Reader’s Scigest 05-02-15

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Slowing Light

A team of optical physicists from two Scottish universities have succeeded in reducing the speed of light by sending photons through a mask. Pairs of photons given a transverse spatial structure after passing thorough the optical mask were consistently found to have travelled several micrometres (millionths of a metre) less per metre in air than pairs of unaltered photons. The speed of light in a vacuum, 299,792,458 metres per second, has long been considered a fundamental constant in physics and though the experiment was conducted in air, through which light travels slower, this research demonstrates that light’s speed can be manipulated, which could lead to many practical uses.

The Pirate Bay Reborn

The Pirate Bay is back online after almost two months of downtime due to a raid by Swedish police on its servers. The website, a popular file-sharing platform which was launched in 2003, has often been targeted due to issues relating to illegal infringement of copyright. The most recent raid took place at a data centre near to the Nacka station east of Stockholm. After an initial two-week interruption, a countdown to February 1st appeared on the homepage, with hints that the website would make a comeback on that date. In fact, it returned a day earlier than insinuated, with a phoenix graphic emblazoning the homepage in place of the usual pirate ship logo. However, the relaunch is not fully-functional, with staff unable to access the moderation panel and some data loss.

No Yolk! Eggs Unboiled

Scientists have invented a way to unboil an egg, in a breakthrough that could, surprisingly, have major implications for biotechnology, cancer treatment and food production such as cheese-making. By adding urea, a component in urine, and using a machine called a vortex fluid device, chemist Gregory Weiss and his colleagues managed to restore an ordinary hen egg to its liquid state after boiling it. The proteins in the white of a hard-boiled egg are tangled up by the cooking process and were previously thought to be irreversibly changed. Nonetheless, the team were able to offset the decrease in entropy (disorder) produced through boiling by forcing the production of heat, so that the unboiling process did not violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Photograph: Joy on flickr

 

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