Check out submissions below by Minnesota graduate students describing an area of physics or astrophysics research using just the 1000 most common English words. Students were asked to create a submission that was both technically detailed and easy to understand. Check out the submissions below and see what you think!
Better computers would be great because lots of problems could be figured out by them. Right now computers work by storing information as groups of things that can take on one state or another such as up or down. Then we make the ups and downs work together to do cool things that computers already do. There might be a better way to build computers using really small things. Small things push and pull each other in simple ways that are different from how big things do. A computer that uses this pushing and pulling could do some hard things much easier. Also it could help us figure out exactly how small things push and pull each other. And knowing more about small things could help us make better computers again! But we need to do some hard stuff to get there. First we need to find the right small things and figure out how to make a lot of them. We also need to figure out how to make small things work together like we make the ups and downs do. Even harder we have to make sure that the small things don’t get pushed in a bad way by shaking while they work. I hope once we have lots of small things and know how to make them work together we will have computers that do really cool stuff.
I work with the tiny carriers in certain metals, making them so cold that they stop moving away from each other and all work together. They do this in a way that it takes no power to make them move around. They do this very well, in fact they are perfect at it. It would be very good for machines and computers, and for people over-all, if we could understand this and learn to make it happen when it is less cold. The tiny carriers working together do a good job at keeping the force used to hold papers onto an ice box out of the metal, which can be of use and is also fun! You can use this to keep things flying in the air! You can also use the perfect metal to make that same force, really big. Anyway, what I study is why and how the carriers work together in some situations and not others. One case is if the ice-box kind of force gets too strong, it will stop the tiny carriers from working together. You can also break up the party by making the metal very thin. I have been trying to place extra carriers near the carriers that are working together, to see if these extra ones can help out the ones working together stay strong in thin metal and such. I still don't know if it will work!
I study the dust that is around very old stars. When stars get very old they start to give off stuff. When that stuff cools it turns into really, really small pieces of dust. We can tell what kind of dust it is by the color of light the dust gives off. When each kind of dust is heated up, it gives off different colors of light and we can use this to tell what kind of dust is there. We can also tell the size and how much of each kind of dust is around these very old stars. All of this information helps us understand how stars create new stuff.
Young stars are interesting to look at and help us to learn more about how a star ages. They throw stuff into space more often than our sun does, but they can also be hard to see since they are hidden in large dust clouds. However, we find that some of the light made from a large throwing event comes in short waves (around the same size waves used to image a broken bone), and this light can make it through the dust clouds. From this light, we can learn a lot about the young stars, such as how hot they are, what sort of matter is around them, and how fast little bits of matter are thrown out into the space around the star. We may even learn how these kinds of events can help make a system of earth-like things around the young star. The group of stars we are interested in studying has been looked at before, but our team can look at light waves that are shorter than what the others have seen. This allows us to see stars that are younger and hidden in thicker dust. To look at these stars, we will use a space thing that is circling around the earth. This space thing is made up of mirrors and an imaging piece which will make a picture of the light, tell us where it came from, and tell us how short the wave is for each bit of light that is seen. By knowing this, we can see how the light changes over time and space and learn more about the aging of young stars and earth-like systems.
Really far away, in the middle of really big groups of stars, fast stuff flies out into the stuff around the star group. This around-stuff is closer together than the fast-stuff. The around-stuff is pushed out by the fast-stuff and can also be pushed around by waves as one star group pushes and pulls on another star group. These waves make everything hotter. We can see this if we look at long light waves (and really short light waves!), since some light is longer than other light, and sometimes there is more of one kind than another, which can tell us how much around-stuff there is and how hot it is. I use computers that make pretend star-groups and pretend around-stuff for them to push against, to learn about how they push on each other. Now, I am making the around-stuff push really hard on the fast-stuff to make it hot so it makes long light again, after it is too cold to make it anymore. This might explain the long light we see that is far out from star groups that is confusing now.
People want to know about the beginning of everything, and we are trying to figure that out. We can do this because there is a light coming from all around from a long time ago. That light is not very strong, though. To catch it, we go to a place really cold and really high and really dark to be able to see the best we can. Once there, we stare at the same spot on the sky for a year at a time, and that lets us make our picture as clear as we can. That picture holds a lot of stuff we want to know. One thing it can tell us is if everything got big really fast at the beginning of time or not. If everything got really big, really fast, then the light should look a little bit different than it would if it got big more slowly. Knowing if we're seeing the farthest away light or not, though, is really hard—there is other stuff closer that can get in the way and make it hard to know what we are seeing. Right now, people don't know the answer, but there are lots of people working really hard to figure it out by building things that are better and better.
We study light that comes from the Beginning, to learn where everything came from. This light has traveled through space and time to reach us here today; it can be seen in every direction that we look in the sky, and it even used to make the image bad on your parents' television set. To study this light, we fly a camera above the land of ice and snow that is in the far South, using a round thing that is filled with something even lighter than air. It flies high above us, for more than two weeks, and makes a big circle in the sky. The camera takes several pictures of one small part of the sky, and each picture shows a different color of the light. When we have our pictures, we can start to learn more. But it's not easy! Dust in space makes the pictures look different than they should, so we have to ignore the part of the pictures that comes from dust. A good thing for us is that dust shows up in some pictures more than others, so we can figure out how much dust there is by looking at all the pictures together. If we can do that, and our picture is very, very good, then we can learn about what things were like when time began. Different people have different ideas, but the pictures will tell us whose idea is most right.
There are these tiny-things that make up all big things. Going around the tiny-things are even tinier balls that spin. These spin-balls like to force away other spin-balls that are too close. They also like to pair up with other spin-balls with different spins. This is because they have a Want that tells them that two spin-balls with the same spin can not share places to be in.
In come-together-bars, the tiny-things have spin-balls that have no one to pair with. So the not paired spin-balls run into other spin-balls from other tiny-things and force them away. But they don't like being really close because it makes a lot of force-away. So what the not-paired spin-balls do is make it so they have the same spin as the other not-paired spin-balls. That way, the Want makes it so they don't share places to be in so that they won't get too close to each other. This means that the come-together-bars have large pieces with all their tiny-things having spin-balls that spin the same way. When all their large pieces also spin together, they like to get close to other come-together-bars with their spin in the same direction. But they don't like to come close to come-together-bars with spins spinning the other way around.
In some metals, there are tiny-things with spin-balls that are not paired, but do not go about spinning the same way. However, when you put a come-together-bar next to them, the spin-balls will go together in the same direction as the come-together-bar. In other things, like water, the spin-balls are paired, so they make a spin that is in the other direction of the come-together-bar to block it. They showed this once by flying a water animal using strong come-together-bars that push away the water.