The latest in Ph-word: November ’23

Last month had two unassuming but very niche ph-news. Which is the kind that makes me glad. Due to time constraints, though, let me cover them quickly, totally not paying them the respect they deserve.

Atomic nuclei have internal clusters

People at the Chinese Academy of Sciences smashed beryllium nuclei with hydrogens, deliberately knocking out parts of said nuclei. By measuring how all fragments flew, they could get a sense of the original 3-d structure.

And they found that the four protons and six neutrons of the beryllium nucleus actually have a preferred structure, which is this one:

Figure caption
(P. Li/Chinese Academy of Sciences)

Quantum super-uncertainty

The infamous uncertainty principle in quantum mechanics says roughly that there, in the extremely small realms of existence, there are pairs of quantities such that if you can measure one of them precisely, you can’t the other. By the way, if you’re not insanely deeply interested in the philosophy of quantum mechanics, this is the point to stop reading for this month.

Now, an obscure theorem exists which says that you can’t measure one of such quantities precisely, even if you don’t even measure the other one. And in the recent development, the theorem was shown to hold also for quantities that can take continuous values (in contrast to discreet, aka only specific, values).

Personally I’d like to understand better a few details, such as how certain it is that the theorem holds (whether in the original form or in the one now developed by the folks over at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo and at Kyushu University). Because, if it does, it goes much deeper than the explanation commonly offered for the uncertainty principle: that the act of measurement inevitably disturbs the system that you try to measure.

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