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Mar. 3, 2012
Volume: III
Number: 9
National Society of Black Physicists    African Physical Society    South African Institute of Physics   African Astronomical Society   
Physicists achieve single-photon spectroscopy of a single molecule
R & D Magazine    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Though single molecules can be detected and single photons can be generated, doing the former with just the latter has remained elusive because the probability that a molecule sees and absorbs a photon is very small. But work reported in Physical Review Letters provides a significant breakthrough in single photon spectroscopy. Using a custom laser, scientists at ETH Zürich and Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen excited a "source" molecule. When that molecule relaxed back to its ground state it emitted exactly one photon. The photon was then collected and tightly focused onto the "target" molecule at a distance of a few meters. The target molecule had an allowed electronic transition that was resonant with the incoming photon. It therefore acted as an antenna and grabbed the light waves in its vicinity. This is the first example of long-distance communication between two quantum optical antennas in analogy to the 19th century experiments of Hertz and Marconi with radio antennas. More

Springer puts 'intelligent design' book on hold
Inside Higher Education    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Evolutionary biologists were horrified by the news that a scholarly press was going to publish a work in favor of intelligent design. The book is reportedly a compilation of articles by creationists and intelligent-design proponents. But Springer Publishing Company has now decided to put the book's publication is on hold as it is subjected to further peer review. More

Shock compression of water provides insight into interiors of icy planets
American Physical Society    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Many of the exoplanets discovered in the last few years are so-called "icy planets". Understanding these planets' formation is tied to internal structure models, or material equations of state. Though it is mostly water, planetary "ice" is a mixture that also contains methane and ammonia, whether frozen solid on the surface or as a fluid in the hot interior. Because of their large sizes and low thermal conductivities, planetary interior pressures range up to several 100 gigapascals and temperatures of several 1000 K. A paper in Physical Review Letters gives an account of substantial advances in probing the properties of water under such conditions. The shock-compression work of Marcus Knudson and his colleagues at Sandia National Laboratories and at the Institut für Physik in Germany will lead to improved modeling of deep interiors of icy planets, both within and beyond our solar system. And it demonstrates a strong likelihood that many icy planets outside our solar system have magnetic fields. More

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Can light reflected from Earth find life on other planets?
Physics World    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
There are several optical methods to infer the existence of life as we know it on exoplanets. In the light reflected from a planet you can look for large quantities of molecular oxygen and methane, and for sharp changes in a planet's reflectivity as a function of wavelength. A challenge however is separating the reflected light from the glare of the nearby star. Spectropolarimetry, a technique that takes advantage of the fact that light that has been reflected from a planet is polarized, whereas light from a star is normally unpolarized, offers a way to distinguish between starlight and light from an exoplanet. A team of astronomers in Chile, the U.K. and the Canary Islands have used the technique on light reflected from Earth, and has shown that it can be used to search for signs of life, types of vegetation and even cloud dynamics on exoplanets. The research is reported in Nature. More

2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress
The 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress, hosted by Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society. This meeting will take place Nov. 8-12 in Orlando, Fla., and will center on the theme Connecting Worlds Through Science & Service. Undergraduates, practicing physicists and physics alumni from a broad spectrum of career paths will gather together to address the interconnectivity of the modern world and what it means to science.

The Congress will feature talks by distinguished scientists such as Dr. John Mather, Physics Nobel Laureate; Freeman Dyson, acclaimed scientist and author; Dr. John Grunsfeld, astronaut and former chief scientist of NASA; Dr. Jocelyn Bell Burnell, world-class astrophysicist known for discovering pulsars, and many more.

The cosmological constant by Bose-Einstein analogy?
Ars Technica    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A trio of physicists has noted that the physics of sound waves in an expanding Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) appears to be analogous to the physics of the accelerating expansion of the Universe. n their proposition, published in Physical Review Letters, the cosmological constant – a basic descriptor of dark energy - is independent of most of the zero point energy fluctuations. In the BEC, this is a direct result of an energy gap that arises from the presence of a phase transition between a normal gas and a BEC. The authors point out that some attempts to combine quantum mechanics and gravity have such a phase transition, which may provide a similar decoupling between zero point energy modes and the cosmological constant. More

IBM captures 1st image of single-molecule charge distribution
R & D Magazine    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Using a special kind of atomic force microscopy called Kelvin probe force microscopy at low temperatures and in ultrahigh vacuum, IBM scientists were recently able to measure for the first time how charge is distributed within a single molecule. This breakthrough should enable fundamental scientific insights into single-molecule switching and bond formation between atoms and molecules. As reported in Nature Nanotechnology, the researchers were able to directly see charge distribution in naphthalocyanine, a cross-shaped symmetric organic molecule, as a function of a specific stereochemical change. More

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Graphyne may be better than grapheme
American Physical Society    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Recent computer simulations reported in Physical Review Letters suggest that materials called graphynes could be just as impressive as graphene. Graphynes differ from their carbon cousin graphene in that their 2-D framework contains triple bonds in addition to double bonds. These triple bonds open up a potentially limitless array of different geometries beyond the perfect hexagonal lattice of graphene. Graphyne has Dirac cones like their graphene cousins, but have features suggesting that the conductance might be a function of the direction of the current, unlike what is observed in graphene. The challenge remains for organic chemists to synthesize graphynes in enough quantity for detail experiments. More

Electron-detection breakthrough could unleash next-generation technologies
University of Kansas    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Physics researchers at the University of Kansas have discovered a new method of detecting electric currents based on second-harmonic generation, similar to a radar gun for electrons that can remotely detect their speed. By applying a voltage across thin crystals of gallium arsenide, and then irradiating the sample with an IR laser, they found that visible red light was produced — a signature of the second-harmonic generation process. Theoretical considerations show that the observed frequency doubling is indeed current induced, not field induced. Additionally, they observed that the brightness of the red-light scales with the speed of electrons, and when the electrons have no directional motion, no red light comes out. The result, reported in Physical Review Letters, opens up a new way of using lasers to study currents. More

International Conference of Physics Students
The International Conference of Physics Students is an annual conference of the International Association of Physics Students. Usually, up to 400 students from all over the world attend the event. The 2012 ICPS will be held in the Netherlands in Aug. 4-10. During this week, approximately 400 students from around the world can enjoy lectures from top-class physicists, trips to scientific institutions and cultural excursions. Registration opens in February at

Rain drains energy from the atmosphere
Physics World    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A paper appearing in Science estimates that the energy lost as heat by falling liquid water and ice particles is on par with the energy that the wind loses to friction. Many climate physicists view the atmosphere as a giant heat engine that drives a wind and water cycle, with the Earth's surface being the warm side, and a hypersurface some 15 kilometers up being the cold side. Air and water are the working fluids. Energy is dissipated either as kinetic energy of raindrops, or as air-air friction in winds. In what is called an ingenious study, the two American authors suggest that with the increasing precipitation expected as a result of global warming, the energy sunk into rainfall could reduce the amount available to generate winds. The data used in this study also shows the importance of entropy in the atmospheric heat engine. More

For more international news in physics see the Spring 2012 newsletter of the Forum on International Physics of the American Physical Society.

Consider a spherical person: Using physics to understand the spread of obesity
Physics World    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Lazaros Gallos and his colleagues at City College of New York treated the obesity rates in some 3,000 U.S. counties as "particles" in a physical system, and calculated the correlation between pairs of "particles" as a function of the distance between them. This calculation allowed them to find out whether the obesity rate among, say, citizens of downtown Boston was correlated in any way to the rates in suburban Boston and more distant communities. The results indicate that the size of the "obesity cities" — geographic regions with correlated obesity rates — was huge, up to 1,000 kilometers. In other words, the obesity rate of downtown Boston was strongly correlated not only with the rates in the city's suburban hinterland, but also with rates in far-off New York City and hamlets in northern Maine. This collective behavior indicates that the spreading dynamics of obesity are analogous to a critical point of fluctuations, just as a physical system in a second-order phase transition. But whether or not individual interactions and habits really have negligible influence in obesity rates will continue to be debatable. More

Gravitational Wave Astronomy Workshop
The South African Institute of Physics in collaboration with U.S.-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory will be hosting a workshop from May 31-June 1 to promote gravitational wave astronomy in Africa. The workshop will cover an overview of the field, including laser interferometry, data analysis, numerical relativity, approximate analytic methods, source modeling and astrophysical implications, pulsar timing and current African activity in gravitational wave astronomy.

Cold fusion: Emerging from the dungeon?    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
In October, Andrea Rossi demonstrated self-sustaining energy production in a Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR), which produces energy from a few grams of hydrogen. LENR is another way to say cold-fusion. LENR is another way to say cold-fusion. And while the claim of cold fusion has been relegated to the dungeons of applied physics, this latest result is getting the attention of NASA, CERN, MIT and DARPA. In January, MIT offered a cold fusion 101 minicourse. DARPA has been quietly pursuing LENR for some years. CERN is holding a colloquium on LENR, scheduled for March 22. It will be available live via webcast, and will be given by Francesco Celani of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics. Maybe this is still all vaporware, but the vapor seems to have some usable energy. More

NASA seeking university participants for summer rocket workshop
NASA    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
University faculty and students are invited to join a weeklong workshop June 16-21 to learn how to build and launch a scientific experiment to space. Registration is open through May 1. RockOn! 2012 will be held at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. This workshop provides an opportunity for participants to learn how to build an experiment for space flight participate in more ambitious payload programs. More

African researchers 'struggle' to establish careers
SciDev.Net    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Many African science graduates struggle to establish careers after leaving university as they do not receive enough assistance to define their research agendas and develop professionally, says the report Foundations for the Future: Supporting the Early Careers of African Researchers. African universities need to better support early career researchers if they are to build a thriving research environment and boost the continent's overall number of Ph.D.-qualified staff. These are similar themes found worldwide. More mentoring and more research funding are the basic solutions, as are policy changes at the institutional and national political levels. More

Increase your options for graduate or REU program admissions
NSBP    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The NSBP GradApps and REUApps services are open to all students and allows them to upload all the elements of an admissions application, including academic and work history, transcripts, letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Graduate and REU programs can subscribe to these databases to increase the programs' applicant pool, while at the same time allowing students can put their credentials in front of more programs than to which they would otherwise apply.

National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
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Director, South African Astronomical Observatory
Student Essay Contest - New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology
International Research Grant Competition - New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology
Assistant Editor, Physical Review Letters
Assistant Professor of Physics - University of Wisconsin, River Falls
Marshall REU in Scientific Computing
PostDoc Space Telescope Science Institute
Professor and Director of Science and Technology
REU Program for Community College Students at Texas A&M — Commerce
Research in Sustainable Energy for sub-Saharan Africa
Yale University Center for Research on Interface Structure and Phenomena Postdoctoral Fellow
Iowa State University REU Non-Equilibrium Materials Research Experience for Undergraduates
Iowa State University REU National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center for Biorenewable Chemicals
Iowa State University REU Biogeosciences Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Iowa State University REU Wind Energy Science, Engineering and Policy
Iowa State University REU Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging
Iowa State University REU Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship
Notre Dame Physics REU Program
Jack E. Crow Postdoctoral Fellowship at National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
Iowa State University REU Interdisciplinary Research and Education Emerging Interface Technologies

Latest research from European Journal of Physics
IOP Journal    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Modelling systems of classical/quantum identical particles by focusing on algorithms

Experiments on photoconductivity

Variation in angular velocity and angular acceleration of a particle in rectilinear motion

Confusing aspects in the calculation of the electrostatic potential of an infinite line of charge

Charges and fields in a current-carrying wire

Latest research from Journal of Applied Physics
Journal of Applied Physics    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Thickness-dependent magnetization reversal behavior of lithographic IrMn/Fe ring structures

Influence of interface termination on the magneto-Seebeck effect in MgO based tunnel junctions

Structural and electrical properties of half-Heusler La-Pt-Bi thin films grown by 3-source magnetron co-sputtering

Magnetic and charge ordering properties of Bi0.6-x(RE)xCa0.4MnO3 (0.0 ≤ x ≤ 0.6) perovskite manganites

Spin-bias modulated Kondo effect in an interacting quantum dot


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