Investigating Cosmic Snowballs – Professor David Jewitt, University of California, Los Angeles
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About this episode
Professor David Jewitt and his team at UCLA explore the nature of comets. These fleeting visitors to our cosmic shore are important sources of information, and can help to reveal the origin and evolution of the solar system. Most recently, Professor Jewitt’s team have explained the unusual activity of some of the most distant comets in the solar system.
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Satellites are vital to modern civilization, powering the GPS in our phones, enabling long-range communication, and giving us insights into Earth’s climate and the universe beyond. We now launch thousands of new satellites into space each year, dramatically increasing the risk of collisions. Such satellite collisions create debris that can damage more satellites. Thomas Kleinig and his colleagues are developing and testing a new approach to avoid collisions by exploiting a unique property of the thin atmosphere that satellites travel through.
To understand how the smallest known particles in our universe form structures, scientists need to use sophisticated mathematical models and techniques. These help scientists to estimate the energies of these particles, to work out how they combine and interact. In a recent paper, Dr Eef Van Beveren from the Centre for Physics of the University of Coimbra and Dr George Rupp from the Centre of Physics and Engineering of Advanced Materials of the University of Lisbon review the techniques that have led to scientific discoveries about mesons – subatomic particles that exist for tiny fractions of a second. They also discuss how such techniques may evolve into the future.
Particles of the material bismuth telluride have unique properties: the interior of the particle acts as an insulator, but its surface can conduct electricity. In their recent research, Professor Gabi Schierning at Bielefeld University, Germany, and her collaborators at the University of Duisburg-Essen and IFW Dresden, offer fascinating insights into the properties of bismuth telluride particles. The team’s work may pave the way for their use in technological applications.
In a recent paper, Dr Philip Norcott at the Australian National University proposes a new strategy to improve nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy and imaging, a technique widely used in biology, chemistry, and medical imaging. A difficultly in these applications of nuclear magnetic resonance is low sensitivity and the potential for multiple signals to overlap, and existing techniques may only improve one of these factors without addressing the other. Dr Norcott suggests and tests a novel technique that offers the best of both worlds.
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