Physicists create a quantum rotor that makes 60 billion revolutions per minute

Built in a vacuum, this little dynamo is challenging the boundaries of physics.

A nanoparticle has been created by scientists, shaped like a dumbbell and made of silica, and they have successfully set it spinning in a vacuum at 60,000,000,000 revolutions per minute. Yes—60 billion.

That makes it the fastest human-made rotor in history. It can spin a dazzling 100,000 times faster than a high-speed dentist drill.

Called an “optically levitated nanodumbbell" in their abstract, one of the lead researchers, Tongcang Li of Indiana's Purdue University, explained a bit more. "This study has many applications, including material science. We can study the extreme conditions different materials can survive in." 

Vibrate (L) and spin modes (R). (Purdue University photo/Tongcang Li)

Members of the team also included scientists from Peking University, Tsinghua University, Collaborative Innovation Center of Quantum Matter and Sandia National Laboratories. They are not, however, the only team working on such a project.

The laser involved in this study to act as an optical "tweezer" can work in a straight line or a circle; when operating in straight-line mode, the rotor simply vibrates. It’s when they changed the laser to circular mode that they saw these incredible results.

This little device will eventually be used to study quantum mechanics and also to explore the properties of operating in a vacuum, where things like friction and gravity change. Don't get your hopes up about watching it work, however; the particle is about the size of a bacterium.

“People say that there is nothing in vacuum, but in physics, we know it’s not really empty,” Dr. Li said.

“There are a lot of virtual particles which may stay for a short time and then disappear.”

“We want to figure out what’s really going on there.”

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Elizabeth Warren's plan to forgive student loan debt could lead to an economic boom

A plan to forgive almost a trillion dollars in debt would solve the student loan debt crisis, but can it work?

Photo credit: Drew Angerer / Getty Images
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren has just proposed a bold education reform plan that would forgive billions in student debt.
  • The plan would forgive the debt held by more than 30 million Americans.
  • The debt forgiveness program is one part of a larger program to make higher education more accessible.
Keep reading Show less

Banned books: 10 of the most-challenged books in America

America isn't immune to attempts to remove books from libraries and schools, here are ten frequent targets and why you ought to go check them out.

Nazis burn books on a huge bonfire of 'anti-German' literature in the Opernplatz, Berlin. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Culture & Religion
  • Even in America, books are frequently challenged and removed from schools and public libraries.
  • Every year, the American Library Association puts on Banned Books Week to draw attention to this fact.
  • Some of the books they include on their list of most frequently challenged are some of the greatest, most beloved, and entertaining books there are.
Keep reading Show less

Supreme Court to hear 3 cases on LGBT workplace discrimination

In most states, LGBTQ Americans have no legal protections against discrimination in the workplace.

(Photo by Andres Pantoja/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The Supreme Court will decide whether the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also applies to gay and transgender people.
  • The court, which currently has a probable conservative majority, will likely decide on the cases in 2020.
  • Only 21 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws effectively extending the Civil Rights of 1964 to gay and transgender people.
Keep reading Show less