modern physics (4)

Clocking Dark Matter...

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Clocking dark matter: optical clocks join the hunt for dark matter. (Courtesy: N Hanacek/NIST)

Topics: Dark Matter, Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics

An optical clock has been used to set new constraints on a proposed theory of dark matter. Researchers including Jun Ye at JILA at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and Andrei Derevianko at the University of Nevada, Reno, explored how the coupling between regular matter and “ultralight” dark matter particles could be detected using the clock in conjunction with an ultra-stable optical cavity. With future upgrades to the performance of optical clocks, their approach could become an important tool in the search for dark matter.

Although it appears to account for about 85% of the matter in the universe, physicists know very little about dark matter. Most theoretical and experimental work so far has been focussed on hypothetical dark-matter particles, including WIMPS and axions, which have relatively large masses.  Alternatively, some physicists have proposed the existence of “ultralight” dark matter particles with extremely small masses that span many orders of magnitude (10−16–10−21 eV/c2).

According to the laws of quantum mechanics, the very smallest of these particles would have huge wavelengths, comparable to the sizes of entire dwarf galaxies – meaning they would behave like classical fields on scales we can easily measure.

Optical clock sets new constraints on dark matter, Sam Jarman, Physics World

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Diamond Nanoneedles...

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Credit: Z. Shi et al., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 117, 24634 (2020)

Topics: Materials Science, Modern Physics, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology

If you ever manage to deform a diamond, you’re likely to break it. That’s because the hardest natural material on Earth is also inelastic and brittle. Two years ago, Ming Dao (MIT), Subra Suresh (Nanyang Technological University in Singapore), and their collaborators demonstrated that when bulk diamonds are etched into fine, 300-nm-wide needles, they become nearly defect-free. The transformation allows diamonds to elastically bend under the pressure of an indenter tip, as shown in the figure, and withstand extremely large tensile stresses without breaking.

The achievement prompted the researchers to investigate whether the simple process of bending could controllably and reversibly alter the electronic structure of nanocrystal diamond. Teaming up with Ju Li and graduate student Zhe Shi (both at MIT), Dao and Suresh have now followed their earlier study with numerical simulations of the reversible deformation. The team used advanced deep-learning algorithms that reveal the bandgap distributions in nanosized diamond across a range of loading conditions and crystal geometries. The new work confirms that the elastic strain can alter the material’s carbon-bonding configuration enough to close its bandgap from a normally 5.6 eV width as an electrical insulator to 0 eV as a conducting metal. That metallization occurred on the compression side of a bent diamond nanoneedle.

Diamond nanoneedles turn metallic, R. Mark Wilson, Physics Today

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Right-Handed Photons...

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Topics: Modern Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Quarks

Note: A primer on quarks at Hyperphysics</a>

On 17 January 1957, a few months after Chien-Shiung Wu’s discovery of parity violation, Wolfgang Pauli wrote to Victor Weisskopf: “Ich glaube aber nicht, daß der Herrgott ein schwacher Linkshänder ist” (I cannot believe that God is a weak left-hander). But maximal parity violation is now well established within the Standard Model (SM). The weak interaction only couples to left-handed particles, as dramatically seen in the continuing absence of experimental evidence for right-handed neutrinos. In the same way, the polarisation of photons originating from transitions that involve weak interaction is expected to be completely left-handed.

The LHCb collaboration recently tested the handedness of photons emitted in rare flavor-changing transitions from a b-quark to an s-quark. These are mediated by the bosons of the weak interaction according to the SM – but what if new virtual particles contribute too? Their presence could be clearly signaled by a right-handed contribution to the photon polarization.

In pursuit of right-handed photons, A report from the LHCb experiment, CERN Courier

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Schrödinger’s Clock...

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Credit: Getty Images

Topics: Modern Physics, Quantum Mechanics, Theoretical Physics

Albert Einstein’s twin paradox is one of the most famous thought experiments in physics. It postulates that if you send one of two twins on a return trip to a star at near light speed, they will be younger than their identical sibling when they return home. The age difference is a consequence of something called time dilation, which is described by Einstein’s special theory of relativity: the faster you travel, the slower time appears to pass.

But what if we introduce quantum theory into the problem? Physicists Alexander Smith of Saint Anselm College and Dartmouth College and Mehdi Ahmadi of Santa Clara University tackle this idea in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications. The scientists imagine measuring a quantum atomic clock experiencing two different times while it is placed in superposition—a quirk of quantum mechanics in which something appears to exist in two places at once. “We know from Einstein’s special theory of relativity that when a clock moves relative to another clock, the time shown on it slows down,” Smith says. “But quantum mechanics allows you to start thinking about what happens if this clock were to move in a superposition of two different speeds.”

Superposition is a strange aspect of quantum physics where an object can initially be in multiple locations simultaneously, yet when it is observed, only one of those states becomes true. Particles can be placed in superposition in certain experiments, such as those using a beam splitter to divide photons of light, to show the phenomenon in action. Both of the particles in superposition appear to share information until they are observed, making the phenomenon useful for applications such as encryption and quantum communications.

Quantum Time Twist Offers a Way to Create Schrödinger’s Clock, Jonathan O'Callaghan, Scientific American

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