PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE A digest of physics news items prepared by Phillip F. Schewe, AIP Publ

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PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE A digest of physics news items prepared by Phillip F. Schewe, AIP Public Information Number 153 November 29, 1993 GRAVITATIONAL MICROLENSING OF QUASAR IMAGES, the distortion of quasar light by compact substellar objects lying along the line of sight between Earth and the quasars, may explain the long- term luminosity variations of many quasars. M.R.S. Hawkins of the Royal Observatory at Edinburgh, UK has analyzed 17 years' of data from a large-scale quasar monitoring program and reports that most of the 300 quasars in the sample have luminosities which vary semi- sinusoidally with a maximum-to-minimum timescale of about five years. The timescales do not seem to vary with redshift. Hawkins asserts that this variability pattern is inconsistent with any known mechanism intrinsic to quasars themselves and is much more likely to be associated with microlensing. (Nature, 18 Nov. 1993.) Only a few months ago, two teams of astronomers attributed the variability of several stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud to the microlensing influence of presumed massive compact halo object (MACHOS) in our galaxy. (Update 145.) INDIUM-BASED FULLERENES, nested cage molecules made from indium (and sodium) atoms instead of carbon atoms, have been synthesized by scientists at Iowa State University. One typical molecule in this new class has a formula of Na96-In97-Z2, where Z can be nickel, palladium, or platinum; architecturally, it consists of an In74 cage surrounding a sodium cage, which in turn encloses In10- Z units. Such metallic endohedrons (polyhedrons of atoms enclosing other atoms) will facilitate a much more diverse chemistry than has been possible so far with carbon endohedrons, such as buckyballs with lanthanum inside. (Slavi Sevov and John Corbett, Science, 5 Nov. 1993.) ELECTRONIC JOURNALS, delivering information in the form of binary bits to your computer instead of pounds of paper to your shelf, are slowly conquering problems in a variety of areas: transmitting graphics, refereeing, non-uniformity of languages, copyright conventions, shortfall of submitted articles, etc. One example: Britain's Institute of Physics is collaborating with other publishers in creating SuperJournal, a demonstration project consisting of a smorgasbord of existing print journals which can be accessed to varying degrees over the new SuperJANET high-speed computer network. At a speed of 100 megabits of data per second, the network can transmit a page of text in about 0.25 msec. (Physics World, Nov. 1993.) The circulation of preprints, particularly in particle physics, has been widespread for several years, but fully electronic physics journals, with electronic submissions and an exclusively electronic format including figures, are in their infancy and are learning to crawl before they run. For instance, the Journal of Chemical physics puts up some of its articles (with figures) prior to publication in print form. The bi-monthly publication Computers in Physics hopes to shift from print to electronic form piecemeal, starting in early 1994, with a regularly updated summary of physics- related information available worldwide over Internet. The sub-editor for this online service is Glenn Ricart of the University of Maryland (301-405-7700, glenn_ricart@umail.umd.edu)

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