Cosmic strings are predicted by high energy physics theories, including superstring theory. This is based on the idea that particles are not just little points, but tiny vibrating bits of string Cosmic strings are predicted to have extraordinary amounts of mass - perhaps as much as the mass of the Sun - packed into each metre of a tube whose width is less a billion billionth of the size of an atom.
Lead researcher Dr Mark Hindmarsh, Reader in Physics at the University of Sussex, said: “This is an exciting result for physicists. Cosmic strings are relics of the very early Universe and signposts that would help construct a theory of all forces and particles.”
His team took data from NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), which is a satellite currently mapping the intensity of cosmic microwaves from all directions, and carefully compared the predictions of what should be seen with and without strings.
Dr Hindmarsh said: “We cannot yet see these strings directly. They are many billion light years away. We can only look for indirect evidence of their existence through precision measurements of the cosmic microwave background, of cosmic rays, gravitational radiation, and looking for double images of distant quasars.”
The four-person team are members of COSMOS, the UK's world-leading cosmology supercomputing consortium fronted by Stephen Hawking. Using a Silicon Graphics supercomputer they made predictions of how the strings would affect the Cosmic Microwave Background, relic radio waves from the Big Bang which fill the universe. It turned out that the best explanation for the pattern of this radiation was a theory which included strings.
Dr Hindmarsh said that better data is required before the existence of cosmic strings can be confirmed. He hopes this will be produced by the European Space Agency's Planck Satellite mission (due for launch this year). The results are published in Physical Review Letters on 18 January, 2008.
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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.
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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.
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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!
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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...
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