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Applied physics


Early Strikes Against Missiles Doomed

A key component of the U.S. National Missile Defense plan is a pipe dream, according to a new study by the American Physical Society (APS). At a press conference today, the authors of the report shot down arguments for intercepting ballistic missiles in the early phase of their flight, calling … More


Plonk Your Atom Down Right Here

Nanotechnologists dream of creating wild new electronic technologies by wiring individual atoms and molecules into complex circuits. That dream may be closer to reality now that a team of physicists has figured out how to replace individual silicon atoms with phosphorus atoms on the surface of a chip. For more … More


Catching More Rays

A new semiconductor may lead to improved solar cells that capture a wider range of sunlight’s energy–and pump out more electricity. When sunlight strikes a semiconductor solar cell, energy from the photons knocks loose electrons in the semiconductor, allowing current to flow. But only particular bands of wavelengths have just … More


Doppler Done Backward

You’re daydreaming at a railroad crossing while a train whistles past. As the engine passes, you expect to hear the pitch drop as the Doppler effect dictates. Instead, it rises. Your eyes widen. What gives? Ask Nigel Seddon and Trevor Bearpark, physicists with the R&D arm of BAE Systems, a … More


Southpaw Lens Rules the Waves

For centuries, microscopes, eyeglasses, and magnifying glasses have been limited by the laws of optics: No matter how good their lenses, details smaller than a wavelength of light are lost. Undaunted, physicists have built a different breed of lens with the potential for perfect resolution. The new lens, which George … More


Magnets Meddle With Melting

In a strong magnetic field, ice melts at a higher temperature than normal, a team of physicists has discovered. The effect is tiny–no household magnet is going to stave off the thawing of your freezer contents in a power failure – but is still a thousand times more than theory … More


Thinking Bubbles?

For years, scientists have been working to develop “labs on a chip,” portable devices that would perform complex analyses usually only possible in a chemistry laboratory. Such tools would also allow testing of extremely small amounts of expensive or hazardous materials. Now, researchers say a new technology that relies on … More


Presto, Instant Sunglasses!

Researchers have developed a material that almost instantaneously changes from clear to dark blue when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light, and it just as quickly reverts to clear when the light is turned off. The new material, one of a class called photochromics, could be useful in optical data storage … More


Invisibility Cloak for Almost-Visible Light

An invisibility cloak that works for visible light might soon be in sight, now that a team has made one that works for the slightly longer wavelengths of near-infrared light. The cloak is only about a micrometer in size–a little snug for Harry Potter–but other researchers say it’s a major … More


Lasers Make Light Bulbs Shine Brighter

Tired of dealing with those newfangled fluorescent and halogen bulbs that tend to blow out and can’t quite handle dimmer switches? You might just find solace from an old and trusted source: incandescent lights. A team of physicists has discovered a way to double the efficiency of these ordinary light … More