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Free-Electron Lasers move discovery into warp speed


Free-Electron Lasers move discovery into warp speed

Scientific research being performed today using free-electron lasers could be fodder for the next James Bond or Star Wars movie but it is way better than science fiction and it is real. 

Almost everything we know about the laws of nature and how and why we react to the world around us took many centuries to develop. However, recent free-electron laser research breakthroughs are shedding light on these fundamental processes of life and moving scientific discovery into warp speed.

The revolutionary Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) at the SLAC National Acceleratory Laboratory is the world’s most powerful x-ray free-electron laser and represents a new kind of laboratory for doing many types of physics. Using SLAC's linear accelerator to create the powerful X-rays, LCLS pushes science to new extremes with ultrabright, ultrashort pulses that capture atomic-scale snapshots in quadrillionths of a second.  

Researchers have used the LCLS to measure, in atomic detail, a key process at work in extreme plasmas like those found in stars, the rims of black holes and other massive cosmic phenomena. This important x-ray laser research is changing our understanding of the larger physical processes taking place in celestial sources and may pave the way for increased astrophysics research.   

The first new biological structure has been solved by a group of international scientists using the LCLS.  The study mapped a weak spot in the parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, pinpointing a promising new target for treating a disease that annually kills about 30,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa. ...

Related Topics: atomic-scale, free-electron lasers, Linac Coherent Light Source, plasma, scientists, ultrabright, x-rays


Where Do New Scientists Come From?

Photo of Jack Andraka from his Twitter feed

When we think of scientists, most of us picture professionals working in labs or in university settings.  But how did these people get to become scientists?  They were born into the world like everyone else and could have selected from a myriad different career paths.  The evidence does not suggest that scientists necessarily have children who become scientists.  Thus the reality is that “new” scientists come from the general public fortuitously, and this reality is often unappreciated.

Many researchers and institutions devoted to motivating the next generation, including for example, the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, a national non-profit concerned with supporting “profoundly gifted students”, stress the importance of exposing youngsters to the latest scientific thoughts and discoveries through the internet and other sources.  The public availability of current, up-to-date scientific and technical information is essential in this regard and the benefits of its availability are tremendous. 

For example, a few months ago, Jack Andraka, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Maryland developed a break-through dip-stick test to check for pancreatic cancer which has been shown to be incredibly effective (400 times more sensitive than previous tests), 90% accurate and extremely cheap ($0.03 per test). See the article detailing his discovery. Jack indicated in an interview with the BBC news service that the idea for his pancreatic cancer test came to him while he was in biology class during a lesson on antibodies and while he was independently reading an article on carbon nanotubes, a subject he was interested in at the time. He followed up with more research on...

Related Topics: antibodies, cancer, high school, labs, open access journals, pancreatic cancer, scientists, test


Get scientific e-prints


Get scientific e-prints

The E-print Network provides a vast, integrated network of electronic scientific and technical information created by scientists and research engineers active in their respective fields, all full-text searchable.  Documents such as these are the means by which today’s scientists and researchers communicate their recent findings to their colleagues and by which they propose new ideas of how the world works to their peers for their collective judgment.  Documents such as these then are of the sort that becomes the central body of scientific information.  While the E-print Network is intended for use by scientists, engineers, and students at advanced levels, it is freely available for all users.

The gateway provides access to over 35,000 websites and numerous research databases worldwide containing over 5.5 million e-prints in basic and applied sciences in areas such as physics, computer and information technologies, biology and life sciences, environmental sciences, materials science, chemistry, nuclear sciences and engineering, energy research, and other disciplines of interest to DOE.

Related Topics: colleagues, documents, E-Print Network (EPN), e-prints, full text, physics, researchers, science, scientists, searchable