Coldest Spot in The Universe

By Anupum Pant

Where do you think is the coldest spot in the universe. Like many would have guessed, somewhere in the deepest places in space, the temperature would be coldest than anything else. After all, space being so massive, the probability that happening is so high outside of Earth. Probably the Boomerang Nebula is the coldest. At least that is what Google says:

At a positively frigid one Kelvin (that equates to –458 degrees Fahrenheit or –272 degrees Celsius), the Boomerang Nebula in the constellation Centaurus is officially the coldest known place in the entire Universe. It’s even colder than the background temperature of space!

No!

Behold, the coldest temperature ever recorded anywhere in the universe is in a laboratory, here on Earth – at MIT! It is extremely close to what the coldest temperature can be theoretically.

They call it the Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). and the temperature reached has held a record since the year 2003 and in numbers, it is 10 trillionths of a degree F above absolute zero.

And the process ironically involves heating up to 700 degrees celsius to obtain a lots of free sodium atoms. Then, ironically again, they are hit with a laser to make them move lesser. And finally a special kind of evaporative cooling is done to reach nano-kelvin levels. That is how, extremely cold temperatures are reached.

Disposable Paper Microscope Costs Just 50 Cents

By Anupum Pant

Background

While doing my daily rounds on the internet today, I came across this awesome piece of modern engineering – An extremely durable and disposable microscope made out of paper and very tiny ball lenses. I saw it first on a Ted talk that I’ve attached below. Ingenious I say!

What’s new?

Microscopes are no longer those sensitive, bulky and costly instruments which were used to observe tiny life forms. These engineers have changed the age-old definition of the microscope. The fold-able paper microscope or foldscope is an origami microscope that weighs just 9 grams and is designed by a Manu Prakash, a Bioengineer professor and his team from Stanford. Instead of costing thousands of dollars, this ingenious origami microscope costs less than a dollar and is set to transform the way people use microscopes.

Besides being light, cheap and foldable, the microscope is water proof, durable to the extent that it can be dropped from the top of a building without getting damaged, does not require any external power, provides a 2000x magnification, can be assembled by a first grader in ten minutes, is easy to carry and is absolutely flat! What more can we ask for!

It can even project the image of bacteria on your wall. How cool is that! I bet your lab microscopes can’t do that.

It is set to transform the lives of those billions of people living in the developing countries. The piece of engineered paper will change the speed and accessibility of medical diagnosis in the poor nations.

Material and actual cost

Well, as the heading tells you it is a 50 cent microscope, not really. It costs only a little more than that. Still, it costs lesser than a dollar – about $0.97. Here is the material cost break-up:

  • Tiny Spherical lens: $0.56
  • 3V button battery: $0.06
  • LED light: $0.21
  • and a couple of other things like tape, paper and switch: $0.14
  • Total: $0.97

Beta testing: The team is currently looking for beta-testers for Foldscope. They’ll choose 10,000 people who would test it in a variety of settings and would help them generate an open source biology/microscopy field manual. See “Ten Thousand Microscopes signup” for details.

It reminds me of

The incredible cheap microscope discussed above is new and very precise. Until recently we didn’t have that. DIYs on the internet taught us to construct (not really) not-so-accurate microscope setups at home using a laser pointer.

All you were supposed to do is point the laser pointer through a suspended drop of bacteria infested water (or other clear liquids).This is how I toyed around (I still do) with a laser pointer to see hazy pictures of possible micro-organisms:

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Moving Light Captured on Camera

By Anupum Pant

The speed of light

In vacuüm, light travels 299,792,458 meters in a single second. In other words, in a single second it travels 186,000 miles. To establish a  perspective, if I could move that fast, I would circumnavigate the world in 0.13 seconds. A hypothetical jet plane would take more than 2 days to do the same. In short, it is fast. It is the fastest – Nothing beats light.

If you try to record moving light on a home camera, you’d fail miserably. That is because normally they can roll only about 30 to 60 frames per second. In fact, you’d not even be able to capture a fast-moving ball without motion blur, forget recording moving light. To record fast things you need fast cameras that can roll several thousands of frames every second.

In the past, high-speed-cameras, rolling film at thousands of frames per second have been able to record bullets moving in slow motion, bubbles bursting, people getting punched and what not! MythBusters use such cameras for almost every experiment they do.

But light travels a million times faster than bullets. Till the year 2011, to capture moving light on film was considered an impossible feat; and then, a team from MIT media lab invented this.

A 1,000,000,000,000 FPS camera

A camera that can record at a speed equivalent to a theoretical one-trillion-FPS camera was invented by a team at MIT media labs in the year 2011. This camera can record light moving through space, in slow motion! To look at what it can do, you’ll have to watch the video below. In the video, the researcher explains its mechanism in detail.

It is theoretically impossible to craft a mechanical device that can roll film at such extremely high speeds. To tackle this physical limit, these geniuses invented a whole setup containing several cameras sensors that work together to make this feat possible.

Note: In reality, the camera doesn’t record the footage of a trillionth of a second. It is a composite video of lines of different pulses of a laser recorded and stitched together. The time it takes to compile enough data for the video, is more than what it takes the light to travel from one end to another.

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