Twisted Physics: 7 Mind-Blowing Findings

Levitating magnet

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Nuclear fusion – the melding of atomic nuclei that happens inside stars – is a long-sought goal on Earth. If scientists can achieve it, it could offer a powerful source of energy with few negative environmental consequences.

Scientists took a step closer to this goal in January 2010 when they announced they’d built a levitating magnet that created some of the conditions thought to be necessary for fusion. By suspending a giant donut-shaped magnet in midair, researchers were able to control the motion of an extremely hot gas of charged particles contained within the magnet’s outer chamber. The density of this gas was close to what’s needed for nuclear fusion, the researchers said.

New antimatter particle

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By smashing particles together at close to light speed inside an atom smasher, scientists created a never-before-seen type of matter: an anti-hypertriton.

This particle is weird in many ways. First, it’s not normal matter, but its eerie opposite, called antimatter, which annihilates whenever it comes into contact with regular mass. Second, the anti-hypertriton is what’s called a “strange” particle, meaning it contains a rare building block called a strange quark, which isn’t present in the protons and neutrons that make up regular atoms.

The experiment was conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y. The results were announced in March 2010.

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