Roughly 15 billion years ago, during the Big Bang, equal amounts of matter and anti-matter should have been created, with an anti-particle for every particle created. Yet when matter and anti-matter meet, they both disappear in a flash of light, so why didn’t they annihilate each other completely? For some reason, during the first moments of the Big Bang, although lots of matter and anti-matter did meet and annihilate, we were left with a slight surplus of matter, which makes up the Universe today. Whilst grateful for our existence, scientists have been struggling for many years to find an explanation. A new laboratory just completed at the University of Sussex will test one of the possible answers.
The researchers at Sussex believe that the surviving matter must have a special kind of asymmetry in order to explain its survival. They think that the negative charge of the electron must be pushed over to one side instead of being centred. This offset is so tiny, that even if the electron were enlarged to the size of the Earth, the offset would only be the size of an atom. A similar effect is predicted in the neutron where the positive and negative charges within it may also be displaced. It could be thanks to this tiny effect, called an electric dipole moment that the Universe itself exists.
Scientific theory can predict how big this electric dipole moment should be, but to actually look for it, researchers need the latest in low temperature equipment and lasers. The new laboratory, the Centre for the Measurement of Particle Electric Dipole Moments, has been equipped with a £1.7 million award from the Joint Infrastructure Fund and offers the
possibility of a breakthrough in the near future.
Julia Maddock | alphagalileo
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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.
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...
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