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Gizmorama - May 30, 2018

Good Morning,

It looks like strange weather patterns might be due to jet stream 'traffic jams'. That makes sense the more you think about it. Stranger things have happened.

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

Until Next Time,

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*- Jet stream 'traffic jams' can trigger strange weather patterns -*

Atmospheric scientists at the University of Chicago believe blockages in jet stream, like a traffic jam on a highway, are responsible for extreme weather and unusual weather patterns.

According to their analysis, the jet stream hosts a phenomenon called "blocking." Like a highway, scientists believe the jet stream has a maximum capacity. When it becomes overwhelmed with atmospheric traffic -- too many air masses vying for space -- blockages happen.

In a new study, published this week in the journal Science, researchers claim the phenomenon was responsible for the 2003 European heat wave and California's 2014 drought, as well as the unexpected path of Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Scientists have known about the phenomenon, but until now, they'd struggled to explain how blockages happen.

"Blocking is notoriously difficult to forecast, in large part because there was no compelling theory about when it forms and why," Noboru Nakamura, a professor of geophysical sciences at Chicago, said in a news release.

While studying the phenomenon, Nakamura and then-graduate student Clare S.Y. Huang realized the math used to measure the jet stream's meander looks familiar. The equations were nearly identical to those developed by engineers a few decades prior to describe traffic jams.

"It turns out the jet stream has a capacity for 'weather traffic,' just as a highway has traffic capacity, and when it is exceeded, blocking manifests as congestion," said Huang.

Slowdowns often occur near highway interchanges or where busy roads converge. Similarly, when different currents converge in the atmosphere, squeezed together by the Earth's contours, including mountains and coastal features, blocking can occur.

Nakamura and Huang tweaked the traffic math and developed a model that can both replicate and predict the phenomenon. While the breakthrough might not immediately improve short-term forecasts, it will help scientists more accurately predict long-term trends.

"It's very difficult to forecast anything until you understand why it's happening, so this mechanistic model should be extremely helpful," Nakamura said.

*-- Scientists propose new laser-driven particle acceleration mechanism --*

Scientists in Japan have come up with a new mechanism for particle acceleration. Researchers at Osaka University dubbed the laser-powered mechanism "micro-bubble implosion."

The technique uses high-energy laser pulses to irradiate tiny bubbles composed of hydrides. As the bubbles are squeezed together, high-energy hydrogen ions are released.

The method manages to shrink the nanoscale clusters to an unprecedented degree. The density of the remaining compacted bubbles is the equivalent a sugar cube of matter weighing more than 220 pounds.

Scientists detailed their new particle acceleration technique this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

"The innermost protons accumulate at the center with a density comparable to the interior of a white dwarf," researchers wrote in the newly published paper.

During the implosion, the ions move toward a single, central point at approximately half the speed of light. This unique phenomenon, which scientists liken to the reverse of the Big Bang, is different than previous particle-acceleration mechanisms.

Unlike other particle-acceleration processes, micro-bubble implosion requires less space and energy. If scientists can standardize the method, the breakthrough could allow for the proliferation of experiments using particle acceleration.

"This new concept will clarify unknown space physics of grand scales of time and space, such as the origins of high-energy protons moving about in stars and space," researchers wrote in a news release. "In addition, as a compact source of neutron radiation through nuclear fusion, this concept will be utilized in a variety of applications in medical treatment."


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