If you think dressing for work can be tricky sometimes, just think how it would be if your workplace had areas with different levels of gravity, like a lot of the space stations in A* do (the effect of gravity being due to the centrifugal force of the rotating sections of the station, of course)--skirts might be risky, and hair spray or something similar might become very important.
Anyway hey it's the weekend! And on Sunday there'll be a new page of my weekend fairy tale comic, "The Princess and the Giant"; here's a handy banner link preview thing you can click to go to last week's page, if you need to catch up:
But hey let's have some science! This recent LiveScience article talks about a project that was just done to measure the shape of the electron, which "found it to be as much a perfect sphere as can be measured, down to less than a millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a billionth of a centimeter."
Now that doesn't really sound surprising to you, probably, since we're all taught in high school or whatever that all those little things like electrons are nice little round balls. They aren't really, of course; in fact to the best of our knowledge they're areas of certain quantum states with virtual particles fizzing in and out, with maybe a one-dimensional "point-like object" at the center. So what they were in fact measuring was the virtual particle cloud around electrons, and they did this by "firing pulses of ytterbium monofluoride molecules between electrified plates," and then using "lasers to measure how the molecules twisted within these electric fields to deduce the shape of their electrons." Fun!
One of the reasons why they think knowing the shape of the electron as precisely as possible is important is because in theory the positive and negative poles of the electron should deform it ever so slightly from the perfect sphere shape, and just how much it differs from a perfect sphere could explain some mysteries in physics, like why matter seems to behave slightly differently than antimatter (supposedly the universe began with half matter and half anti-matter, but they can't figure why the universe now seems to be almost totally matter-dominated), and why our figures for how much matter should be around are so far off from how much matter we can actually find.
It appears though that they weren't all that surprised that they didn't find a deviation from a spherical shape, because "the standard model of particle physics currently predicts that any distortion in an electron's shape is far too small to detect, being some 100 billion times beyond the sensitivity of current experiment." Huh! So I guess they've got a way to go before they can really test that aspect of the standard model.
I went looking to see why ytterbium monofluoride in particular might have been used in the experiment, and my extremely lazy search didn't find anything. BUT it reminded me that the discovery of ytterbium, element number 70, is kind of an interesting one: in 1878, a Swiss chemist was digging around in a type of earth then known as "erbia" in a mine near the Swedish town of Ytterby, and he found a new type of stuff in the erbia, which he named "ytterbia" after the town nearby with the weird name. He suspected ytterbia contained a new element, which he speculatively named "ytterbium."
That was hardly the end of it, though! Later scientists found that his ytterbia actually contained a bunch of stuff, which at various periods of investigation was called things like neoytterbia, lutecia, aldebaranium, and cassiopeium. Today, "lutecia/cassiopeium" is known as the element "lutetium," and although the Ytterby mine doesn't get the credit for the discovery of that element for some reason, it *is* credited as the discovery site for a bunch of other elements besides ytterbium: yttrium, terbium, erbium, holmium, thulium, and gadolinium. Seven elements! Quite an important little mine in the history of chemistry. Chemists from the University of Nottingham even made a video of a trip they took there, and here it is:
Have a nice weekend! Maybe discover some elements or something, who knows!