To isolate quantum fluctuations that define the properties of a metallic material, scientists probed it at temperatures colder than interstellar space. The research provides new methods to identify and understand promising new materials, including superconductors.
The central mystery of quantum mechanics is that small chunks of matter sometimes seem to behave like particles, sometimes like waves. For most of the past century, the prevailing explanation of this conundrum has been what's called the "Copenhagen interpretation" -- which holds that, in some sense, a single particle really is a wave, smeared out across the universe, that collapses into a determinate location only when observed. But some founders of quantum physics -- notably Louis de Broglie -- championed an alternative interpretation, known as "pilot-wave theory," which posits that quantum particles are borne along on some type of wave. According to pilot-wave theory, the particles have definite trajectories, but because of the pilot wave's influence, they still exhibit wavelike statistics. Now a professor of applied mathematics believes that pilot-wave theory deserves a second look.
In recent years, it has become possible to see directly individual atoms using electron microscopy -- especially in graphene, the one-atom-thick sheet of carbon. Scientists have now shown how an electron beam can move silicon atoms through the graphene lattice without causing damage. The research combines advanced electron microscopy with demanding computer simulations.