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Physics and Technology
Two years ago a team of engineers amazed the world (Harry Potter fans in particular) by developing the technology needed to make an invisibility cloak. Now researchers are creating laboratory-engineered wonder materials that can conceal objects from almost anything that travels as a wave.
Exploring the realm of physics
Physicists have orbited the Earth as astronauts and plumbed the oceans' depth. Individuals who have studied physics seek to make instruments that diagnose and cure disease, to develop safer and cleaner fuels for our cars and home, to harness the power of the sea, and to calculate the movement of arctic glaciers. A conversation with a physicist may well begin with: Have you ever wondered...
- How the universe began?
- How food coloring spreads?
- What triggers an aftershock?
- About the beauty of a flapping flag?
- How a liquid turns into a solid?
- How cataracts occur?
Exploring the Powers of 10
From the tiniest quarks to the biggest galaxies, everything around us has something to teach us about how the universe works. The laboratory of the physicist extends from the edge of the universe to the inside of the nucleus of an atom. A physicist may work in a laboratory designing materials for the computer chip of tomorrow or smashing atomic particles against one another in a quest to understand how our universe began.
Click on the image on the right to visit the Molecular Expressions website. In their Secret Worlds tutorial you can view the Milky Way at 10 million light years from the Earth. Then move through space towards the Earth in successive orders of magnitude until you reach a tall oak tree just outside the buildings of the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory in Tallahassee, Florida. After that, begin to move from the actual size of a leaf into a microscopic world that reveals leaf cell walls, the cell nucleus, chromatin, DNA and finally, into the subatomic universe of electrons and protons.
Scroll through the powers of ten to learn more about the breadth of physics research!
The Powers of Ten
Size = .000000000000000001 (10-18)
What's inside an atom? What's inside a proton? These are questions asked by physicists, who seek to understand matter on the most fundamental level. Illustration courtesy Jefferson Lab.
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The best way to image atoms is with a device called a scanning tunneling microscope. It is based on tunneling, a quantum-mechanical effect roughly analogous to water leaking right through the sides of a glass. Illustration courtesy Jefferson Lab.
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Physicists use optical tweezers to investigate how the genetic information in chromosomal DNA is "read" during cell reproduction. Illustration courtesy: ghutchis,Creative Commons.
World's smallest guitar
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Six years ago Cornell researchers built the world's smallest guitar -- about the size of a red blood cell -- to demonstrate the possibility of manufacturing tiny mechanical devices using techniques originally designed for building microelectronic circuits. Illustration courtesy: Harold Craighead Group.
Thickness of a Human Hair
Size = .0001 (10-4)
Studies have shown that human hair, a readily available waste generated from barbershops and hair salons, combined with additional compost, is an additional nutrient source for crops. Image Credit:LoreleiRanveig, Creative Commons
Grain of sand
Size = .001 (10-3)
In our everyday world, matter is usually classified into solids, liquids, and gases. But what about dry sand? Image Credit: PhOtOnQuAnTiQuE, Creative Commons.
Size = .01 (10-2)
Insects were the world's first aviators, and to this day their evolutionary descendants perform aerial stunts more dashing than the Blue Angels. They zip past your eyes like meteors, then hover like helicopters over flowers, then vanish out of sight before you can swat them. Image Credit: California Institute of Technology photo by Michael Dickinson.
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Thanks to innovations in materials science and engineering, NASCAR drivers can crash at 200 mph and walk away from the wreckage. Credit Image:Chapman Innovations.
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In September of 2006, astronomers observed the brightest supernova ever, by far. Image Credit: Casey Reed/Penn State University.
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Astrophysicists agree that the best method for avoiding a catastrophic collision would be to change the path of the asteroid heading toward our planet. Illustration courtesy of Windows to the Universe.
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Did you know that there's a new breakfast food that helps meteorologists predict severe storms? Down South they call it "GrITs." Illustration courtesy of The Hero Workshop for Kids.
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NASA and Google have announced the release of a new Mars mode in Google Earth that brings to everyone's desktop a high-resolution, three-dimensional view of the Red Planet. Illustration courtesy of RAIN National Public Internet Broadcasting.
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Motion of both stars and gas about the center of the Milky Way galaxy has provided strong evidence of the existence of a black hole. Illustration courtesy of The Daily Galaxy
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The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013. JWST will find the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Image Credit: NASA
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