The planet Earth will die – if not before, then when the Sun collapses. This is going to happen in approximately seven billion years. In the universe however the death of suns and planets is an everyday occurance and our solar system partly consists of their remnants.
The end of stars – suns – rich in mass is often a neutron star. These “stars' liches“ demonstrate a high density, in which atoms are extremely compressed. Such neutron stars are no bigger than a small town, but heavier than our sun, as physicist PD Dr. Axel Maas of the Jena University (Germany) points out. He adds: “The atomic nuclei are very densely packed.“ Compared to atoms, like water, the nuclei of neutron stars are as tightly packed as a bus with 1.000 passengers crowded together in comparison to a bus with only the driver on board. In these densely packed atomic nuclei, so-called “nuclear forces“ are at work. They keep the neutron star together and are responsible for its “eternal life“ – and for the last 35 years the strong nuclear interactions were amongst the greatest challenges of theoretical physics.
Together with colleagues from the Universities of Jena and Darmstadt (both Germany) Axel Maas has succeeded in simulating the strong atomic nuclear interactions to enable its calculability while at the same time preserving the typical characteristics of a neutron star. “It is the first theory for such a tight package,“ the Jena Physicist says. Previously simulations trying to specify the matter inside of neutron stars collapsed far too much in size and yielded the wrong properties time and again – even on the most powerful computers. “These simulations didn't work because there are too many atomic nuclei,“ Maas explains the problem, whose solution the world of physics has come closer to due to the calculations of the Jena researchers. To get there, the scientists did so many calculations at the Loewe Center for Science Computing (CSC) in Frankfurt, that it would have taken a single PC approximately 2.500 years to do the same.
“We weren't able to solve the initial problem either,“ Axel Maas concedes, as algorithms are not (yet) powerful enough. However, the Jena physicist who had been researching this problem since 2007 and his colleagues “reached a new level of quality“. They found a “modification of the theory for such a tight package“, Maas says. And thus they enabled nuclear material to be simulated. Most characteristics of the neutron star are being preserved with the Jena method, but now they enabled its calculability.The team accomplished this big step forward by intelligently modifying the nuclear forces and by solving the stacking problem of the atoms. That they were at the same time ’cheating a bit‘, the physicists freely admit. However, Maas firmly believes: “We found the best possible shortcut“. Now they know “what is relevant for the original simulation“.
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The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
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Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
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The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
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