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A new gravitational wave observatory in India could challenge what we know about physics

The frontier of human knowledge can be measured in collisions. With the right instruments, you can hear their echoes, from billions of years ago, many light years away.

Sukanta Bose.
Sukanta Bose

Physicists and astronomers are slowly listening to the stories inside these echoes, known as “gravitational waves,” in hopes of learning more about the birth of the universe and the nature of our reality. One of these researchers is Washington State University physics professor Sukanta Bose, who is helping to develop a new gravitational wave observatory center in India through a U.S. partnership. He is tasked with further developing the country’s scientific community by using astronomical research with the help of LIGO facilities (or Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory).

LIGO began as a joint project between MIT and Caltech, funded by the National Science Foundation, but has since grown into the international LIGO Science Collaboration. Its two facilities are located in Hanford, Washington, about three hours southwest of Spokane, and in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. The new project, expected to be complete in 2024, is another node in an ongoing network of gravitational wave detectors around the world.

“Unlike optical observatories, we don’t care about the quality of the night sky,” Bose tells the Inlander from India. “The sites that we choose can have cloud cover.” Instead, the detectors rely on sound, or rather, vibrations, he says.

When two major astral bodies collide, they cause ripples in the fabric of space-time, a model of our universe that combines the three dimensions of space and the one dimension of time. Albert Einstein predicted these rippling waves in his theory on general relativity in 1915, and in the last few years astronomers have been able to detect them.

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The Inlander

Shining a light on North America’s first electron microscope

In its day, a five-foot-tall golden microscope on the Washington State University campus was the most powerful imaging device on the continent. Despite its scientific significance, it has been largely lost from the pages of history.

Michael Knoblauch, biological sciences

Michael Knoblauch, a biology professor at Washington State University, wants to fix this.

“Europe’s first electron microscope earned its inventors a Nobel prize and is on display at the Deutsches Museum, the world’s largest museum of science and technology, while nobody really knows about our instrument.” said Knoblauch, who is also the director of WSU’s Franceschi Microscopy and Imaging Center. “Something of this significance should be in the Smithsonian.” » More …

Laser experiment hints at weird in-between ice

Marcus Knudson
Marcus Knudson

A proposed form of ice acts like a cross between a solid and a liquid. Now, a new study strengthens the case that the weird state of matter really exists.

Hints of the special phase, called superionic ice, appeared in water ice exposed to high pressures and temperatures, researchers report February 5 in Nature Physics. Although such unusual ice isn’t found naturally on Earth, it might lurk deep inside frozen worlds like Uranus and Neptune.

“It’s definitely providing more insight into water at these conditions,” says physicist Marcus Knudson of Washington State University in Pullman.

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Science News

Best of Last Year—The top articles of 2017

Peter Engels
Peter Engels

It was another great year for science, particularly physics.

A team of physicists at Washington State University, led by professor Peter Engels, announced that they had created “negative mass,” which, as they noted, behaved in surprising ways, such as accelerating backwards when pushed from a forward direction—it was created by using lasers to cool rubidium atoms to just above absolute zero and could be used to study challenging questions related to the cosmos.

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New device could turn heat energy into a viable fuel source

Yi Gu

A new device being developed by Washington State University physicist Yi Gu could one day turn the heat generated by a wide array of electronics into a usable fuel source.

The device is a multicomponent, multilayered composite material called a van der Waals Schottky diode. It converts heat into electricity up to three times more efficiently than silicon — a semiconductor material widely used in the electronics industry. While still in an early stage of development, the new diode could eventually provide an extra source of power for everything from smartphones to automobiles.

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