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College of Arts and Sciences Physics

The physics of fall

A pumpkin exploding as it collides with the earthWith murmurs and pointing, the crowd watches as a face and then hands—holding a large object—appear in the twelfth-story window of WSU’s Webster Physical Sciences Building.

On the ground, Butch T. Cougar begins a countdown: five, four, three, two… At one, the hands release a 10-pound, half-frozen pumpkin that rockets to the courtyard, exploding in a confetti-bomb of cheers, screams, and a thousand gooey fragments. So begins that nerdy-fun Dad’s Weekend tradition—the Pumpkin Drop. » More …

Physics research heads to International Space Station

Rocket on lauchpad in the distance, seen against setting sunWSU physicists have a new laboratory in outer space. On May 20, the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), a remotely operated research platform, blasted off for the International Space Station (ISS) where it will be used by researchers to probe quantum phenomena that would be impossible to observe on Earth.

Professor Peter Engels and graduate student Maren Mossman will use CAL remotely » More …

Discovery for modifying diamonds could change computing

Marc WeberPULLMAN, Wash. – A group of WSU researchers has discovered a way to modify diamonds that opens up important applications in the field of quantum computing and in radiation detection.

Kelvin Lynn, professor of physics and of mechanical and materials engineering, and his team were using very thin strips of diamond inside a particle accelerator when they made an intriguing scientific discovery — by accident. » More …

Researchers transform graphite into hexagonal diamond

Dynamic Compression Sector at Argonne National Labs Advanced Photon SourceA new study by Washington State University researchers answers longstanding questions about the formation of a rare type of diamond during major meteorite strikes.

Hexagonal diamond or lonsdaleite is harder than the type of diamond worn on an engagement ring and is thought to be naturally made when large, graphite-bearing meteorites slam into Earth.

Scientists have puzzled over the exact pressure and other conditions needed to make hexagonal diamond since its discovery in an Arizona meteorite fragment half a century ago. » More …

WSU scientists help detect gravitational waves for third time

LIGO Hanford from the airThree billion years ago in a distant galaxy, two massive black holes slammed together, merged into one and sent space–time vibrations, known as gravitational waves, shooting out into the universe.

The waves passed through Earth and were detected early this year by an international team of scientists, including WSU physicists Sukanta Bose, Bernard Hall and Nairwita Mazumder.

The newfound black hole, first reported in the journal Physical Review Letters in June, has a mass about 49 times that of the sun. The collision that produced it released more power in an instant than is radiated by all the stars and galaxies in the universe at any moment.  » More …

The matter of antimatter

Deep in the bowels of a large brick building on the WSU campus is a laboratory guarded by red flashing lights and warning signs. A tiny window in the door offers glimpses of stainless steel machinery while a low pulsating hum emanates through thick concrete walls.

Inside the W. M. Keck Antimatter Laboratory, a deuteron accelerator produces up to 120 billion positrons per second—about 10 trillion positrons per day, more than any other university or small laboratory in the nation.

Read the full story in Washington State Magazine >> 

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