From weird antimatter to experimentations that tie light up in knots, physics has exposed some mysterious sides of our physical world. Below are five of the most mind-blowing latest discoveries.
One of the weirdest predictions of quantum mechanics is that particles can turn out to be "entangled" so that even after they are separated in space, when an action is made on one particle, the other paired particle reacts instantly. In June 2009 researchers claimed they had measured entanglement in a new type of system – two detached pairs of vibrating particles. Earlier experiments had entangled the internal properties of particles, for example spin states, but this was the first time ever researchers had entangled the particles' outline of motion, which is a system that look like the larger, everyday world.
Knots of light
Light may appear to travel a straight line, but sometimes it gets warped into knots. In January 2010 scientists testified using a computer-controlled hologram to twist beams of laser light into pretzel form. The holograms, which direct the course of light, were particularly made to send light in definite directions and shapes. The scientists used a field of mathematics called knot theory to study the resulting loops. These knots of light, called optical vortices, may have several implications for future laser devices, the physicists said.
New antimatter particle
By smashing particles together at nearly to the speed of light inside an atom smasher, researchers produced a never-before-seen kind of matter: an anti-hypertriton. This particle is bizarre in numerous ways. Firstly, it's not normal matter, but its weird opposite, called antimatter, which crushes whenever it comes into contact with regular mass. Secondly, the anti-hypertriton is what's termed a "strange" particle, meaning it comprises an uncommon building block called a strange quark, which does not exist in in the protons and neutrons that make up regular atoms.
The experiment was conducted at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. The results were announced back in 2010.
Light bends matter
While it's quite easy to see matter bending light – for example, just look through an ordinary prism – it's quite rare to catch light bending matter. But scientists saw just that in an experiment conducted back in March 2010. Scientists assembled flat ribbons of nanoparticles – minute bits of matter merely billionths of a meter long – in a dark laboratory. Then when the ribbons were suddenly exposed to light, they bent up into spirals. The outcomes can help engineers design new kinds of optics and electronics.
Amazing particle triplets
Using lithium atoms, researchers re-formed an ancient mathematical symbol that had been seen as far back as the second century in the ancient Afghan Buddhist art. The sign, called the Borromean rings, shows three rings connected together. If any ring were detached, they would all come apart.
Physicists projected that particles should be able to custom this similar arrangement, but no one had been able to accomplish it until back in 2010 40 years after the prediction.