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Photo of a single atom wins science photo contest

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Single Atom Photo

The UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council just announced the winner of their annual science photography contest: a photo of a single strontium atom suspended in an electric field taken by David Nadlinger. The atom is that tiiiiny dot in the middle of the photo above.

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

When illuminated by a laser of the right blue-violet colour the atom absorbs and re-emits light particles sufficiently quickly for an ordinary camera to capture it in a long exposure photograph. The winning picture was taken through a window of the ultra-high vacuum chamber that houses the ion trap.

Laser-cooled atomic ions provide a pristine platform for exploring and harnessing the unique properties of quantum physics. They can serve as extremely accurate clocks and sensors or, as explored by the UK Networked Quantum Information Technologies Hub, as building blocks for future quantum computers, which could tackle problems that stymie even today’s largest supercomputers.

Tags: David Nadlinger   photography   science
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silentpark
5 days ago
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Hamburg, Germany
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A Perfect Rose, a Stepper, an X-Ray Machine, and Thee

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The Day of Compulsory Romance is once more upon us, and in recognition of that fact we submit for your approval an alternative look at one of the symbols of romantic love: an X-ray of a rose.

Normally, diagnostic X-rays are somewhat bland representations of differential densities of the tissues that compose various organs and organ systems, generally rendered in shades of gray. But [Linas K], a physicist with time to kill and access to some cool tools, captured the images in the video below not only in vivid color, but as a movie. The imaging side of the project consists of a low-power X-ray tube normally used for non-clinical applications and a CMOS sensor panel. The second video shows that [Linas] did an impressive upgrade on the X-ray controller, rolling his own from an FPGA. This allowed him to tie in a stepper motor to rotate the rose incrementally while taking images which he stitched together in post.

Watching the interior structure of the flower as it spins is fascinating and romantic in its own right, for certain subsets of romance. And really, who wouldn’t appreciate the work that went into this? But if you don’t have access to X-ray gear, fear not — a lovely Valentine’s gift is only a bottle of ferric chloride away.

 





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silentpark
5 days ago
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Hamburg, Germany
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Garbage collectors open library with abandoned books

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Garbage collectors in the Turkish capital have opened a public library comprised entirely of books once destined for the landfills.

The library, located in the Çankaya district of Ankara, was founded after sanitation workers started collecting discarded books.

For months, the garbage men gathered forsaken books. As word of the collection spread, residents also began donating books directly.

A garbage collector in Ankara browses for books at the library.

A garbage collector in Ankara browses for books at the library.

Initially, the books were only for employees and their families to borrow. But as the collection grew and interest spread throughout the community, the library was eventually opened to the public in September of last year.

"We started to discuss the idea of creating a library from these books. And when everyone supported it, this project happened," said Çankaya Mayor Alper Tasdelen, whose local government oversaw the opening of the library.

Today, the library has over 6,000 books ranging from literature to nonfiction. There is also a popular kid's section with comic books and an entire section for scientific research. Books in English and French are also available for bilingual visitors.

The library is housed in a previously vacant brick factory at the sanitation department headquarters. With an aged brick façade and long corridors, the space was ideal for a library.

The library is housed in an old brick factory at the headquarters of the city's sanitation department.

The library is housed in an old brick factory at the headquarters of the city's sanitation department.

Books are loaned out on a two-week basis, which can be extended if needed, according to state media.

"On one hand, there were those who were leaving these books on the streets. On the other hand others were looking for these books," Tasdelen said.

The collection grew so large the library now loans the salvaged books to schools, educational programs, and even prisons.

"Village schoolteachers from all over Turkey are requesting books," Tasdelen said. The city government also hired a full-time employee to manage the library.

The library is often filled with children of municipal employees and students from nearby schools. There is also a lounge area for readers and chess boards for visitors. The library is especially popular with cyclists who bike in the nearby valley and break for a quick read and cup of tea.

"Before, I wished that I had a library in my house. Now we have a library here," Serhat Baytemur, a 32-year-old garbage collector, told state media.

Garbage collectors started the library with books salvaged from the trash.

Garbage collectors started the library with books salvaged from the trash.

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silentpark
15 days ago
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Hamburg, Germany
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Casting a $20 Million Mirror for the World’s Largest Telescope

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Building a mirror for any giant telescope is no simple feat. The sheer size of the glass, the nanometer precision of its curves, its carefully calculated optics, and the adaptive software required to run it make this a task of herculean proportions. But the recent castings of the 15-metric ton, off-axis mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) forced engineers to push the design and manufacturing process beyond all previous limits.

Building the GMT is not a task of years, but of decades. The Giant Magellan Telescope Organization (GMTO) and a team at the University of Arizona's Richard F. Caris Mirror Laboratory cast the first of seven mirrors back in 2005; they expect to complete construction of the telescope in 2025. Once complete, it’s expected to be the largest telescope in the world. The seven 8.4-meter-wide mirrors will combine to serve as a 24.5-meter mirror telescope with 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. This will allow astronomers to gaze back in time to, they hope, the materialization of galaxies.

Each mirror costs US $20 million dollars and takes more than two years to build. Every stage of the manufacturing process calls for careful thought and meticulous planning. To begin, more than 17,000 kilograms of special glass are ordered and inspected for flaws. Next, a crew must build a 15-metric ton ceramic structure to serve as a mold for the glass, which they carefully place one chunk at a time. The glass is slowly melted and continuously spun in a furnace to create a parabolic shape, then cooled by fractions of degrees over the course of three months. And that’s only the beginning.

Once cooled, massive machinery lifts the mirror and tilts it to a vertical position. Engineers purge the ceramic mold from the mirror, wait for it to dry, and then rotate it again. They grind and refine the back of the mirror with exacting precision. Then they reposition the mirror in order to shape and polish the front face to within 20 nanometers of perfection—a process that takes about 18 months. Along the way, it undergoes four optical tests, some of which were engineered specifically for this project.
Any mammoth mirror requires much of the same engineering, but six of the seven GMT mirrors have an off-axis, parabolic shape. Producing an off-axis mirror at this scale is a new achievement for the Caris Mirror Laboratory and for the field in general.
Once four of the mirrors are complete, they must be transported to the Chilean Andes, where the giant telescope will be constructed on the peak of a mountain range. Even the transport to Chile will be a challenge—so much so that the teams have yet to decide exactly how they’ll pull it off. Still, GMTO says it is on course for the four-mirror installation and “First Light” in 2023, when the telescope will be turned to the night skies for the first time.

And then we’ll all get a chance to peer into the maternity ward of the cosmos and see galaxies being born.

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silentpark
36 days ago
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video ;)
Hamburg, Germany
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New Year's Resolutions

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Happy New Year! I drew this comic for Evernote.

For more great comics (including a few on New Year's resolutions), you can order my Shape of Ideas book and calendar. They are available internationally wherever books are sold!
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silentpark
46 days ago
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Hamburg, Germany
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Photoediting before Photoshop

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Intricate squiggles and numbers are scrawled all over the prints, showing Inirio’s complex formulas for printing them. A few seconds of dodging here, some burning-in there. Will six seconds be enough to bring out some definition in the building behind Dean? Perhaps, depending on the temperature of the chemicals.
As a youngster I developed some of my own film and studied (but never implemented) advanced darkroom techniques.  I began to wonder if I would ever see the phrase "dodge and burn" used again.

More information at The Literate Lens.  Image cropped for size from the one at Gizmodo, via Neatorama.
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silentpark
58 days ago
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Hamburg, Germany
jepler
70 days ago
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Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
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