Waves & Packets
Jan. 21, 2012

Plasma physicists and neuroscientists team up to study brain network dynamics
University of Warwick
Physicists that study magnetically confined plasmas and neuroscientists that study fast dynamics in the brain have a common problem. That is, how to study internal electrodynamics through measurement of external fields when the signal to noise ratio is very small. A team of physicists at the University of Warkwick and neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge joined forces to use magnetoencephalography to gain insight into spatio-temporal changes in the brain's network of firing neurons, which manifest as small changes in the magnetic field around the head. The team's study, published in the Journal of Neurophysiology, provides exciting new insight into how human brain networks are rapidly reconfigured in response to unpredictable stimuli.More

Scientists prepare to take 1st picture of a black hole
University of Arizona
Astronomers, physicists and scientists from related fields across the world convened in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 18 to discuss imaging the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy, an endeavor that only a few years ago would have been regarded as nothing less than outrageous. But now, using the so-called Event Horizon Telescope, researchers can envision a rational plan to image the black hole via Sagittarius A, an optically obscured radio source located also at the center of the Milky Way. In fact, they will start taking data this spring. The Event Horizon Telescope is actually a virtual telescope comprised of a scalable array of some of the world's submillimeter antennae using VLBI techniques. Images of the black hole will help explain accretion and jet genesis, and also test Einstein's theory of general relativity. More

NSBP member led team finds smallest exopanets yet
A team lead by NSBP member John Johnson at Caltech, and that included Vanderbilt University's Keivan Stassun, has discovered the three smallest exoplanets yet detected. The three planets orbit a single star, called KOI-961, and are 0.78, 0.73 and 0.57 times the radius of Earth. The planets orbit close to their star, taking less than two days to orbit around it. That makes them too hot to be in the habitable zone. The team used data publicly released by the Kepler mission, along with follow-up observations from the Palomar Observatory, near San Diego, and the W.M. Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii. Kepler searches for planets by continuously monitoring more than 150,000 stars, looking for telltale dips in their brightness caused by crossing, or transiting, planets. More

Volunteers wanted for planet hunt
BBC News Science & Environment
Members of the public are being asked to join the hunt for nearby planets that could support life. Volunteers can go to the Planethunters website to see time-lapsed images of 150,000 stars, taken by the Kepler Space Telescope, as well as tutorials on the signs that indicate the presence of a planet and how to alert experts if they spot them. An online appeal started last year has already resulted in two U.K. citizens discovering a new planet. While computer programs can sort through lots of data quickly, they can only do what they are programmed to do. In contrast, the human brain has the uncanny ability to recognize patterns and immediately pick out what is strange or unique, far beyond what we can teach machines to do. More

Astronomy touted as a route to economic development
Public Service Europe
Chilean astronomers have discovered a new galaxy cluster, and Chile continues to develop a solid reputation for world-class astrophysical research. Chilean scientists and engineers are starting to take part in the design and construction of telescopes, a trend that could boost other industries and the economy. During his visit to Chile, President Barack Obama commented on the Chilean presence in astronomy research, noting the relationship between Atacama observatories and those in Hawaii, as well as the ALMA array. On the other side of the Atlantic, a member of the European Parliament is touting the African bid for the Square Kilometer Array as a driver of socioeconomic development on the continent, and has introduced a declaration in the European Parliament supporting Africa-EU astronomy partnerships.More

Big science in an era of tight budgets
The Space Review
Sometimes in science, bigger is better. That's the case in astronomy, where there's a continuous push for larger telescopes, or larger arrays of telescopes, to allow astronomers to see dimmer objects and at greater resolutions, pushing the frontiers of astronomy in regimes from the solar system to the origins of the universe. Astronomers are not particularly subtle about this need for size. The affordability of big astronomy projects was one of the hot topics of discussion at the 219th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Austin, Texas. More

Copper collisions create much strangeness
Physics World
Physicists at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider at Brookhaven National Lab have found that copper–copper collisions produce between 20-30 percent more strange quarks per nucleon than their gold–gold counterparts. The finding gives further backing to the core–corona model of such high-energy collisions and could shed further light on the quark–gluon plasma — a state of matter thought to have been present in the very early universe. This research will be published in Physical Review Letters, and a preprint is available at arXiv.More

New ice structures predicted
Cornell University
Researchers at Cornell University, including Neil Ashcroft and Roald Hoffman, have reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, new phases of ice in the one to five terapascal pressure range. While not existing on Earth, such pressures are in the range found on Uranus and Neptune. At these high pressures the water molecules become highly ordered and the bulk structure eventually becomes metallic. At still higher pressures stable phases might be insulating, and eventually ice might become quantum liquid.More

National Nuclear Science Week celebrates nuclear everything from energy to safety to medicine
Sandia National Lab
This year's 3rd annual National Nuclear Science Week continues the theme of "Get to Know Nuclear," aimed at promoting careers in nuclear and other sciences, technology, engineering and math. The celebration will include webinars broadcast live on Nuclear Science Day, Jan. 25, from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Teachers and others can download free curriculum, lesson plans and classroom presentations from the organizers' website.More

New observation of a gas turning to a superfluid may help scientists understand high-temperature superconductors and neutron stars
MIT News
Physicists at MIT have reported in Science a complete phase diagram of system consisting of an ultracold strongly interacting Fermi gas of lithium atoms. They were able to follow transitions from a typical gas to a superfluid, and that provides a benchmark for many-body theories of strongly interacting fermions, and may yield some insight into the mechanism of superconductivity.More

A physics project to do the next time you have an infinite number of books
How far can you stack a "stairway" of books, outwards from the ledge of a table? The answer? Forever — if you have enough books. The Leaning Tower of Lire is the name given by the American Journal of Physics to a 200-year-old problem that entertained physics students in libraries of old. The problem also works with dominos.More

Quantum physics enables perfectly secure cloud computing
Researchers have reported in Science their success in combining the power of quantum computing with the security of quantum cryptography and have shown that perfectly secure cloud computing can be achieved using the principles of quantum mechanics. So-called "blind quantum computing" allows a server to carry out a quantum computation such that the client's inputs — prepared at random qubits, outputs and computation remain perfectly private. Photonic systems are well-suited to secure systems since the data can stay perfectly encrypted and can be transmitted over long distances. More

Experiments prove nanoscale metallic conductivity in ferroelectrics
In a paper published in Nano Letters, a team of researchers demonstrated metallic conductivity in a ferroelectric film that otherwise acts as an insulator. This phenomenon of an insulator-metal transition was predicted more than 40 years ago by theorists but has eluded experimental proof until now. The result unambiguously identifies a new conduction channel that percolates through the insulating matrix of the ferroelectric, which opens potentially exciting possibilities to "write" and "erase" circuitry with nanoscale dimensions. Although the researchers focused their study on a well-known ferroelectric film called lead-zirconate titanate, they expect their observations will hold true for a broader array of ferroelectric materials.More

Increase your options for graduate or REU program admissions
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.More

In the Dec. 24 edition the link for Rudolf Mössbauer was incorrect. For a memorial on Dr. Mössbauer follow this link. And for the early history of the Mössbauer effect, follow this link.More

National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
REU in Fluid Mechanics
Cornell Physics REU
Cornell Center for Materials Research REU
Research Associate
Tenure-Track Physics Professor and Researcher (2 positions)
Summer Researcher
REU in Applied Nuclear Science
Research Associate
Full Professor Theoretical High Energy Physics at Columbia University
Tenure-track faculty position in experimental condensed matter physics
Physics and Astronomy REU Participant
REU Participant
Tenure Track Faculty Position in Theoretical Nuclear Physics
Postdoctoral Fellowship
Tenure-track faculty position in experimental plasma physics
Real World Science & Mathematics Summer Workshop for K-12 Science Teachers
Summer Researcher
Mentor Opportunity Medical Physics Summer Experience Program
2012 Minority Undergraduate Summer Experience Program
Assistant Professor, Theoretical Physics, University of Minnesota Duluth

Advice for graduate students
Inside Higher Education
Steven Stearns offers some insight and advice for graduate students. Know thyself and know thy advisor. More

More advice for graduate students
Inside Higher Education
So much comes down to good writing skills. Steven Stearns offers some tips on how to write well and write strategically. More

Overcoming the imposter syndrome
At one time or another nearly every graduate student and new faculty member wonders about his or her competence. This is a common fear often referred to as the impostor syndrome. The impostor syndrome runs rampant in academia — and women are especially prone to it. How do you get over the impostor syndrome? Easier said than done. More

Ready. Set. Go. Transitioning from college to graduate school
Compared to your undergraduate education, graduate school is faster paced. Professors expect a lot of work to be done, and there's a lot less hand-holding. MoreMore

Latest research from New Journal of Physics
IOP Journal
Durable emission of positronium negative ions from Na- and K-coated W(100) surfaces

Logical operations with localized structures

Coherence and instability in a driven Bose–Einstein condensate: A fully dynamical number-conserving approach

Phase transitions in topological lattice models via topological symmetry breaking

Guiding heat in laser ablation of metals on ultrafast timescales: An adaptive modeling approach on aluminumMore

Latest research from Physical Review E
Physical Review E
Cooperative rectification in confined Brownian ratchets

Isotropic-nematic phase diagram for interacting rigid rods on 2-dimensional lattices

Tunneling and percolation transport regimes in segregated composites

Impact of boundaries on fully connected random geometric networks

Evolution and stability of altruist strategies in microbial gamesMore