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Articles on Optics

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TRAPPIST-1e is a rocky exoplanet in the habitable zone of a star 40 light-years from Earth and may have water and clouds, as depicted in this artist’s impression. NASA/JPL-Caltech/Wikimedia Commons

To search for alien life, astronomers will look for clues in the atmospheres of distant planets – and the James Webb Space Telescope just proved it’s possible to do so

Life on Earth has dramatically changed the chemistry of the planet. Astronomers will measure light that bounces off distant planets to look for similar clues that they host life.
Reconstruction of the execution of the Arnolfini portrait. Top: Postures of the painter during the painting process. Bottom: views obtained from the four lenses. Université de Lorraine

The mysterious optical device Jan van Eyck may have used to paint his masterpieces – new research

Researchers have long tried to unravel the puzzle of Jan van Eyck’s use of perspective in his masterpiece, the Arnolfini Portrait. New research suggests he may have had help from a novel machine.
The electromagnetic spectrum we can access with current technologies is completely occupied. This means experts have to think of creative ways to meet our rocketing demands for data. NASA Johnson/Flickr

We’re using lasers and toaster-sized satellites to beam information faster through space

Free space optical communication will allow the same connectivity in space we already have on Earth. And this will provide benefits across a number of sectors.
20 tons of Ohara E6 borosilicate glass being loaded onto the mold of one of the GMT’s mirrors. Ray Bertram, Steward Observatory

How do you build a mirror for one of the world’s biggest telescopes?

The laws of physics dictate that to pick out ever fainter objects from space and see them more sharply, we’re going to need a bigger telescope. And that means we need massive mirrors.
A new invisibility cloak can hide objects using an ultrathin layer of nanoantennas that reflect off light. Are humans next? Courtesy of Xiang Zhang group, Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley

Ten years on, invisibility cloaks are close to becoming a manufacturable reality

Research into invisibility cloaks has been flourishing over the past decade yet they have still not reached the market. But that may be about to change.
Green lasers glowing within cells. Matjaž Humar and Seok Hyun Yun

We transformed living cells into tiny lasers

Using fluorescent dye, researchers figured out how to turn cells into lasers – with applications for cell tagging and tracking as well as medical diagnoses and therapies.
As much as we like to think that we vote on substance – not style – studies have shown that physical appearance matters to voters. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Welcome to Politics4K

While much of the 2014 midterm election analysis centered on the Republican takeover of the Senate, the pundits may have overlooked an important development: the end of a time when politicians looked a…
Now you see him … Eric Tastad/Flickr

Invisibility cloaks closer thanks to ‘digital metamaterials’

The concept of “digital metamaterials” – a simple way of designing metamaterials with bizarre optical properties that could hasten the development of devices such as invisibility cloaks and superlenses…

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