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Physics News Update #240

(Новости Физики - бюллетень Американского Института Физики)

ОТ РЕДАКЦИИ EDU@EMISSIA :

Бюллетень 'Physics News Update' регулярно подготавливается сотрудниками Американского Института Физики: Mr. Phillip Schewe и Mr. Ben Stein.

Бюллетень 'Physics News Update' транслируется по каналу 'sci.physics.research' c адреса (vjejjala@wam.umd.edu)

Mr. Vishnu Jejjala, Университет штата Мэриленд.

С разрешения авторов-составителей, Mr. Phillip Schewe и Mr. Ben Stein и составителя е-mail версии, Mr. Vishnu Jejjala бюллетень ретранслируется петербургским образовательным сервером EDU@EMISSIA на английском языке либо в русском переводе:

Андрей А. Ахаян (andrew@emissia.spb.su)


PHYSICS NEWS UPDATE

The American Institute of Physics Bulletin of Physics News Number 240 September 18, 1995 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein

LASING WITHOUT INVERSION (LWI), a fundamentally new technique for producing laser light, has been achieved in gases, opening new possibilities for cleverly sidestepping traditional difficulties of producing ultraviolet and x-ray laser light. In a gas of atoms, laser light buildup begins when a single photon, emitted by an atom in a high-energy (excited) state, stimulates other excited atoms to emit photons with identical attributes. Ordinary lasers normally require the energy-intensive process of "population inversion," in which a majority of the atoms must be excited into a high-energy state. Promoting atoms into excited states prepares them for participating in the laser process, but it also serves to prevent them from soaking up the light and thereby sabotaging the laser process. However, maintaining a population inversion in ultraviolet and x-ray lasers is extremely difficult because the high-lying excited states necessary to produce such light are so short-lived. A US-German- Russian group (A.S. Zibrov et al, Phys. Rev. Lett, 21 August 1995; contact Marlan Scully, 409-862-2333) has recently achieved LWI in a gas of rubidium atoms in a vapor cell, yielding 795-nm infrared light. In another paper submitted to Physical Review Letters, a US- German team (including Scully and Edward Fry, 409-845-1910) reports LWI in a sodium atomic beam, producing yellow-orange light (590 nm). Previous experiments had produced nanosecond bursts of light without population inversion (Update 121), but the new papers are the first to report a sustained laser beam through LWI. In these experiments, an external laser beam essentially creates two pathways for the atoms to get from the ground state (state 1) to the excited state (state 2). In the rubidium experiment, for example, the probability of getting atoms from state 1 into state 2 becomes the overlap of the likelihood of getting from state 1 to state 2 directly (1-->2) and going from state 1 to an even higher excited state (state 3) then dropping to state 2 (1-->3-->2). Under the proper conditions, the overlapping likelihoods can interfere so as to cancel each other out, preventing absorption. Ironically, by creating more ways of getting into state 2, one can reduce the number of atoms that get there. Future goals are to achieve LWI in inexpensive diode lasers (like those in CD players) and to produce x-ray and UV light through LWI.

JUPITER HAS A TRANSITION ZONE in its interior where an envelope of mostly molecular hydrogen (H2) gives way to a deeper mantle of atomic (unpaired) hydrogen. Some scientists believe that perhaps most of the hydrogen at this lower level is metallic in nature, a fact which could account for Jupiter's strong magnetic field. Several new studies, attempting to simulate a small sample of Jupiter here on earth, suggest that current theories of the Jovian interior may have to be revised. The terrestrial work tries to match the conditions of pressure (thousands and millions of atm.) and temperature (thousands of K) prevailing inside Jupiter. Experiments with high-pressure diamond anvil cells and with high velocity guns---sending shock waves through containers of liquid hydrogen (W.J. Nellis et al., Science, 1 Sept)---and computer simulations of the interactions among liquid hydrogen molecules (Ali Alavi et al., same issue of Science) all have sought to calculate the speed of sound through hydrogen under extreme conditions. The new studies are at odds with velocity estimates derived from observations of oscillation modes in Jupiter's surface; e.g., the shock experiment finds that molecular hydrogen dissociation occurs at lower pressures than predictions based on the oscillation data. Further work is needed because of the astrophysical importance of hydrogen, which forms the bulk of stars and some planets.