No year in recent memory has had as much jaw-dropping physics news as 2011. From neutrinos that might move faster than light to hints of the Higgs boson, the last undiscovered particle in the standard model, physics stories stole the limelight this year. We’ve chosen 10 stories we felt were the most surprising or fun, many of which will continue to make headlines in 2012. Stay tuned.
‘Light-speed’ neutrinos point to new physical reality
Rather than breaking physics, the bizarre measurements may be our first glimpse of extra dimensions
Lightweight Higgs opens door to new physics
Two competing experiments at the Large Hadron Collider see similar signs of the last missing particle in the standard model – its lightweight mass points to new physics
Mystery signal at Fermilab hints at ‘technicolour’ force
In April, the CDF experiment at Fermilab’s Tevatron collider reported seeing a sign of new particles that might point to a previously unidentified force of nature. But in June a rival Tevatron experiment, DZero, said it did not see the signal in corresponding data. In December, CDF spokesman Rob Roser said Fermilab physicists were still trying to understand the discrepancy. “CDF has five different teams working on the bump analysis, looking at the full data sample from different angles,” he said. “We hope to have an answer [in early 2012].”
Heaviest elements yet join periodic table
It’s official: elements 114 and 116 have been added to the table, bringing chemists one step closer to the fabled island of stability
Light pulled out of empty space
You can get something from nothing – as long as you are moving through a vacuum close to the speed of light
Why skin is a better lens than glass
Light shining through skin has been focused in sharper detail than if it had passed through a clear lens
LHC antimatter anomaly hints at new physics
The Large Hadron Collider has turned up differences in how particles of matter and antimatter decay that the reigning standard model of physics may not be able to explain
Second experiment hints at seasonal dark matter signal
For years, one lonely team has been insisting that it sees a seasonal variation in dark matter signals – now another group is reporting similar results
Will the universe end in a big snap?
Focusing on a logical but gruesome end for the universe could reveal elusive quantum gravity
Quantum states last longer in birds’ eyes
A light-activated compass at the back of some birds’ eyes may preserve electrons in delicate quantum states for longer than the best artificial systems.
Courtesy: Maggie McKee and Celeste Biever, @ N.Scientist