Scientists use supercomputer to model plasma turbulence, and solve a 50-year-old mystery

For more than 60 years, fusion scientists have tried to use “magnetic bottles” of various shapes and sizes to confine extremely hot plasmas, with the goal of producing practical fusion energy. But turbulence in the plasma has, so far, confounded researchers’ ability to efficiently contain the intense heat within the core of the fusion device, reducing performance. Now, scientists have used one of the world’s largest supercomputers to reveal the complex interplay between two types of turbulence known to occur in fusion plasmas, paving the way for improved fusion reactor…

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Study reveals shared behavior of microbes and electrons

Here are certain universal patterns in nature that hold true, regardless of objects’ size, species, or surroundings. Take, for instance, the branching fractals seen in both tree limbs and blood vessels, or the surprisingly similar spirals in mollusks and cabbage. Now scientists at MIT and Cambridge University have identified an unexpected shared pattern in the collective movement of bacteria and electrons: As millions of bacteria stream through a microfluidic lattice, they synchronize and swim in patterns similar to those of electrons orbiting around atomic nuclei in a magnetic material. The…

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An extreme close-up on heat transfer

How much heat can two bodies exchange without touching? For over a century, scientists have been able to answer this question for virtually any pair of objects in the macroscopic world, from the rate at which a campfire can warm you up, to how much heat the Earth absorbs from the sun. But predicting such radiative heat transfer between extremely close objects has proven elusive for the past 50 years. Now, MIT mathematicians have derived a formula for determining the maximum amount of heat exchanged between two objects separated by…

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Black hole meal sets record for length and size

A giant black hole ripped apart a star and then gorged on its remains for about a decade, according to astronomers. This is more than ten times longer than any observed episode of a star’s death by black hole. Researchers made this discovery using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and Swift satellite as well as ESA’s XMM-Newton. They published their findings February 6 in Nature Astronomy. The trio of orbiting X-ray telescopes found evidence for a “tidal disruption event” (TDE), wherein the tidal forces due to the intense gravity…

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Grad student creates program that helps stabilize fusion plasma

Imène Goumiri, a Princeton University graduate student, has worked with physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) to simulate a method for limiting instabilities that reduce the performance of fusion plasmas. The more instabilities there are, the less efficiently doughnut-shaped fusion facilities called tokamaks operate. The journal Nuclear Fusion published results of this research in February 2016. The research was supported by the DOE’s Office of Science. The new method uses feedback from sensors for real-time control of the rotation of plasma that swirls…

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The Rising Price of Medicare Part D’s 10 Most Costly Medications

Perhaps surprising no one, researchers at Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at University of California San Diego have found that the cost for the 10 “highest spend” medications in Medicare Part D — the U.S. federal government’s primary prescription drug benefit for older citizens — rose almost one-third between 2011 and 2015, even as the number of persons using these drugs dropped by the same amount. Writing in the July 4 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society , Jonathan Watanabe, PharmD, PhD, associate professor of…

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Moving electrons around loops with light: A quantum device based on geometry

While a classical bit found in conventional electronics exists only in binary 1 or 0 states, the more resourceful quantum bit, or ‘qubit’ is represented by a vector, pointing to a simultaneous combination of the 1 and 0 states. To fully implement a qubit, it is necessary to control the direction of this qubit’s vector, which is generally done using fine-tuned and noise-isolated procedures. Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Institute for Molecular Engineering and the University of Konstanz have demonstrated the ability to generate a quantum logic operation, or…

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