Saturday, March 13, 2010

Blow Your Socks off Science Magic

While researching Magic Up Your Sleeve, I learned some fascinating info about physics, chemistry, and more. I thought I'd share some of the coolest ones with you here.

 Now You See Me, Now You Don’t - Hide and Seek Electrons

Are you over here? Or over there? It seems like a simple question, unless you happen to be an electron. These tiny parts of the atom have a mysterious, magical characteristic: you can measure where they are, or how fast they are going, but never at the same time! 

The Force is with you!

The universe relies on four seemingly magic forces to keep it together. One of the forces you’ll recognize is gravity. It’s the force that keeps you from flying off into the air. Another major force is the Electromagnetic force. It comes into play wherever atoms interact. The third major force is called the Weak force. Despite the name, it’s 10 million trillion trillion trillion times more powerful that gravity. It works on such a small scale, though – inside the atom – that you won’t ever feel it. Last but not least, there’s the Strong force. This is the force that holds the parts of an atom together.

The real magic numbers

If you were a nuclear physicist, you’d know that magic numbers really exist. They are 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, and 126. These are how many protons or neutrons can be arranged in complete sets, or shells, inside the atom’s nucleus. Atoms with “double magic” have the magic number of both protons and neutrons.

What makes the magic numbers so, well, magical? It turns out that atoms with magic numbers are more stable than other atoms.

A totally cool trick of the light

Light tweezers have been invented by a biomedical engineer at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Scot Kuo uses light from a 10-watt laser to grab hold of cell parts. It can then be used to move single molecules inside cells. Kuo operates his optical tweezers using a joystick attached to a microscope. Since the tweezers can move tiny parts without touching them, it helps keep the cells from being contaminated by foreign matter or bacteria. 

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