Link: The lowly pencil and Quantum Mechanics. It doesn’t even have to be a mechanical pencil!

Graphene molecule Science Now is reporting in “Black Hole in a Pencil,” that, in 1- or 2-atom thick layers, graphite has a unique ability: electrons within the thin graphite (called graphene) act as if they are massless, and move freely within it at the speed of light. But wait, there’s more!

(Image Credit: Chris Ewels)

Here’s where the real quantum mind-bending stuff comes in: Standard particle physics theory says if you build a topless silicon barrier around an electron, it is trapped within. Quantum physics, however, predicts that if the electron is moving fast enough, it’ll get out somehow. Further, the higher the walls of the barrier, the lower the probability of the fast-moving electron’s escape. An infinitely high barrier would leave the electron no chance of escape. At least, that’s the hypothesis, also known as Klein’s Paradox.

But there’s been no way to test this prediction, because electrons don’t usually travel very fast without involving an atom smasher. (Think electrons in a wire zip along pretty fast? Think again.) Enter the lowly pencil! Now this prediction can be tested with a relatively simple test!

Best of all, the results will likely lead to better and faster electronic chips. So, while we always knew that the pen was mightier than the sword, we now know that the pencil is mightier than the super collider!

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