In Jules Verne’s nineteenth century classic Journey to the Centre of the Earth, an Edinburgh professor and colleagues follow an explorer’s trail down an extinct volcano to the Earth’s core. Ah, fantasy! Here’s reality: For more than a century after Verne wrote his novel, geophysicists have had only one tool with which to peer into our planet’s heart-seismology, or analysis of vibrations produced by earthquakes and sensed by thousands of instrument stations worldwide. But now, geophysicists have a new tool for studying the Earth’s interior, reported in the July 28 issue of the journal Nature.
That tool is a gift from unlikely collaborators-physicists who study neutrinos, subatomic particles that stars spew out, and their antiparticles, called antineutrinos, which emanate from nuclear reactors and from the Earth’s interior when uranium and thorium isotopes undergo a cascade of heat-generating radioactive decay processes. A detector in Japan called KamLAND (for Kamioka liquid scintillator antineutrino detector) has sensed the geologically produced antineutrinos, known as ’’geoneutrinos.’’ This new window on the world that geoneutrinos open could yield important geophysical information, according to the Nature paper’s 87 authors from more than a dozen institutions and four nations.
’’There are still lots of theories about what’s really inside the Earth and so it’s still very much an open issue,’’ said Giorgio Gratta, a Stanford physics professor who with Stuart Freedman, a nuclear physicist with a joint appointment at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California-Berkeley, is co-spokesman for the U.S. part of the collaboration. ’’The neutrinos are a second tool, so we’re doubling the number of tools suddenly that we have, going from using only seismic waves to the point where we’re doing essentially simple-minded chemical analysis.’’
Mark Shwartz | EurekAlert!
In times of climate change: What a lake’s colour can tell about its condition
21.09.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)
Did marine sponges trigger the ‘Cambrian explosion’ through ‘ecosystem engineering’?
21.09.2017 | Helmholtz-Zentrum Potsdam - Deutsches GeoForschungsZentrum GFZ
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy