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Amherst Researchers Create Magnetic Monopoles 156

An anonymous reader writes "Nearly 85 years after pioneering theoretical physicist Paul Dirac predicted the possibility of their existence, an international collaboration led by Amherst College Physics Professor David S. Hall '91 and Aalto University (Finland) Academy Research Fellow Mikko Möttönen has created, identified and photographed synthetic magnetic monopoles in Hall's laboratory on the Amherst campus. The groundbreaking accomplishment paves the way for the detection of the particles in nature, which would be a revolutionary development comparable to the discovery of the electron." That's quite a step beyond detecting monopoles; the Nature abstract is online, but the full paper is paywalled.
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Amherst Researchers Create Magnetic Monopoles

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    But how many slashdot stories about fusion reactors, methanol fuel cells, or flying cars has actually been more than investor fleecing vaporware?

    • by tomhath ( 637240 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:27AM (#46110313)

      Hall's team adopted an innovative approach to investigating Dirac's theory, creating and identifying synthetic magnetic monopoles in an artificial magnetic field generated by a Bose-Einstein condensate, an extremely cold atomic gas tens of billionths of a degree warmer than absolute zero.

      "Verry cool" is an understatement.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        no. it's not an understatement, it's a typo.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      EFOY fuel cells have been in the field for a while now. In fact, if you are willing to pony up the $8000 or so, you can get one for your RV. You have to use their methanol cartridges which are 150 bones per 10 liters, but they give out constant, relatively quiet power to keep RV batteries charged even at night, without needing to fire up a generator or start the vehicle's engine.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      Poor foolish AC doesn't understand the difference between science and engineering. Fusion reactors, methanol fuel cells, or flying cars are all engineering, not science. Constructing a monopole isn't something that is goimg to have shelves of monopoles in the stores, it confirmed an 85 year old theory.

      I wonder what the poor ignorant fool is doing posting here?

  • by nightfire-unique ( 253895 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:15AM (#46110173)
    .. and can certainly help in the fight against the Ur-Quan!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:18AM (#46110207)

    "The secrets of magnetism"

    Requires Superstring Theory, Silksteel Alloys

    Leads to Nanominiaturization, Unified Field Theory
    Enables: Terraform Mag Tube

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Kongming ( 448396 )
      You ivory tower intellectuals must not lose touch with the world of industrial growth and hard currency. It is all very well and good to pursue these high-minded scientific theories, but research grants are expensive. You must justify your existence by providing not only knowledge but concrete and profitable applications as well.
      • by jythie ( 914043 )
        Unless of course one feels there is more value in knowledge, in which case it is industrial growth and hard currency that need to not loose touch with research, lest they fail to justify their existence and the resources they consume.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        "...but concrete and profitable applications as well."
        which is the stupidest thing you can say about science, and the stupidest way to measure scientist success.
        Great way to kill research, tho.
        I suspect anyone who says that is just looking for an excuse to kill scientific investigation.

        No one knew electricity was going to lead to iPhones.

        You use science to find out how things work and publish it. Engineers use those finding to build things.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          No one knew electricity was going to lead to iPhones.

          Probably just as well. If they had, we might never have had all the good things that electricity has brought us.

        • by Valdrax ( 32670 )

          It's a quote from the leader of the turbo-capitalist faction [] in the game being referenced in the post it was a reply to.

          Personally, I would have gone with this quote, since it's the actual one that matches the research of Monopole Magnets:

          I maintain nonetheless that yin-yang dualism can be overcome. With sufficient enlightenment we can give substance to any distinction: mind without body, north without south, pleasure without pain. Remember, enlightenment is a function of willpower, not of physical strength.

      • [ ] Explore
        [XXXX] Discover
        [ ] Build
        [ ] Conquer

        Screw it, we'll pick up the rest on the way. All the good weapons and reactors are Discover techs anyway.

    • I maintain nonetheless that yin-yang dualism can be overcome.
      With sufficient enlightenment we can give substance to any
      distinction: mind without body, north without south, pleasure
      without pain. Remember, enlightenment is a function of willpower,
      not of physical strength.

      â"Chairman Sheng-ji Yang,
      âoeEssays on Mind and Matterâ

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        There is no enlightenment, there is only acceptance of a often incorrect narrative.

        • by HiThere ( 15173 )

          Somehow I think you are refering to a 19th century European definition of enlightenment.

    • by Mordok-DestroyerOfWo ( 1000167 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:10PM (#46110893)
      And yet our tanks can still be beaten by archers.
  • North and South Pole-specific compasses. I should patent that.

    (magentic north be damned)
  • For the lay people in this particular field, from TFA (also, wiki link []):

    As the name suggests, however, a magnetic monopole is a magnetic particle possessing only a single, isolated pole—a north pole without a south pole, or vice versa.

  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:24AM (#46110275) Journal

    someone wasn't playing a trick on them and was turning the electric can opener on and off in the other room?

  • I maintain nonetheless that yin-yang dualism can be overcome.

    With sufficient enlightenment we can give substance to any distinction: mind without body, north without south, pleasure without pain. Remember, enlightenment is a function of willpower, not of physical strength.

    —Chairman Sheng-ji Yang,
    “Essays on Mind and Matter”

    Time to start building those Mag Tubes!

  • This is cool, but (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:28AM (#46110319)

    they haven't really found a magnetic monopole. They've created a long skinny solenoid with ends that are far enough apart that they look like independent monopoles.

    Great physics, terrible summary.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      they haven't really found a magnetic monopole. They've created a long skinny solenoid with ends that are far enough apart that they look like independent monopoles.

      My reading of the paper was that that's the physical interpretation of what monopoles are in the first place.

      • Re:This is cool, but (Score:4, Informative)

        by iggymanz ( 596061 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:14PM (#46110967)

        no, these are not monopoles at all, hence the word "synthetic" in front.

        there is no evidence whatsoever that monopoles exist, not for the last 70+ years of searching.

        • by slew ( 2918 )

          As I understand it, there are 2 potential manifestations for what people call magnetic monopoles...

          1. Existence of a unit of magnetic charge analogous to an electrical charge attached to some sort of particle.
          2. So-called Dirac monopoles (a "monopole" that is connected by a 1-D dirac-string to another "monopole" of opposite magnetic "charge")

          Nobody has seen #1, and from what I can gather, most folks don't expect to find them. #2 turns out to be one theoretical way to get monopoles to be consistent w/ Maxwel

    • Nope, there's no corresponding opposite pole in the system they've created. It's a genuine magnetic monopole quasiparticle, albeit one that only exists as the product of tweaking the magnetic field of a Bose-Einstein condensate.

      • false, there is no magnetic field from a source point, a compass wouldn't point at what they've created.

        these are not magnetic monopoles at all, in no sense of the word.

        magnetic monopoles do not exist, there are no evidence they exist after decades of looking.

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:30AM (#46110355) Homepage Journal
    You could run an electric utility, four railroads, and get out of jail free if this can be produced to scale.
  • Sweet! On to Nanominiaturization and Unified Field Theory.

  • Magnetic monopoles, how do they work? My guess is the other pole is directed through higher spacial dimensions.
  • Pseudoparticles (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:41AM (#46110529)

    These are pseudoparticles. They're like magnetic monopoles in almost all ways, but they arise from the collective motion of other particles rather than actually existing in and of themselves (think about having an electron hole, versus having an actual positron). The breakthrough is that they've made the first pseudoparticle in a quantum mechanical regime that allows it to behave consistently with the real particle.

    • I should say, "quasiparticles".

    • Re:Pseudoparticles (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jeffb (2.718) ( 1189693 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @01:00PM (#46111489)

      I like the "electron hole" analogy. Electron holes aren't as spectacular as positrons; they don't annihilate electrons and generate gamma-ray photons. They can, however, "annihilate" an electron in a semiconductor to produce a visible photon -- and that's how we get LEDs.

      This "monopole" won't let us build super-motors or disintegrate protons at will. But I wonder if, recreated in a more robust medium, it could have its own interesting uses?

      • by slew ( 2918 )

        Although you may like the "electron hole" analogy, it does not correctly illustrate this phenomena.

        A "electron hole" is a deficit of negative charge in some region relative to another that can be sometimes treated quantum mechanically as if it was a positive charge. This phenomena has nothing to do with this as there are no regions of opposite magnetic charge to borrow from.

        This effect described relies on manipulating the magnetic fields in such a way that it organizes a condensed matter state in a way simi

        • You may like the duck analogy, but it does not correctly illustrate this phenomenon. :)

          Joking aside, I realize that I don't know enough about the model domain to evaluate my analogy. The similarities I see are that electron holes, like these "monopoles", are actually emergent from the behavior of other entities; they exist only in certain specialized materials, not in free space; and, finally, they share some characteristics with the physical anti-electron (positron), but differ in many important ways. Elec

          • by slew ( 2918 )

            If you feel you need an analogy, this monopole construction technique is more akin to constructing a meta-material (e.g., something with a negative index of refraction). It is a simulation of something that doesn't normally exist in nature, but by carefully controlling the small scale structure, you can get it to have certain properties you want in a limited range of operation.

            I was specifically rejecting your analogy of monopoles like holes, because that is analogous to using the absence an electron in an

    • Re:Pseudoparticles (Score:4, Interesting)

      by radtea ( 464814 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @05:31PM (#46114377)

      They're like magnetic monopoles in almost all ways...

      Correct. The ways they don't behave like magnetic monopoles are scale-dependent. At sufficiently large distances they are indistinguishable from point-like monopoles (monopole equivalents of electrons.) At short distances they aren't anything like monopoles.

      The theory they are based on, curiously, predicts that they are free in the medium they exist in, which was something of a surprise. That is, in an infinite BEC, they would be free to move anywhere, making them much more like "true" monopoles than expected.

      Whether or not you call these "real" monopoles is a matter of taste. The reality is that at sufficiently large distances no experiment you could perform would be able to distinguish them from a monopole particle, making them extremely practical mechanisms for investigating the physics of monopoles.

      One interesting thing is that Dirac showed the existence of a single monopole anywhere in the universe could explain why the electron charge was quantized, because for a given monopole strength there is only one value of electron charge that can interact with it consistently (any other value requires the electron wavefunction to have multiple values at same point in space-time, which would imply a breakdown of quantum mechanics.) I don't know if these pseudo-monopoles are sufficient to impose that condition.

  • by ArsenneLupin ( 766289 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:55AM (#46110713)
    Or is it just like a normal, really long magnet with an "undetectable" body (the bar between the poles)?

    Meaning, that if they have a south monopole somewhere in their "extremely cold gas", someplace else within the same gas has a north monopole. Then just consider the line linking both to be the magnet.

    Call us back when they can separate them by splitting the "extremely cold gas" into 2 containers, in such a way that one container has the south pole, and the other the north pole, and both can be moved arbitrarily far from each other.

  • by PseudoCoder ( 1642383 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:56AM (#46110725)
    My previous supplier has left me high and dry and I can't finish my perpetual motion machine without one of these. Can I get a discount on more than one? Or do I have to buy them one by one to avoid them neutralizing each other?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 30, 2014 @11:59AM (#46110751)
    Unless you are really up on your Maxwell's equations and condensed matter physics, you wouldn't get much out of the actual paper. When I hear all the bitching and moaning about paywalled papers and how "the people" need to see the paper, I can't help but think that 99.999% of "the people" couldn't get past the intro paragraph because of all the field-specific details. That's why there are places like Scientific American and numerous science-writer blogs to translate this for the layman. If you can understand the following, then you most likely have access to the actual article, and if you don't know what this all means, then you are far better off going for the layman's summary:

    The spinor order parameter corresponding to the Dirac monopole14,17 is generated by an adiabatic spin rotation in response to a time-varying magnetic field, B(r, t). Similar spin rotations have been used to create multiply quantized vortices18 and skyrmion spin textures19. The order parameter Y(r, t)5y(r, t)f(r, t) is the product of a scalar order parameter, y, and a spinor, f~ðfz1,f0,f{1T¼^ jfi, where fm5Æmjfæ represents the mth spinor component along z. The condensate is initially spin-polarized along the z axis, that is, f5(1, 0, 0)T. Following the method introduced in ref. 14, a magnetic field Bðr,t~bqðxx^zy^y{2z^zzBzðt^z is applied, where bq.0 is the strength of a quadrupole field gradient and Bz(t) is a uniform bias field. The magnetic field zero is initially located on the z axis at z~Bzð0=(2bq)?Z, where Z is the axial Thomas–Fermi radius of the condensate. The spin rotation occurs as Bz is reduced, drawing the magnetic field zero into the region occupied by the superfluid.

    • QED, not maxwells equations and yes part of my degree was the CMP. Anyway, the the subject of these articles are not monopoles at all, no magnetic field at all in fact, an imaginary compass wouldn't point toward them.

      There is not one shred of evidence that magnetic monopoles exist. These researchers have not made a magnetic monopole.

      • by quax ( 19371 )

        Please mod parent up. Gauss law div B = 0 is perfectly healthy despite this inane babbling of monopoles in the write-up of this research.

        Yes, its field looks from the outside like a monopole, but it's a quasi particle not an actual naked monopole, the latter would be the equivalent of a magnetic charge particle.

        Despite having been hunting this Snark for decades there is no indication that there is such a thing in nature.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      Somewhere, sitting in the USPTO, signing off on useless "Do X on the Internet" patents, there is an individual for whom all of this stuff is trivially simple. We would do science a great service to facilitate this person's access to such material.

      Even if only to provide a distraction and keep a number of useless patents off the books.

      • This!

        The AC OP's point is a terrible one because it could apply to nearly everything more complicated than a primetime tv show. It isn't about the 99.999% who can't use the information, it is the 0.001% who can use it that matter and it is no one's job to decide who qualifies.

    • 99.999% of "the people"

      The problem is more basic than that, really. Average citizens won't know what to make of this until it's something that affects their day-to-day lives (unless you're Insane Clown Posse, in which case you reprise an earlier work over the news). I'm no physicist, but I am a science-fiction fan and reader, so I have some idea how important this development is if it's true, but the rank-and-file person-on-the-street? Not so much, until they can, for instance, buy an electric car that goes 10000 miles on a singl

    • by quax ( 19371 )

      "The people" who complain are often academics outside the research community and not affiliated with an institution that can afford the horrendous subscription cost.

      You may have notice the journals charge about $20 a pop for individual subscriptions of articles.

      Why do you think they'll do that if there wasn't some demand for it?

    • Bðr,t~bqðxx^zy^y{2z^zzBzðt^z

      Somebody go check on Doctor Cooper...I think he's having a seizure on his keyboard. []

  • by somepunk ( 720296 ) on Thursday January 30, 2014 @12:05PM (#46110811) Homepage

    You should be thanking Alan Guth and the Gods of Inflation they didn't find actual monopoles. Those things are terrifying beasts! They eat protons like it's going out of style! []

  • Can someone identify the music in the video?
  • Thanks to Larry Niven.
  • With a standard magnet, if you try to cut the poles apart, you end up with two smaller magnets, each with a pair of poles.

    The Dirac monopole is like, instead of cutting the poles of a magnet apart, you deform the magnet and pull the poles apart until there is just a tiny infinitesimally small string connecting the two poles. You haven't actually created monopoles, but simulated them.

    Still an impressive feat, but we haven't broken physics, despite what you might infer from the headlines.

  • terms like "synthetic" vs "real" make me cringe. Did they make synthetic tops at Fermilab and higgs at LHC? I'll reserve my excitement for some credible review of this claim and paper.

    • by dkf ( 304284 )

      terms like "synthetic" vs "real" make me cringe. Did they make synthetic tops at Fermilab and higgs at LHC? I'll reserve my excitement for some credible review of this claim and paper.

      It's passed the first stage of peer review; it's published, and is thus probably not complete shit. Next stage is for other people to reproduce the work for themselves, and most of the paper appears to be the sorts of details that you'd need to be able to go off and do that. If you're not a condensed-matter physicist with a suitable lab (nor am I) then you can probably live without reading the full paper. If the result holds up, the interesting parts will be repeated elsewhere. (Which is good. The paper its

  • Not on the Internet.

I've got a bad feeling about this.