Category Archives: Chemistry

Test-tube hamburgers: coming soon to a restaurant near you?

Scientists have perfected the art of growing meat in the laboratory using stem cells and believe they will be able to replicate a real burger. If all goes to plan, the first ever “test-tube hamburger” will be sold in October this year.

The gloabl demand for meat is expected to double in the next 40 years, so the mass production of  beef, pork, chicken and lamb in test tubes may prove to be the ideal solution, as well as being able to dramatically reduce the environmental damage of farming.

Only one person has tried the lab-grown meat so far: a Russian journalist who snatched a sample of pork during a visit to the lab Maastricht University where it was being grown. He declared himself unimpressed.

Full story: Daily Telegraph


CERN scientists prepared to retry neutrino experiments; Jim Al-Khalili prepared to eat boxer shorts

We reported on this blog last month that the laws of Physics had apparently been broken, as scientists at CERN had seemed to make neutrinos travel faster than the speed of light. Einstein’s theory of relativity – along with our entire understanding of the Universe – would have to be completely re-written.

This has turned out to be a controversial and unpopular finding; the validity and reliability of the test have been heavily questioned by Physicists. It is for this reason that the scientists at CERN are set to fine-tune and repeat the test, to make sure they haven’t just made a mistake.

In the original test, a beam of neutrinos were sent on a 720km underground journey from Geneva to San Grasso, and were recorded to turn up sixty-billionths of a second faster than a beam of light would have done. This led to the conclusion that the speed of light (the speed limit of the Universe) had been broken.

Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Physicist and TV presenter (pictured left), believes the result is an error and will be proved wrong. Summing up the general attitude of Physicists everywhere, he confidently announced to the media: “If the Cern experiment proves to be correct and neutrinos have broken the speed of light, I will eat my boxer shorts on live TV.”

The test is scheduled to be repeated before the end of this year. This gives the CERN scientists time to refine their method and calculations, and (as expected by many) conclude that neutrinos cannot travel faster than light. It also gives Professor Al-Khalili some time to invest in some chocolate boxer shorts, just in case.

Full story: The Guardian

Quantum Physicists show that heat can cool

Quantm Physics is one of those things that defies logic. It deals with the way sub-atomic particles behave, and always produces truly bizaare findings. It states that matter and energy are the same thing, light can either be a wave or a particle depending on how we observe it, and electrons can be in two places at once. Simply put: on the quantum scale, things get weird. So perhaps it’s no surprise that Quantum Physicists in Germany have made a discovery that will seem somwhat counter-intuitive and surreal.

For the best part of 30 years, scientists have been able to cool down gases of atoms using laser light. If the light is coherent, the atoms will absorb and emit electrons, lose momentum, and the gas cools down. If, on the other hand, the laser light is incoherent, the gas will become heated. Makes sense so far? “Coherent” laser light is “cold”, “incoherent” laser light is “hot”.

But now, researchers at the Freie Universitaet Berlin have found a way to cool a mechanical quantum oscillator using incoherent light. So, in simple terms: a quantum system can be cooled down with a burst of hot light.

Quantum Physics produces yet another finding that defies logic.

Full story: Physics World

How the LHC works – demonstrated with mince pies.

The Large Hadron Collider appears frequently in the science news, and is certainly no stranger to this blog. It is the biggest particle laboratory ever built, and possibly the most significant Physics experiment of all time, so that’s kind of understandable.

But, for those of you who are slightly unaware or unsure of what the LHC is, what it does, or how it works – fear not. Here is Professor Heinz Wolff, explaining how the Large Hadron Collider works in simple terms – using mince pies.

LHC may make time travel possible … to particles at least

It can accelerate particles to within a fraction of the speed of light. It can re-create the conditions of the Universe when it was less than one second old. It aims to find the Higgs boson and produce a grand unification theory, thereby changing Physics forever. Now, the latest theory is that it will make time travel possible. Is there anything The Large Hadron Collider can’t do? 

It should be noted that this theoretical “time travel” will occur only on the microscopic scale, so the LHC won’t become a magic tunnel where people can dive in head-first and visit the Stone Age or the year 3000. However, it will produce particles that can hop between the past and future: some scientists believe that if the LHC can produce the Higgs boson, it will create another theoretical particle called the Higgs singlet, which can jump into an extra fifth dimension, thus being able to move forward or backward in time.

The scientists proposing this theory admit it is “a long shot”. However, the theory is kept alive as “it doesn’t violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints.” And it remains an exciting theory, as information and messages could be sent to the past or the future if production of Higgs singlets could be controlled.

Full story: ZME Science