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It takes 30 seconds for your fingerprint to grip your smartphone

Posted on 25 Sep 2017 in Journalism, Physics

Your fingers take time to engage in full contact with a touchscreen. In some cases, even 30 seconds or more after placing a dry finger on the glass, your skin is still adjusting. This can lead to problems using fingerprints to access phones and getting screens to respond to your touch. Image: chadmiller

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Ultrafast lasers catch electrons relaxing after brief excitement

Posted on 15 Sep 2017 in Journalism, Physics

No one can match these electrons when it comes to relaxing. Within a few hundred attoseconds – billionths of a billionth of a second – of being hit by an X-ray pulse, they are already back where they were, sitting calmly in a low-energy state. Image: Attoelectronics Group, MPQ

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In 1674, a mysterious storm devastated an entire city

Posted on 10 Apr 2017 in Archaeology, Journalism, Physics

It took barely 15 minutes. An intense and powerful – but brief – storm swept across north-west Europe one summer’s evening almost 350 years ago. It left a social and architectural imprint on the city of Utrecht that is felt to this day. Image: josef.stuefer

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There is a huge ‘monolith’ on Phobos, one of Mars’s moons

Posted on 24 Sep 2016 in Journalism, Space

Many people are vexed by the Phobos monolith. It has inspired all manner of alien-based conspiracy theories and this fascinating discussion on Reddit. It even gave its name to an album released this year by Les Claypool and Sean Lennon Ono. So what is it? Image: Mars Global Surveyor/Nasa

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What would happen to you if gravity stopped working?

Posted on 13 Feb 2016 in Journalism, Physics

We have all experienced the force of gravity. It is what happens to you when you jump up into the air. Disappointingly for anyone with ambitions to be Supergirl or Superman, we tend to fall right back down to the ground. But what if we could switch gravity off? Image: Charlotte May Godfrey

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Shortest ever pulse of visible light spots photons fleeing atoms

Posted on 3 Feb 2016 in Featured, Physics

The ultimate high-speed flashbulb just measured how quickly electrons inside atoms respond to light. The work could speed the development of light-based electronics. At 380 attoseconds long – 380 x 10^-18 seconds – the flashes are the shortest pulses of visible light ever created in the lab. Image: Christian Hackenberger/Attoelectronics MPQ

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