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Gizmorama - August 22, 2016

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New research has confirmed the science behind the studies suggesting that their might indeed be...a fifth force of nature. What?!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

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*-- New study confirms possibility of fifth force of nature --*

IRVINE, Calif. - New research confirms the science behind a previous study suggesting the existence of a fifth force of nature.

Last year, a group of Hungarian researchers reported the possible discovery of a new type of subatomic particle. Scientists identified a radioactive decay anomaly among the results of their particle acceleration experiments.

The anomaly suggested the presence of light particle 30 times heavier than an electron. The goal of those experiments was to find dark matter, but scientists weren't sure exactly what kind of particle they'd observed.

"The experimentalists weren't able to claim that it was a new force," Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, said in a press release. "They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle."

Feng and his UCI colleagues recently reviewed the 2015 results, as well as findings from similar studies. The new analysis confirms the potential discovery of a fifth force of nature.

"If true, it's revolutionary," said Feng. "For decades, we've known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter."

The original researchers weren't sure whether what they were looking at was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle. The new analysis suggests the novel subatomic particle is neither a matter particle nor a dark photon. A force-carrying particle is the most likely explanation for the radioactive decay anomaly, Feng and his colleagues argue.

In their new study, soon to be published in the Physical Review Letters, researchers suggest the mystery particle may be a "protophobic X boson."

"There's no other boson that we've observed that has this same characteristic," said co-author Timothy Tait. "Sometimes we also just call it the 'X boson,' where 'X' means unknown."

Tait and Feng think the particle may suggest a fifth force of nature as well as a dark energy and matter.

Some physicists suggest a separate sphere of physics, a contrast to the standard model of physics where dark matter and dark forces reside. These two spheres or sectors may interact with each other. The new mystery particle may be an example of this interaction.

"This dark sector force may manifest itself as this protophobic force we're seeing as a result of the Hungarian experiment," Feng said. "In a broader sense, it fits in with our original research to understand the nature of dark matter."

*-- Researchers unveil light-powered caterpillar robot --*

WARSAW, Poland - Researchers in Poland recently unveiled a light-powered micro-robot capable of mimicking the slow, steady crawl of an inchworm or small caterpillar.

The 15-millimeter-long soft robot can scoot along flat surfaces, as well as climb moderate slopes. The caterpillar-like bot can also squeeze through small openings and carry a light load.

Though built by a team of physicists and engineers at the University of Warsaw, the technology that powers the micro-bot -- liquid crystal elastomer technology -- was developed by scientists at the LENS Institute in Florence, Italy.

Liquid crystal elastomer technology allows smart materials to undergo structural changes when exposed to light. The newly unveiled caterpillar robot is powered by green light.

Most robots use complex electric or pneumatic actuators to enact motion. Soft robots powered by

liquid crystal elastomer technology use light-induced deformation to actuate relatively simple motions.

The deformation of the micro-robot's soft body is made possible by a light sensitive elastomer stripe. The light is delivered by a spatially modulated laser beam. The stripe absorbs the energy, while a patterned molecular alignment translates the energy into structural changes that cause movement.

The interaction between the modulated laser beam and the patterned elastomer stripe can be manipulated to trigger different gaits, allowing the caterpillar to mimic the walking styles of several of its living relatives.

Researchers described their new micro-robot in the journal Advanced Optical Materials.


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