God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll (archmage) wrote,
God of Thunder and Rock'n'Roll
archmage

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Science is Badass

Fastest-ever flashgun captures image of light wave - The description of how it works and why is a hair technical, but still pretty interesting. For those not interested, the short version is that by firing short laser pulses into a cloud of neon gas, the laser gives a kick of energy to the neon atoms, which then release this energy in the form of brief pulses of extreme ultraviolet light. Those laser pulses are only 2.5 femtoseconds (that's billionths of a millionth of a second) long, and the light that flashes off of the neon was calculated at 80 attoseconds (that's billionths of a billionth of a second) long.

Really short version: day-um.

And what would you do with pulses of light that short? Jonathan Marangos at Imperial College London, UK, says the super-short flashes could let researchers image the movement of electrons around large atoms. Can you dig the kind of impact that could have, to better understand the basic building blocks of matter? They've already used it to take take a pic of a couple oscillations of the original laser pulse.

Right now, the "atomic unit of time" is 24 attoseconds, which is the time it takes an electron to travel from one side of a hydrogen atom to the other. Marangos thinks even shorter pulses are possible, saying zeptosecond pulses (trillionths of a billionth of a second!) might be possible. These would be capable of imaging the movement of nuclear particles like protons.

Science marches on.
Tags: good news
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