Posted Jul. 10, 2017 at 9:00 a.m.

Tech wrap: physicits find new particle; Tesla's big battery; Qualcomm after iPhones; new CDC director; Samsung profit

Published: 2017-07-10 09:00:00
Updated: 2017-07-10 09:00:00

Bulldog Bulldog

In today's Bulldog wrapup of science and technology highlights:

  • Physicists find new particle with a double dose of charm
  • Tesla to build giant battery in Australia amid energy crisis
  • Qualcomm seeks to block iPhone imports in patent dispute
  • Georgia health commissioner named CDC director in Atlanta
  • Massive data growth fuels Samsung's record quarterly profit

The details:

  • Physicists find new particle with a double dose of charm

Scientists have found an extra charming new subatomic particle that they hope will help further explain a key force that binds matter together.

Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe have announced he fleeting discovery of a long theorized but never-before-seen type of baryon.

Baryons are subatomic particles made up of quarks. Protons and neutrons are the most common baryons. Quarks are even smaller particles that come in six types, two common types that are light and four heavier types.

The high-speed collisions at the world's biggest atom smasher created for a fraction of a second a baryon particle called Xi cc, said Oxford physicist Guy Wilkinson, who is part of the experiment.

The particle has two heavy quarks — both of a type that are called "charm"— and a light one. In the natural world, baryons have at most one heavy quark.

It may have been brief, but in particle physics it lived for "an appreciably long time," he said.

The two heavy quarks are in a dance that's just like the interaction of a star system with two suns and the third lighter quark circles the dancing pair, Wilkinson said.

"People have looked for it for a long time," Wilkinson said. He said this opens up a whole new "family" of baryons for physicists to find and study.

"It gives us a very unique and interesting laboratory to give us an interesting new angle on the behavior of the strong interaction (between particles), which is one of the key forces in nature," Wilkinson said.

Chris Quigg, a theoretical physicist at the Fermilab near Chicago, who wasn't part of the discovery team, praised the discovery and said "it gives us a lot to think about."

  • Tesla to build giant battery in Australia amid energy crisis

Tesla says it will build the world's largest lithium-ion battery in southern Australia, part of a bid to solve an energy crisis that has led to ongoing blackouts across the region.

Tesla will partner with French renewable energy company Neoen to build the 100-megawatt battery farm in South Australia state, with Tesla CEO Elon Musk promising to deliver the system within 100 days of signing the contract or it will be free. The billionaire entrepreneur originally made the 100-day pledge via Twitter in March, and he and South Australia's government confirmed on Friday that the deadline was part of their official agreement.

"The system will be three times more powerful than any system on earth," Musk told reporters in the state capital, Adelaide. "This is not like a minor foray into the frontier — this is like going three times further than anyone's gone before."

South Australia, which relies heavily on solar and wind-generated energy, has been scrambling to find a way to bolster its fragile power grid since the entire state suffered a blackout during a storm last year. Further blackouts plagued the state over the next few months.

The battery farm is part of a AU$550 million ($420 million) plan announced in March by South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill to make the state independent of the nation's power grid. The Australian Energy Market Operator, which manages the national grid, has warned of potential shortages of gas-fired electricity across southeast Australia by late next year. The shortage is looming as Australia is expected to soon overtake Qatar as the world's biggest exporter of liquid natural gas. Australia is also a major exporter of coal, which fires much of its electricity generation.

  • Qualcomm seeks to block iPhone imports in patent dispute

Qualcomm is seeking to block iPhone shipments to the U.S., arguing that the phones infringe on six of its patents.

Qualcomm plans to request the import ban Friday with the U.S. International Trade Commission, which has the power to block shipments of products that violate intellectual property. However, such disputes can take a long time to resolve, so iPhone sales aren't immediately at risk. Apple's iPhones are assembled in Asia before being imported for sale in the U.S.

On Thursday, Qualcomm filed a related lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Diego seeking damages.

The two companies have been battling over how much Apple owes in licensing fees to Qualcomm. Apple has been withholding fees until the courts determine the amount, a process that could take several years.

  • Georgia health commissioner named CDC director

Georgia's health commissioner has been named to lead the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal government's top public health agency.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald is an OB-GYN and has been head of the Georgia Department of Public Health since 2011. She succeeds Dr. Tom Frieden, who resigned as CDC director in January at the end of the Obama administration.

"I am humbled by the challenges that lie ahead, yet I am confident that the successes we've had in Georgia will provide me with a foundation for guiding the work of the CDC," Fitzgerald said in a statement.

Fitzgerald was appointed by Dr. Tom Price, who was a Republican congressman from Georgia before he was selected by President Donald Trump to head the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC.

"Having known Dr. Fitzgerald for many years, I know that she has a deep appreciation and understanding of medicine, public health, policy and leadership — all qualities that will prove vital as she leads the CDC in its work to protect America's health 24/7," Price said in a news release.

The 70-year-old Fitzgerald has had strong ties to the Republican Party. She was an unsuccessful GOP candidate for Congress twice in the 1990s. She was also a health care policy adviser to Newt Gingrich, the former House Speaker, and the late Sen. Paul Coverdell.

  • Massive data growth fuels Samsung's record quarterly profit

Samsung Electronics Co. has reported tha its second-quarter operating profit soared to the highest in its history as massive data growth fueled a boom in the semiconductor sales and helped defy sluggish growth in the smartphone market and a slow recovery in the global economy.

In its earnings preview, the South Korean tech giant put its April-June operating profit at 14 trillion won ($12.1 billion), up 72 percent from 8.1 trillion won ($7 billion) a year earlier. Sales rose 18 percent to 60 trillion won ($51.9 billion).

The stunning result beats already-high expectations and puts Samsung on track to report the highest profit in its history for the full year. Analysts expected 13 trillion won ($11.2 billion) according to financial data provider FactSet.

Other milestones may be waiting. Samsung's quarterly profit could have surpassed Apple's for the first time, and Samsung's semiconductor revenue, which had been second to Intel's, likely surpassed the U.S. company in the second quarter, analysts said.

In the past, Samsung's financial performance mirrored the global economy or the cycles in the consumer electronics industry, such as how often users upgrade their televisions or smartphones.

That is no longer the case. Even as demand for smartphones that had fueled Samsung's profit has slowed, Samsung is on a roll because its memory chips are crucial for global tech companies in the era of explosive growth of data.

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