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Home   About   Membership   Conference   Public Policy   Job Board    April 7, 2011
  National Society of Black Physicists    African Physical Society   South African Institute of Physics    
Featured physics: 100 years of superconductivity

On April 8, 1911, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes measured the resistance of metallic Mercury and wrote in his notebook: "Mercury as good as zero." Thus began the field of superconductivity, one of the great stories of 20th century physics.

After Onnes' startling discovery, enabled by his liquefaction of helium some three years earlier, physicists embarked on a long search for materials that would become superconducting at higher temperature. One such material, niobium, occupied the interest of legendary African American physicist Warren Henry for several years.

After Walter Meissner noted that superconductors repel magnetic fields in 1933, it would be 24 years before the BCS theory of superconductivity would emerge. Five years later Brian Josephson, at the time a graduate student the University of Cambridge, predicted that there would be a current between two superconducting materials separated by a nonsuperconductor. Contemporaneously Ivar Giaever discovered supercurrent through superconducting metals.

The 1986 discovery of a ceramic superconductor ushered in the modern era of superconductivity research. Now the critical temperature where superconductivity occurs well above liquid nitrogen temperatures, which has made industrial applications accessible, mainly in the medical device industry, and has enabled research in fields that depend upon high magnetic fields like accelerator-based particle physics, condensed matter physics and biophysics.

Ceramic superconductors have turned the field on its head. Increasingly detailed experiments on different types of ceramics with reduced dimensionality have provided many more open questions than they have provided answers. The BCS theory has known short-comings, even fervent detractors, and there is no theory that that satisfactorily explains superconductivity in all observed cases.

So 100 years since that remarkable observation at Leiden, superconductivity remains just as puzzling to physicists today as it must have been for Onnes then. More

A new phase of matter discovered in high-temperature superconductor
A team of researchers from SLAC, Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory and UC Berkeley has reported the strongest evidence yet that the so-called pseudogap phase, a mysterious electronic state peculiar to high-temperature superconductors, is not a gradual transition to superconductivity in these materials, as many have long believed, but rather is a distinct phase of matter. Existence of a distinct phase would be marked by quantum critical point, which would further imply new routes to superconductivity and possibly exotic new effects. More

The cuprate pseudogap puzzle

Leading superconductivity theorist and NSBP member, Philip Phillips, comments on the current knowledge of the so-called pseudogap in cuprates. More

Can quantum gravity be used to explain superconductivity?

Mottness, named after Sir Neville Mott, is a term for the known and unknown strong correlations that explain why materials that should-be conductors are nevertheless insulators. Superconducting cuprates are Mott insulators above their critical temperatures. Much of the physics of Mott insulators remains unsolved. But string theory, namely Juan Malcedena’s AdS/CFT formalism for strongly coupled gauge systems, links quantum gravity and electron transport, and offers a new construct of Mott insulators that captures their resistivity in the Mott state and superconductivity in the metal state. More

Iron-based, high-temperature superconductors exhibit surprises
American Physical Society

Iron-based, high-temperature superconductors were discovered in January 2008, and they have arguably been the biggest news in the field of superconductivity since the appearance of the cuprate superconductors in the late 80s. Today physicists are struggling with experimental results and theoretical explanations where iron superconductors lack features in their electronic band structure that were considered essential for superconductivity. More

Two dimensional herbertsmithite crystal may help unlock the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity

An MIT team has synthesized, for the first time, a crystal they believe to be a two-dimensional quantum spin liquid: a solid material whose atomic spins continue to have motion, even at absolute zero temperature. Physicists started paying more attention to quantum spin liquids in 1987, when Nobel laureate Philip W. Anderson theorized that quantum spin liquid theory may relate to the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity. More

The first temperature — magnetic field phase diagram of a quantum spin liquid

Quantum spin liquids have random magnetic moments that resist order even at low temperatures. They were first proposed in the 1970s, but experimental observation of this state of matter was only made in the last two years. A team at Oxford University has reported the first temperature-magnetic field phase diagram of a quantum spin liquid. More

Have physicists at Fermilab found a new particle or force of nature?
Science Now    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The particle physics world is abuzz with the news that researchers at Tevatron may have spotted a weird particle unlike any seen before. However, the experimenters who made the measurements caution that the supposed signal could also be a product of unidentified inaccuracies in their modeling of their incredibly complex particle detector. More

Neutral atoms made to act like electrically charged particles
Nanowerk    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Completing the story they started by creating synthetic magnetic fields, (see "Researchers create 'synthetic magnetic fields' for neutral atoms") scientists from the Joint Quantum Institute, a collaboration of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University of Maryland, have now made atoms act as if they were charged particles accelerated by electric fields. More

South African National Space Agency set to join telescope program
Creamer Media's Engineering News    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
South Africa is expected to formally agree to participate in the Russian-led international Radioastron space telescope program. The Radioastron program also includes the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory, the European Space Agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization of Australia, Finland's Helsinki University of Technology and India's Tata Institute for Fundamental Research. Once in orbit, it will deploy a 10-m-diameter radio telescope dish, which will be operated in conjunction with ground-based radio telescopes to undertake space very long baseline interferometry. More

Follow the African Physical Society, the National Society of Black Physicists and the South African Institute of Physics on Twitter, @Africanphysics, @Blackphysicists and @SAIPhysics.

Global astronomy project stimulating science in African universities
Creamer Media's Engineering News    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
According to the South African Minister of Science, Naledi Pandor, "The African SKA bid has stimulated interests in the field of astronomy across the continent. To mention but a few, the University of Botswana, the University of Antananarivo, in Madagascar, and the Eduardo Mondlane University, in Mozambique, recently introduced courses in astronomy and astrophysics." More

US decides to not join the international agreement on the SKA
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Nine national governmental and research organizations have established a Founding Board for the global Square Kilometer Array project. Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa and the U.K. signed a Letter of Intent in Rome, declaring their common ambition to see the SKA built, and agreed to work together to secure funding for the next phase of the SKA project. The new board has announced that the SKA Project Office will be based at the Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester in the U.K. This new management structure will guide the project into the next phase of development. More

The United States, via the National Science Foundation, declined to be a signatory to the agreement because the Founding Board requires a $50,000 payment to be followed by annual contributions of $250,000-$500,000 for the next four to five years, plus some additional contribution to the $100 million needed for the preconstruction activity. More

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The amazing disappearing antineutrino
Nature News    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A revised calculation suggests that around 3 percent of particles have gone missing from nuclear reactor experiments. The deficit could be caused by the antineutrinos turning into so-called "sterile antineutrinos," which can't be directly detected, and which would be clear evidence for effects beyond the standard model of particle physics. More

The African Astronomical Society is on Twitter!

Cores of red giant stars revealed for the first time
ScienceDaily    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
NASA's Kepler Mission is giving astronomers such a clear view of changes in star brightness that they can now see clues about what's happening inside red giant stars. Oscillations in a star's brightness provide information about the density and chemistry deep inside a star. The data also shows researchers whether a red giant star burns hydrogen in a shell surrounding the star or whether it has evolved to an age that it burns helium in the core. That's something astronomers hadn't been able to determine before Kepler. More

Purchase SKA Africa Gear at the SKA CafePress Store

4th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics opens in Stellenbosch, South Africa
SAIP    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
On April 5, South African Minister of Science, Naledi Pandor, opened the 4th IUPAP Conference on Women in Physics. Other conference keynote speakers include Professor Jocelyn Bell Burnell, president of the Institute of Physics, Archana Bhattacharyya, Rachel Ivie speaking at the Global Survey of Physicists, Professor Tebello Nyokong of South Africa, Professor Cecilia Jarlskog, president-elect of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physicists and Dr. Yanlai Yan speaking on how physics is involved in ancient Chinese chime-bells. More

Top astronomers from the Middle East and Africa meet in South Africa
South African Astronomical Observatory    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
On April 11, the Honorable Derek Hanekom, Deputy Minister of Science and Technology and professor Bob Williams, president of the International Astronomical Union, will formally open the second Middle East and Africa IAU Regional Meeting hosted in Cape Town, South Africa. Delegates from all over Africa and the Middle East will attend the meeting running from April 11-15. They will discuss topics ranging from the search for planets around other stars, to how to use astronomy as a vehicle for science education and development. More

National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
NSBP    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Physics Faculty - 9 Month Appointment
Director, African Institute for Mathematical Sciences Ghana
Assistant Professor - Physics
APS Scholarship Program for Minority Undergraduate Physics Majors
Assistant Professor, Energy Resources Engineering
Assistant or Associate Professor - Astronomy / Astrophysics
HBCU STEM Fellowship Program
REU Program and University of Houston
Research Experience for Undergraduates Fellowship in PHYSICS
Research Experience for Undergraduates Fellowship in PHYSICS
Undergraduate Researchers
Lehigh University REU Program in Physics
REU Participant
Student Researcher
National Astrophysics and Space Science Program
Visiting Professor
Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions
Visiting Professor Positions

Latest research from Journal or Breath Research
IOP Publishing    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Influence of age and sex in exhaled breath samples investigated by means of infrared laser absorption spectroscopy

Evidence for sensory effects of a 1D organic conductor under gas exposure

Factors contributing to the variability observed in duplicate forensic breath alcohol measurement

Secondary electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry: breath study on a control group

Exhaled nitric oxide parameters and functional capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Latest research from Physical Review Special Topics — Accelerators and Beams
Physical Review Special Topics    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Symplectic tracking and compensation of dynamic field integrals in complex undulator structures

Experiment on pulse heating and surface degradation of a copper cavity powered by powerful 30 gigahertz free electron maser.

Variable-period permanent magnet undulators

Asymmetric focusing study from twin input power couplers using realistic rf cavity field maps

Vacuum ultraviolet circularly polarized coherent femtosecond pulses from laser seeded relativistic electrons

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