The tech revolution is no longer confined to Silicon Valley or the California statehouse.
Earlier this week, Steve Case announced that his Rise of the Rest seed fund, designed to invest in innovation in the Mid West and other areas traditionally overlooked by investors, had raised $150 million with commitments from tech executives including Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt. We are, as Peter… Read More
Researchers at the University of Illinois have announced an exciting finding — the discovery of a new form of matter: excitonium. This material is made up of a kind of boson, a composite particle that could allow the matter to act as a superfluid, superconductor, or even as an insulating electronic crystal.
Physics professor Peter Abbamonte and his team worked together with colleagues at Illinois, University of California, Berkeley, and University of Amsterdam to prove once-and-for-all the existence of this strange and mysterious type of matter that was theorized more than 50 years ago. They described how they detected excitonium in the journal Science.
Excitonium is a condensate made up of excitons, which are what you get when you combine escaped electrons and the “holes” they left. This quirky quantum-mechanical pairing is possible because, in semiconductors, electrons on the edge of one energy level in an atom are able, when excited, to jump into the next energy level, leaving behind a “hole” in the previous level. This hole acts like a positively charged particle, attracting the negatively charged electron that escaped.
To prove the existence of excitons, this team studied crystals doped with dichalcogenide titanium diselenide (1T-TiSe2), a transition metal. They were even able to reproduce their results five separate times.
Until now, scientists had not had the experimental tools needed to distinguish with certainty whether they were detecting excitonium or another similar phase of matter. Using a novel technique, however, this research team was able to definitively measure, for the first time, the collective excitations of the low-energy bosonic particles, the paired electrons, and the holes, no matter what their momentum might be.
In other words, this was the first-ever observation of a soft plasmon phase that is the precursor to the exciton condensation.
“This result is of cosmic significance,” Abbamonte stated in a press release. “Ever since the term ‘excitonium’ was coined in the 1960s by Harvard theoretical physicist Bert Halperin, physicists have sought to demonstrate its existence. Theorists have debated whether it would be an insulator, a perfect conductor, or a superfluid — with some convincing arguments on all sides. Since the 1970s, many experimentalists have published evidence of the existence of excitonium, but their findings weren’t definitive proof and could equally have been explained by a conventional structural phase transition.”
Now that excitonium has been proven to exist and has been concretely observed in experimentation, its properties can be further explored and applied. Most obviously, as a superconductor and superfluid, this material could be used to further existing technologies.
Additionally, since analyzing quantum phenomena is what guides and shapes our understanding of quantum mechanics, this research could help to further de-mystify current quantum puzzles. These applications, especially those in practical technologies, are purely speculative at this point, however. It is impossible to exactly predict what the future might hold for excitonium, but we do know for certain that it has more potential now than it ever has before.
Supported by the Natural Sciences and Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Institute for Research on Exoplanets, this research team found a “‘warm’ Super Earth named K2-18c, which has a mass of 7.5 ± 1.3 Earth masses, an orbital period of 9 days, and a semi-major axis roughly 2.4 times smaller than K2-18b,” according to Universe Today.
The team had not detected the planet earlier alongside K2-18b because the two exoplanets, while they are within the same system, do not lie on the same orbital plane.
As we discover more and more exoplanets, especially those found to be Earth-like, the question is inevitably raised: “could there be alien life?” But within that question lies another: “what might alien life even look like?”
Recently, scientists discovered bacterial species in Antarctica that survive on air alone. Our understanding of what constitutes life and what life requires to survive is expanding and changing all the time. K2-18c does not lie within what we currently define as the habitable zone, but the possibility for life to exist is still there. According to Ph.D. student Ryan Cloutier, who led the research, “with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) we can probe the atmosphere and see whether it has an extensive atmosphere or it’s a planet covered in water.”
As we continue to learn more about these and other exoplanets, and as we continue to expand our knowledge of what constitutes life, we can get a better idea of what aliens might look like. Some Oxford biologists even suggest that they could look more familiar than we might expect.
It’s refreshing, in this difficult time, when technology and the tech industry seem trapped in a quicksand of endless ethical compromises and disconcerting emergent properties, to come across something tech-related of which one can say, awed, without complications or caveats: holy shit this is amazing. Which happened to me today! Let me share it with you. The Flying Eye Hospital,… Read More
Far from just being bad news for polar bears or vulnerable island chains, melting Arctic sea ice caps can affect areas a long way from the Arctic region, bringing not only higher sea levels, but also severe drought. This may be the case for California, which could see its already extreme lack of water getting worse in the coming decades, according to researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
In a study published today in Nature Communications, climatologist Ivana Cvijanovic and her team found that shrinking glaciers in the Arctic can modify atmospheric temperatures over the tropical Pacific. In turn, this heat imbalance can push rain-rich clouds away from California towards Alaska and Canada.
“On average, when considering the 20-year mean, we find a 10-15 percent decrease in California’s rainfall. However, some individual years could become much drier, and others wetter,” Cvijanovic said in a press release.
The unprecedented drought that hit the region between 2012 and 2016 was attributed to a Pacific high pressure system known as the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge. “It’s the main reason we’re in a drought,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California. “It’s the persistence of this ridge during the winter months.”
Although the study doesn’t attempt to explain the most recent drought, Cvijanovic said that examining past droughts illustrates what Californians should prepare for in the near future.
The researchers simulated an ice-free Arctic season and compared the model with the sea ice conditions at the end of the twentieth century, showing how the changes reverberated across the planet and diverted rainfall from drought stricken California.
“While more research should be done, we should be aware that an increasing number of studies, including this one, suggest that the loss of Arctic sea ice cover is not only a problem for remote Arctic communities, but could affect millions of people worldwide. Arctic sea ice loss could affect us, right here in California,” said Cvijanovic.