A couple of quick notes regarding physics stories that have caught my eye:
1) Like Doug Natelson, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more discussion about the PRL claiming to have seen vacuum birefringence. The idea here is that a group in Italy passed light through a huge rotating magnetic field (5 Tesla, or about 100,000 times the Earth’s magnetic field), and found that the polarization of the light was rotated by a tiny amount. The effect is, I gather, larger than expected, which might be explained as the result of interactions between their laser photons, photons from the magnetic field, and some unknown low-mass particle.
I haven’t said much about it because I don’t really understand the physics of the interaction well enough to comment sensibly. I’m surprised, though, that I haven’t seen it discussed on any of the many blogs by people who do understand this stuff. Healthy skepticism, or an unhealthy fixation on big accelerators as the only tests of particle physics? Or is it off the radar because it appeared in an obsolete print journal?
(I downloaded the paper, but haven’t had time to look closely at it. I think it’d be really cool if it holds up, and the “if” is not quite as big as for the gravitomagnetism stuff, but still pretty big. I’ll take a closer look in my copious free time, maybe.)
2) Not really an exciting physics development, but Gordon Watts mentions a job talk by a guy I know from MIT. This is interesting primarily because of the cool picture of their optical table. Look at all those mirrors!
Makes me nostalgic for BEC work, it does…
3) If you just can’t get enough of abstract arguments about multiverse theories, World Science provides your daily fix.