Quantum Gas Reveals First Signs of Path-bending Monopole

Magnets, whether in the form of a bar, horseshoe or electromagnet, always have two poles. If you break a magnet in half, you’ll end up with two new magnets, each with its own magnetic north and south.

But some physics theories predict the existence of single-pole magnets—a situation akin to electric charges, which come in either positive or negative chunks. One particular incarnation—called the Yang monopole after its discoverer—was originally predicted in the context of high-energy physics, but it has never been observed.

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Searching for the Quantumness of Gravity

Brian Swingle’s first passion was condensed-matter physics. As a graduate student, he performed calculations to uncover and understand new quantum phases of matter, such as topological insulators and spin liquids. But then Swingle signed up for a string theory class. There he realized that the condensed-matter tools he was developing could be used to answer questions in quantum gravity, the theory that could reconcile Einstein’s general theory of relativity with quantum mechanics. Read his interview with Physics magazine's Matteo Rini. 

A New Way to Measure Energy in Microscopic Machines

What drives cells to live and engines to move? It all comes down to a quantity that scientists call “free energy,” essentially the energy that can be extracted from any system to perform useful work. Without this available energy, a living organism would eventually die and a machine would lie idle.

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Life at the Edge of the World

Close-up photo of a trencher, which digs grooves in the ice for power and data cables. (Credit: Liz Friedman/UMD)

What's it like living and working in Antarctica? Upon returning from a five-week trip to the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, UMD graduate student Liz Friedman sat down with Chris and Emily to chat about her experience. In this episode, Friedman shares some of her memories of station life and explains how plans at the pole don't always pan out.

This episode of Relatively Certain was produced by Chris Cesare, Emily Edwards and Dina Genkina. It features music by Dave Depper. Relatively Certain is a production of the Joint Quantum Institute, a research partnership between the University of Maryland and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and you can find it on iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud.

New Research Reveals How Energy Dissipates Outside Earth’s Magnetic Field

Earth’s magnetic field provides an invisible but crucial barrier that protects Earth from the solar wind—a stream of charged particles launched from the sun’s outer layers. The protective properties of the magnetic field can fail due to a process known as magnetic reconnection, which occurs when two opposing magnetic field lines break and reconnect with each other, dissipating massive amounts of energy and accelerating particles that threaten air traffic and satellite communication systems.

In this visualization, as the supersonic solar wind (yellow haze) flows around the Earth's magnetic field (blue wavy lines), it forms a highly turbulent boundary layer called the “magnetosheath” (yellow swirling area). A new research paper describes observations of small-scale magnetic reconnection within the magnetosheath, revealing important clues about heating in the sun's outer layers and elsewhere in the universe. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith (Click image to download hi-res version.)
In this visualization, as the supersonic solar wind (yellow haze) flows around the Earth's magnetic field (blue wavy lines), it forms a highly turbulent boundary layer called the “magnetosheath” (yellow swirling area). A new research paper describes observations of small-scale magnetic reconnection within the magnetosheath, revealing important clues about heating in the sun's outer layers and elsewhere in the universe. Image credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Mary Pat Hrybyk-Keith (Click image to download hi-res version.)

Just outside of Earth’s magnetic field, the solar wind’s onslaught of electrons and ionized gases creates a turbulent maelstrom of magnetic energy known as the magnetosheath. While magnetic reconnection has been well documented closer to Earth, physicists have sought to determine whether reconnection also happens in this turbulent zone.

A new research paper co-authored by University of Maryland Physics Professor James Drake suggests that the answer to this question is yes. The observation

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