Invisibility cloak makes solar panels work more efficiently

Invisibility cloak makes solar panels work more efficiently

Invisibility cloak makes solar panels work more efficiently

An invisibility cloak has been used in the lab to hide the metallic strips used in solar panels, making the devices more efficient at using the sun’s energy.

Invisibility cloaks are made of materials that can bend the path of light around them and so hide anything under them from view. Martin Schumann at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany and his colleagues have used one to create a prototype solar panel with a cloak over the metallic contact fingers throughout the panel that extract the generated current.

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Possible exomoon may be an ocean-covered world as big as Saturn

Possible exomoon may be an ocean-covered world as big as Saturn

Possible exomoon may be an ocean-covered world as big as Saturn

In July, tantalising evidence emerged of the first discovery of a moon around a planet beyond our solar system. Although the exomoon’s existence has yet to be confirmed, new results show that the world may look stranger than anyone thought and may also have been created through some unknown mechanism.

David Kipping at Columbia University, New York, has spearheaded an effort to comb through Kepler spacecraft data in search of hidden moons since 2012. Back in July, he and his graduate student Alex Teachey announced they had found signs of a colossal exomoon that might orbit a gas giant roughly 4000 light years away.

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Celebrate pi day with 9 trillion more digits than ever before

Celebrate pi day with 9 trillion more digits than ever before

Celebrate pi day with 9 trillion more digits than ever before

This pi day, we can write down more digits of the famous irrational number than ever before. An extra 9 trillion digits after the decimal point have been discovered, smashing the previous world record set back in 2013.

In November, after 105 days of round the clock computation, pi enthusiast Peter Trueb’s computer finally calculated 22,459,157,718,361 fully verified digits of pi. “I was really surprised that it worked so smoothly, I was so happy,” says Trueb, who is an R&D scientist by day.

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Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found

Half the universe’s missing matter has just been finally found

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

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Our closest star system may be home to a stolen star and planet

Our closest star system may be home to a stolen star and planet

Our closest star system may be home to a stolen star and planet

Proxima Centauri may be an interloper from far away. The stellar system closest to Earth consists of three stars: the closely orbiting pair of Alpha Centauri A and B, and an outlier called Proxima Centauri.

A new analysis finds that Proxima, along with its planet Proxima b, may not have been born alongside its stellar siblings. If so, the planet could have a better chance at harbouring life.

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This qubit redesign may make it easier to make quantum computers

This qubit redesign may make it easier to make quantum computers

This qubit redesign may make it easier to make quantum computers

The race to create superfast computers is accelerating. A rethink of one of the most fundamental parts of a quantum computer could pave the way for ultra-powerful devices.

Andrea Morello at the University of New South Wales in Australia and his colleagues have a design for a qubit – the smallest unit of quantum information – that could help get round some of the difficulties of manufacturing quantum computers at an atomic scale.

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Mistaken brown dwarf is actually two planets orbiting each other

Mistaken brown dwarf is actually two planets orbiting each other

Mistaken brown dwarf is actually two planets orbiting each other

Finding massive planets is nothing new these days. But finding them orbiting each other instead of orbiting a star is unprecedented. An object initially thought to be a single brown dwarf is actually a pair of giant worlds. It’s not yet clear how this binary system formed, but the discovery may help redefine the line between planets and brown dwarfs – failed stars with tens of times the mass of Jupiter.

This pair of planets is made up of two balls of gas the size of Jupiter but almost four times more massive, separated by some 600 million kilometres, and slowly circling each other once per century or so. The young couple only emits light at infrared wavelengths, with residual heat from their formation, just 10 million years ago.

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Antimatter atom trapped and measured with a laser for first time

Antimatter atom trapped and measured with a laser for first time

Antimatter atom trapped and measured with a laser for first time

Hydrogen’s antimatter counterpart has shown its true colours, and they are just what physicists ordered.

Antihydrogen atoms are made of a positron (a positively charged version of the electron) orbiting a negatively charged antiproton. According to the standard model of particle physics, these anti-atoms should absorb and emit light at the same wavelengths as hydrogen. Now antihydrogen’s spectrum has been measured at last, and it confirms the prediction.

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LIGO should more than double its gravitational wave haul in 2017

LIGO should more than double its gravitational wave haul in 2017

LIGO should more than double its gravitational wave haul in 2017

After LIGO, the deluge. In February this year, it was announced that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational wave Observatory (LIGO) caught the first ever signs of gravitational waves. Next year, the floodgates will open.

Gravitational waves are ripples in space-time shaken off when a massive body accelerates. On 14 September 2015, when LIGO was still warming up, an unmistakably huge gravitational wave hit. The signal came from a pair of black holes about 30 times the mass of the sun do-si-doing around each other. Their dance got faster and faster until they crashed together and merged into a single, larger black hole. Then, last December, we saw another one.

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