That's the conclusion of Brad Sherrill, professor of physics at Michigan State University, who says that the relatively new ability to create novel forms of atomic nuclei may be one of the great, underappreciated transformations in the physical sciences today. Sherrill is based at MSU's National Superconducting Cyclotron Laboratory (NSCL).
In today's symposium titled, "Femtoscience: From Nuclei to Nuclear Medicine," organized by Sherrill at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Francisco, researchers from NSCL and other laboratories will describe the potential effects in several familiar fields: astrophysics, medicine and national security.
Ernest Rutherford discovered the nuclear nature of matter in the early 1900s. For most of history that followed, scientists curious about the dense knots of protons and neutrons that comprise atomic nuclei have for the most part been limited to studying the roughly 300 stable isotopes that exist in nature.
That's not the case anymore.
Thanks to existing and planned accelerator technology in physics laboratories around the world, scientists may soon have several thousand isotopes at their disposal.
"We're starting to realize that the future of many different disciplines is going to be impacted by this," said Sherrill.
David Dean, a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, will address the links to the decidedly unfamiliar and fuzzy world of mesoscopic science – the study of self-organization and complexity arising from elementary interactions among many dozens or hundreds of particles. A better grasp of mesoscopic science may help advance the field of quantum computing, among others.
The symposium's title is an allusion to the fact that nuclear scientists currently can tinker with nature on the femtometer scale, roughly one million times smaller than what is used to make measurements in the field of nanotechnology.
The comparison to nanotechnology, or at least to the broader realm of nanoscience, is apt in another sense, Sherrill said. Today, examples abound of basic and applied research in nanoscience. To
the casual observer the field may seem to have arrived all of a sudden – a perception that's likely the result of excessive hype by companies hoping to cash in on the latest buzzword – though in fact it is the result of decades of slow, steady advances in physics and engineering.
"In nanoscience, there wasn't one day where scientists said 'okay, now we can do nanoscience,'" said Sherrill.
Similarly, during the last few decades, scientists at facilities such as NSCL and others in Germany and Japan have been using accelerators to create new forms of nuclei with ratios of protons of neutrons that don't exist on Earth. Plans for new, more powerful accelerators will only add to the stable of isotopes at researchers' disposal. Recently, the National Academies released a draft report in December that lent strong support to the idea a new U.S. radioactive beam facility.
For now, the proliferation of such exotic nuclei is mostly helping to rewrite the physics textbooks that Sherrill read as a graduate student. But soon, he said, the potential impact of this work may be far more dramatic.
"Sometime revolutions develop slowly," he said. "You get in the middle of them before you realize it's really happened."
Brad Sherrill | EurekAlert!
'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region
16.03.2018 | American Institute of Physics
Fraunhofer HHI have developed a novel single-polarization Kramers-Kronig receiver scheme
16.03.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Nachrichtentechnik, Heinrich-Hertz-Institut, HHI
Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...
On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...
The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...
At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.
When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...
At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.
Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...
16.03.2018 | Event News
13.03.2018 | Event News
08.03.2018 | Event News
16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences
16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
16.03.2018 | Life Sciences