new battery technologies, and new computer advances that we never hear about again. He does mention that we aren’t alone in thinking that as [Tyler Cowen] coined the phrase “Great Stagnation” to refer to the decline in disruptive tech since 1945. Still, [Benjamin] argues that people never know when they live through a scientific revolution and that the rate of science isn’t as important as the impact of it.

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(a) Structure of the discharged capillary to produce the curved and straight plasma channel. (b) Spectrum distribution and calculated profile of the plasma density along the radial direction at the entrance of the discharged capillary. (c) Experimental setup for the measurements of laser guiding and electron acceleration. (Credit: Xinzhe Zhu et al., 2023)

Accelerating Electrons To TeV Levels Using Curved Laser Beams

There are many applications for particle accelerators, even outside research facilities, but for the longest time they have been large, cumbersome machines, not to mention very expensive to operate. Here laser wakefield accelerators (LWFAs) are a promising alternative, which uses lasers to create accelerated particles along the wake in a plasma field. One of the major struggles has been with reinjecting the thus accelerated particles into another stage of a multi-stage accelerator, which would be required to obtain energies closer to one TeV. In this area researchers have now demonstrated a way around this, by using curved channels for the laser beams (paywalled paper) which inject the laser beam into the continuous cavity. Continue reading “Accelerating Electrons To TeV Levels Using Curved Laser Beams”

Miners Vs NASA: It’s A Nevada Showdown

Mining projects are approved or disapproved based on all kinds of reasons. There are economic concerns, logistical matters, and environmental considerations to be made. Mining operations can be highly polluting, or they can have outsized effects on a given area by sheer virtue of the material they remove or the byproducts they leave behind.

For a proposed lithium mining operation north of Las Vegas, though, an altogether stranger objection has arisen. NASA has been using the plot of land as a calibration tool, and it doesn’t want any upstart miners messing with its work. 

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Demo Relativity For A C-Note

If you are a science fiction fan, you probably hate the theory of relativity. After all, how can the Enterprise get to a new star system every week if you can’t go faster than the speed of light? [Nick Lucid] wants to set you straight: it is real, and you can prove it to yourself for under $100.

The idea uses muons created in our atmosphere by cosmic rays colliding with gasses in the atmosphere. So how do you detect muons yourself? [Nick] shows you how to do it with a fish tank, dry ice, and rubbing alcohol. If that sounds like a cloud chamber, you aren’t wrong.

A cloud chamber is undeniably cool, but how does it prove relativity? You’ll see several kinds of particles interacting with your cloud chamber, but you can tell which ones are muons by the size and motion of the streaks. The muons don’t last very long. So you’d expect very few muons to make it to the surface of the Earth. But they not only reach the surface but go deep under it, as well.

So how do you explain it? Relatively. The muon experiences its average 2.2 microseconds lifetime in what appears to us to be over 150 microseconds, even if it is moving relatively slowly for a muon. Some muons are faster or live longer, so we see a lot of them hit the Earth every minute of every day. This is due to time dilation and also explains length contraction because the muon moves at a certain speed, yet it appears to go further to us than to the muon.

Coincidentally, we recently discussed this same effect relative to using muons for underground navigation. If you want an easier way to count muons with a computer, you can build a detector for about the same price as the cloud chamber.

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What Is A Schumann Resonance And Why Am I Being Offered A 7.83Hz Oscillator?

Something that probably unites many Hackaday readers is an idle pursuit of browsing AliExpress for new pieces of tech. Perhaps it’s something akin to social media doomscrolling without the induced anger, and it’s certainly entertaining to see some of the weird and wonderful products that can be had for a few dollars and a couple of weeks wait. Every now and then something pops up that deserves a second look, and it’s one of those that has caught my attention today. Why am I being offered planar PCB coils with some electronics, described as “Schumann resonators”? What on earth is Schumann resonance, anyway? Continue reading “What Is A Schumann Resonance And Why Am I Being Offered A 7.83Hz Oscillator?”

Huygens’ Telescopes Weren’t Very Good, Now We Think We Know Why

[Christiaan Huygens] was a pretty decent mathematician and scientist by the standards of the 17th century. However, the telescopes he built were considered to be relatively poor in quality for the period. Now, as reported by Science News, we may know why. The well-known Huygens may have needed corrective glasses all along.

Much of Huygens’ astronomical work concerned Saturn.

Huygens is known for, among other things, his contribution to astronomy. He discovered Titan, the largest moon of Saturn, and also studied the planet’s rings. He achieved this despite telescopes that were described at the time as fuzzy or blurrier than they otherwise should have been.

Huygens built two-lens telescopes, and would keep a table of which lenses to combine for different magnification levels. However, his calculations don’t align well with today’s understanding of optics. As it turns out, Huygens may have been nearsighted, which would account for why his telescopes were blurry. To his vision, they may indeed have been sharp, due to the nature of his own eyes. Supporting this are contemporary accounts that suggest Huygens father was nearsighted, with the condition perhaps running in the family. According to calculations by astronomer Alexander Pietrow, Huygens may have had 20/70 vision, in which he could only read at 20 feet what a person with “normal” vision could read from 70 feet away.

It’s a theory that answers a mildly-interesting mystery from many hundreds of years ago. These days, our troubles with telescopes are altogether more complex. If only a simple pair of glasses could solve NASA’s problems!

Glowscope Reduces Microscope Cost By Orders Of Magnitude

As smartphones become more ubiquitous in society, they are being used in plenty of ways not imaginable even ten or fifteen years ago. Using its sensors to gather LIDAR information, its GPS to get directions, its microphone to instantly translate languages, or even use its WiFi and cellular radios to establish a wireless hotspot are all things which would have taken specialized hardware not more than two decades ago. The latest disruption may be in microscopy, as this build demonstrates a microscope that would otherwise be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The microscope is a specialized device known as a fluorescence microscope, which uses a light source to excite fluorescent molecules in a sample which can illuminate structures that would otherwise be invisible under a regular microscope. For this build, the light is provided by readily-available LED lighting as well as optical filters typically used in stage lighting, as well as a garden-variety smartphone. With these techniques a microscope can be produced for around $50 USD that has 10 µm resolution.

While these fluorescence microscopes do have some limitations compared to units in the hundred-thousand-dollar range, perhaps unsurprisingly, they are fairly impressive for such a low-cost alternative. More details about these builds can also be found in their research paper published in Nature. Even without the need for fluorescence microscopy, a smartphone has been shown to be a fairly decent optical microscope, provided you have the right hardware to supplement the phone’s camera.