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Now, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have revealed that pinch points and half moons are one and the same -- simply signatures of the same physics at different energy levels. Their unified theory, published October 12, 2018, as a Physical Review B Rapid Communication, is the first to explain the underlying physics driving the often paired phenomena.
"The theory itself is kind of simple," said Han Yan, a graduate student in the Theory of Quantum Matter Unit at OIST and first author of the study. "From the same theory that gives you the pinch point at lower energy, you can calculate what happens at higher energy -- and you get a pair of half moons."
Magnet - Atom - Material - Reality - Atoms
If you zoom in close to a frustrated magnet, each atom making up the material seems to spin erratically. In reality, however, these atoms take part in a beautifully coordinated dance, turning in time with each other so that their magnetic pulls ultimately cancel out. This ballet is difficult to observe directly, so instead, physicists search for telltale clues that the performance is taking place.
An experimental technique called neutron scattering allows scientists to gather these clues. Neutrons carry no electric charge, but they do act as a localized source of magnetism. Individual atoms also act as tiny magnets, complete with their own north and south poles. When sent whizzing through a material, a neutron's speed and direction is thrown off by the atoms it passes, and thus it is "scattered."
Pattern - Scattering - Atoms - Material - Instance
The pattern of the scattering tells physicists how atoms are behaving inside a material. For instance, if neutrons scatter helter-skelter, physicists infer that the atoms within a material are aligned randomly. If neutrons scatter in a hallmark bow-tie, they infer that the atoms are twirling in tandem, as...
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