Tag Archives | molecules

Wait A Femtosecond, I Can See Atoms!

Photo: MSU

Photo: MSU

First, lenses wowed us with a teeming world just too small for our unaided eyes to perceive.

The electron microscope gave us images at the atomic level. We could see the structure of micro organisms, cells, crystals, metals, and more. That was pretty awesome, but those images were static; form without function.

Now, scientists at Michigan State University have created a device that “captures movements of atoms and molecules” according to the university’s online publication MSU Today.

Developed by MSU Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Chong-Yu Ruan, the microscope lets scientists observe the nano world, where material change happens.

Those changes are measured on a femtosecond timescale. Its the unit of time, Ruan explains, that atoms take to perform specific tasks, such as mediating the traffic of electrical charges or participating in chemical reactions.

A femtosecond is one-millionth of a billionth of a second, which is incomprehensible without analogies.… Read the rest

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The Quantum Theory Of Smell

Do quantum vibrations determine how things smell? Are our noses detecting the secrets of the universe without our knowing? Via the BBC, the realm of the senses grows stranger:

A controversial theory that the way we smell involves a quantum physics effect has received a boost, following experiments with human subjects. It challenges the notion that our sense of smell depends only on the shapes of molecules we sniff in the air. Instead, it suggests that the molecules’ vibrations are responsible.

Molecules can be viewed as a collection of atoms on springs, so the atoms can move relative to one another. Energy of just the right frequency – a quantum – can cause the “springs” to vibrate, and in a 1996 paper [the theory's creator] Dr. Lucia Turin said it was these vibrations that explained smell.

A way to test it is with two molecules of the same shape, but with different vibrations.

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