Sedate Sunday: Cal is Quantum Blue, Slippery Ice, and Plasma Guns

Pantone, in it’s usual grandiose fashion, has decreed the new color of the year — classic blue — which looks just like a blue suitcase from the 1950s covered with a layer of dust. 

Quantum Blue was created by Greek artist Olga Alexopoulou in collaboration with UC Berkeley Lab chemists. (California Alumni Magazine, Winter 2019)

For those rightly unexcited by this dull selection, you need not fear. Berkeley has created a blue just for you: Quantum Blue, a “pure, radiant blue like one might see at dusk” using nanoparticles where “phosphor absorb UV light and convert it to a different wavelength (or fluoresce)”. The creation of this color was done as an attempt to capture the beauty of the natural world. Please enjoy it in like kind.

In a different mode, we now know why we slip on ice when it seemed fine to walk on. While the simple answer — a thin layer of water — might seem intuitively obvious, measuring the properties of the water layer is not. By literally “tuning” into the minute frictional forces of ice and the water layer using something akin to an old-fashioned tuning fork, researchers at Sorbonne and Ecole polytechnique were able to demonstrate that 1) friction does create a thin layer of water on ice, 2) it’s very thin (less than 200 nm to one micron), and 3) the water is viscous, a state between ice and liquid water. It’s definitely cool.

And for us folks who find plasma physics fascinating (and you know who you are), completion of the work assembling the Plasma Liner Experiment at Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected in early 2020. Testing of the plasma guns as they are installed can be used to validate and tune simulations. It should be interesting to see the final results when all 36 plasma jets are operational.