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Not Much Force: Berkeley Researchers Detect Smallest Force Ever Measured

Mechanical oscillators translate an applied force into measureable mechanical motion. The Standard Quantum Limit is imposed by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, in which the measurement itself perturbs the motion of the oscillator, a phenomenon known as “quantum back-action.” (Image by Kevin Gutowski)

Berkeley Lab researchers have detected the smallest force ever measured – approximately 42 yoctonewtons – using a unique optical trapping system that provides ultracold atoms. A yoctonewton is one septillionth of a newton.

Surprisingly Strong Magnetic Fields Challenge Black Holes’ Pull

A computer simulation of gas (in yellow) falling into a black hole (too small to be seen). Twin jets are also shown with magnetic field lines. Image credit: Alexander Tchekhovskoy, LBL

A new study of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found magnetic fields play an impressive role in the systems’ dynamics. In fact, in dozens of black holes surveyed, the magnetic field strength matched the force produced by the black holes’ powerful gravitational pull, says a team of scientists from Berkeley Lab and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany.

Confirmed: Stellar Behemoth Self-Destructs in a Type IIb Supernova

The Palomar 48 inch telescope. (Photo by: Iair Arcavi, Weizmann Instiute of Science)

Wolf-Rayet stars, more than 20 times as massive as the Sun and at least five times as hot, are relatively rare and often obscured. Scientists don’t know much about how they form, live and die.

BOSS Quasars Track the Expanding Universe – the Most Precise Measurement Yet

The Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS) pioneered the use of quasars to chart the universe’s expansion and investigate the properties of dark energy through studies of large-scale structure. New techniques of analysis led by Berkeley Lab scientists, combined with other new BOSS quasar measures of the young universe’s structure, have produced the most precise measurement of expansion since galaxies formed.

Setting a Trap for Gravity Waves

In 1996 Uros Seljak was a postdoc at Harvard, contemplating ways to extract information from the cosmic microwave background (CMB). The distribution of anisotropies, slight temperature differences, in the CMB had much to say about the large-scale structure of the universe. If it were also possible to detect the polarization of the CMB itself, however,

Standard-Candle Supernovae are Still Standard, but Why?

Until recently, scientists thought they knew why Type Ia supernovae – the best cosmological “standard candles” – are all so much alike. But their favorite scenario was wrong. White dwarfs don’t all reach the Chandrasekhar limit, 1.4 times the mass of our sun, before they detonate in a massive thermonuclear explosion. Most Type Ia progenitors are less massive, and a few are even more massive. New work by the Berkeley Lab-based Nearby Supernova Factory can identify which theories of the strange circumstances that lead to a Type Ia explosion actually work and which don’t.

Searching for Cosmic Accelerators Via IceCube

New results from IceCube, the neutrino observatory buried at the South Pole, may show the way to locating and identifying cosmic accelerators in our galaxy that are 40 million times more powerful than the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

New Results from Daya Bay – Tracking the Disappearance of Ghostlike Neutrinos

New results about the oscillation of neutrinos – elusive, ghostlike particles that carry invaluable clues about the makeup of the early universe – have been announced by the Daya Bay Collaboration, an international experiment taking place outside of Hong Kong.

First Hundred Thousand Years of Our Universe

Berkeley Lab researchers take the furthest look back through time yet – 100 years to 300,000 years after the Big Bang – and find tantalizing new hints of clues as to what might have happened.

Unusual Supernova is Doubly Unusual for Being Perfectly Normal

Type Ia supernovae are indispensable milestones for measuring the expansion of the universe. With definitive measures of Supernova 2011fe, the same “Backyard Supernova” that thrilled amateur and professional astronomers alike in the summer of 2011, the Nearby Supernova Factory led by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory demonstrates that this unusually close-by Type Ia is such a perfect example of its kind that future Type Ia’s – and models meant to explain their physics – must be measured against it.