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Quantum tractor beam could tug atoms, molecules

Philip Marston

The wavelike properties of quantum matter could lead to a scaled-down version of Star Trek technology. A new kind of tractor beam could use a beam of particles to reel in atoms or molecules, physicists propose in the May 5 Physical Review Letters.

“The idea is very reasonable,” says Philip Marston of Washington State University in Pullman. Although the results are still theoretical, “I think somebody will probably find some way to demonstrate this in the lab,” Marston says.

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Science News

‘Negative mass’ created at Washington State University

Michael Forbes

Washington State University physicists have created a fluid with negative mass, which is exactly what it sounds like. Push it, and unlike every physical object in the world we know, it doesn’t accelerate in the direction it was pushed. It accelerates backwards.

The phenomenon is rarely created in laboratory conditions and can be used to explore some of the more challenging concepts of the cosmos, said Michael Forbes, a WSU assistant professor of physics and astronomy and an affiliate assistant professor at the University of Washington. The research appears today in the journal Physical Review Letters, where it is featured as an “Editor’s Suggestion.”

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Metallic hydrogen finally made in lab at mind-boggling pressure

Jeffrey McMahon

Metallic hydrogen has been created in the lab for the first time, by squeezing a sample of the element to pressures beyond what exists at the centre of the Earth. The creation of a substance first predicted more than 80 years ago could one day lead to superfast computers or souped-up rocket fuel.

“If this experiment is reproducible, it solves experimentally one of the major outstanding problems in all of physics,” says Jeffrey McMahon at Washington State University in Pullman.

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New Scientist


Ripples in spacetime: Science’s 2016 Breakthrough of the Year

LIGO Hanford Observatory

Washington State University researchers and adjunct faculty were part of the international research team that discovered gravitational waves in 2016. Science Magazine recently named the discovery its 2016 Breakthrough of the Year. The achievement fulfilled a prediction made 100 years ago by Albert Einstein and capped a 40-year quest to spot the ripples in spacetime.

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Science Magazine

Building a better microscope

Matt McCluskey
Matt McCluskey

A little more than 60 years after the invention of the first confocal microscope in 1955, two WSU researchers launched Klar Scientific, a company focused on finishing the final details of their own new and improved microscope that uses photoluminescence.

“Klar is German for clear,” said co-founder and Chief Technology Officer Matthew McCluskey, who is also a professor of physics and astronomy. “It’s like we are seeing things more clearly.”

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