from the good-for-something dept.
schrodingers_rabbit writes "Despite formidable odds, condensed matter physicists have made a breakthrough most thought impossible — finding a practical use for string theory. The initial breakthrough was made by physicist and cosmologist Juan Maldacena. His theory states that the known universe is only a 2D construct in anti-de-Sitter space, projected into 3 dimensions. This theory manages to model black holes and quantum theory congruently, a feat that has eluded scientists for decades; but it fails to correspond to the shape of space-time in the known universe. However, it does predict thermodynamic properties of black holes, including higher-dimensional viscosity — the equations for which elegantly and almost exactly calculate the behavior of quark-gluon plasma and other superfluids. According to Jan Zaanen at the University of Leiden, 'The theory is calculating precisely what we are seeing in experiments.' Unfortunately, the correspondence cannot prove or disprove string theory, although it is a positive step." Not an easy path to follow: one condensed matter theorist said, "It took two years and two 1000-page books of dense mathematics, but I learned string theory and got kind of enchanted by it. [When the string-theory related] thing began to... make predictions about high-temperature superconductors, my traditional mainstay, I was one of the few condensed matter physicists with the preparation to take it up."
from the why-do-you-think-they-paint-ice-white? dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Dr. Steven Chu, the Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed by President Obama as Energy Secretary, wants to paint the world white. Chu said at the opening of the St James's Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium that by lightening paved surfaces and roofs to the color of cement, it would be possible to cut carbon emissions by as much as taking all the world's cars off the roads for 11 years. Pale surfaces reflect up to 80 percent of the sunlight that falls on them, compared with about 20 percent for dark ones, which is why roofs and walls in hot countries are often whitewashed." (Continues, below.)