Waves & Packets
Feb. 4, 2012

Searching for a solid that flows like a liquid
R & D Magazine
Physicists have long sought to verify or refute the existence of "supersolidity," a quantum state of matter where atoms in a material have spatial order, but under certain conditions vacancies in the structure begin to flow through the solid without resistance. This elusive state was first predicted nearly 50 years ago. But inconclusive hints of this state of matter exist only in helium-4, and only when it is cooled to barely above absolute zero and subjected to extreme pressure. The supersolid state is thought to coexist with the superfluid state, and a clear way to discern the signals of one from the other has been a challenge. A recent report in Physics Review Letters of neutron scattering experiments, which have the ability to discern between supersolid and superfluids, provided significant knowledge on the quantum states of helium-4. But still more experiments and perhaps new theories are needed to crack quantum mystery of supersolidity.More

Frequency comb reaches extreme ultraviolet
Physics World
Physicists in the U.S. have created an optical frequency comb that operates in the extreme ultraviolet. Touted as the first practical comb to work in this region of the spectrum, the device could be used to look for tiny variations in the fine-structure constant and other physical constants that could point to new physics. An XUV comb could also be used to create better atomic clocks and new techniques for atomic spectroscopy. The research is reported in Nature.More

Ancient Islamic architects created perfect quasicrystals
Physics World
A researcher in the U.S. reports to have found the first examples of perfect quasicrystal patterns in Islamic architecture. Her paper in Acta Crystallographica Section A also describes how the designers were creating these geometric patterns from as early as the 12th century CE using nothing but rudimentary tools. It was not until the 1970s that academics began to develop mathematics that could explain these striking patterns seen in nature. In this current work, the research presents a global multilevel structural model that is able to describe the global long-range translational and orientational order of quasi-periodic formations.More

Converting light to sound in cold quantum systems
Ars Technica
Physicists in Switzerland and Germany have built a special cavity where the photon states resonate with the natural vibrations of the atoms. In doing so, the researchers managed to couple a photon-based oscillator to a mechanical oscillator, controlling the mechanical quantum states with visible light. The result, reported in Nature, is a prototype of a quantum transducer, a device that converts light energy into mechanical energy. The process also works in reverse, so that the sound waves transfer energy back to the light. Now that we have a quantum transducer that converts electromagnetic energy into mechanical oscillations, we can start thinking about optical control of solid-state devices or spin system. This in turn opens up a potential new class of hybrid optical/mechanical quantum devices, with potential applications in quantum computing. More

Magnetic fields put the brakes on 'millisecond pulsars'
Physics World
Thomas Tauris of the University of Bonn has revealed how "millisecond pulsars" — neutron stars with rotational periods ranging from 1–10 ms — slow down over time. By exploring how a pulsar behaves when it stops accreting matter from a donor star, the model shows quantitatively that it is the expansion of the pulsar's magnetic field that helps to slow the star's rotation. The finding, reported in Science may help astronomers to determine the age of radio millisecond pulsars, which is usually calculated based on the rate at which the pulsars' rotation slows.More

Oxygen molecule survives to enormously high pressures
R&D Magazine
An international team theoretical chemists and physicists have predicted structures of solid oxygen under pressures in the multi-terapascal (TPa) range. Reported in Physical Review Letters, the calculations show that the oxygen molecule is stable up to pressures of 1.9 TPa, which is about 19 million times higher than Earth's atmosphere pressure. Above that, it polymerizes. And as pressure increases, and structures change, solid oxygen goes from being an insulator, to becoming a metallic superconductor, to a semiconductor, and then back to being metallic.More

Planets circling around twin suns
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
A team of astronomers have discovered two new planets, named Kepler-34 and Kepler-35, each of which revolves around its own double suns. The latest data was collected photometrically by NASA's Kepler satellite, and the results have been reported in Nature. Double-sun solar systems are actually more common than single-sun systems like our own, though we cannot dismiss the possibility that our sun has an undiscovered distant companion. While the phenomenon of binary stars has been well known for centuries, the recent discoveries prove that binary suns can also support planets.More

New super-Earth detected within the habitable zone of a nearby star
University of California, Santa Cruz
An international team of scientists has discovered a potentially habitable super-Earth orbiting a nearby star. With an orbital period of about 28 days and a minimum mass four-and-a-half times that of the Earth, the planet orbits within the star's "habitable zone," where temperatures are neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on the planet's surface. Adding to the Habitable Exoplanets Catalog, the researchers used public data from the European Southern Observatory and analyzed it with a novel data-analysis method. They also incorporated new measurements from the W.M. Keck Observatory's High Resolution Echelle Spectrograph and the new Carnegie Planet Finder Spectrograph at the Magellan II Telescope.More

ICTP South American Institute for Fundamental Research begins activities in Brazil
The International Center for Theoretical Physics will open the South American Institute for Fundamental Research on Feb. 6. The new institute is headquartered at São Paulo State University, Brazil, and will be ICTP's first unit in South America. Founded in 1964 by Nobel Laureate, Abdus Salam, ICTP has been a place where scientists from developing countries can interact with scientists doing groundbreaking research. With the recent economic and scientific growth of emerging countries, ICTP management has decided to create Regional Centers to play a similar role. In its first phase, the ICTP-SAIFR will focus on areas such as gravitation, particle physics, superstring, complex systems, field theory and atomic and nuclear physics. Having already held a two-week school in mathematical biology, the new institute will later this year organize two-week schools on relativistic astrophysics and cosmology (July) and symbolic computation in theoretical physics (November), as well as the IX Latin-American Symposium on High-Energy Physics (December).More

Sun unleashes a rare double whammy
Mother Nature Network
The sun unleashed two powerful solar eruptions on Jan. 28 in a spectacular double blast caught on camera by a NASA spacecraft. A video recorded by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the two sun storms erupting from opposite sides of the star. A still image released by NASA shows a long magnetic tendril of super-hot plasma becoming unstable on the sun's left side (as seen by the SDO spacecraft). As the tendril snapped, it burst into a major solar eruption. At the same time on the other side of the sun, a powerful M-1 class flare blasted into space along with a massive coronal mass ejection. The twin solar storms occurred in concert and marked an impressive start for the 2012 space weather season.More

Powering pacemakers with heartbeat vibrations
Science Daily
Though pacemakers require only small amounts of energy (about 1 millionth of a watt), their batteries have to be replaced periodically, which means multiple surgeries for patients. Many teams of researchers have searched for ways to prolong battery life but methods to date either interfere with metabolism or require a more drastic surgery. Noting that vibrations in the chest cavity deform a layer of tissue, which is a piezoelectric material; a team at the University of Michigan reports in Applied Physics Letters a new device that is able to convert mechanical stress into electrical current. Tests indicate that the device could perform at heart rates from seven to 700 beats per minute (well below and above the normal range), and that it could deliver eight times the energy required for a pacemaker.More

On the scarcity of Physics First research
Physics First Observations
As the Next Generation Science Standards are being constructed, time is ripe for asking what view should the new standards have towards Physics First, the movement to implement the sequence of physics, chemistry, biology high school courses, instead of the historically common chemistry, biology, physics. The sad truth is that there is just not enough research yet done to show that a physics, chemistry, biology sequence is more effective, on average, than a traditional sequence. Anecdotal evidence shows plenty of success stories, and indeed plenty of failures as well, but hard numbers for or against are scarce. Teachers and researchers across the country have been responding to this need with research of their own since back in 2003 when Pasero's State of Physics-First Programs was published. In 2011, an Alabama physics teacher reported that his school, which is in the final year of switching to Physics First, has already documented a 400 percent rise in AP science enrollment, a 300 percent rise in students passing AP science exams, and increasing scores at external physics competitions (relative to other schools). There are a few programs and schools with data that are just around the corner.More

Women in physics: A tale of limits
Physics Today
Of all the sciences in the U.S., physics continues to have the lowest representation of women. Currently, women earn just 21 percent of bachelor's degrees and 17 percent of Ph.D.s in the field. Discourse about women in physics often centers on representation, and the unspoken assumption seems to be that if the representation of women were to increase to some higher level, all would be well. However, the focus on representation obscures important issues and ignores the day-to-day experiences of women physicists. In fact, women physicists could be the majority in some hypothetical future yet still in their careers experience problems that stem from often unconscious bias. Results from a global survey of physicists are showing how these biases play out, for men and for women, across many countries and cultures. More

Affirmative action policies promote women and do not harm efficiency in the laboratory
The educational attainments of women exceed those of men in most developed countries, yet women continue to lag behind in access to top corporate jobs. Without dismissing the role of discrimination, recent research has implicated a lower preference of women for competition. A report published in Science by Balafoutas and Sutter shows how affirmative action policies can increase the willingness of women to compete without affecting the chances of highly skilled men to succeed and while preserving post-competition cooperation between individuals.More

African-American men don't reap same career benefits from mentoring as Caucasians
Networking within an organization and having a mentor are widely thought to promote career success, but a new University of Georgia study finds that African-American men don't receive the same measurable benefits from these professional connections that Caucasians do. The report emphasizes the need for women and minorities to think broadly about the mentors they choose and with whom they network, but these groups are more likely to be networking with people who have less power and influence within an organization. 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

National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
Iowa State University REU Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging
Iowa State University REU Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship
Iowa State University REU Nonequilibrium 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
Wiess Instructorship in Physics and Astronomy
Jack E. Crow Postdoctoral Fellowship
Iowa State University REU Interdisciplinary Research and Education Emerging Interface Technologies
10 Paid Undergraduate Summer Research Internships
REU Opportunities in Astronomy at the University of Wyoming
REU Program at Nevis Labs, Columbia University
Summer Researcher (REU)
University of Florida Materials Physics Research Experience for Undgraduates
Undergraduate Summer Research Assistant
Summer Undergraduate Intern
Tenure Track (Open Rank) Faculty Position - Stony Brook Center for Science and Mathematics Education
Physics Research Experiences for Undergraduates
Atmospheric Chemistry REU
Research internships in computational astrophysics
LIGO REU Researcher
Undergraduate Research Student
Center for Emergent Materials, CEM, Summer REU Program at The Ohio State University
REU Student
REU - Undergraduate Researcher

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 Reports on Progress in Physics
IOP Journal
Nanoantennas for visible and infrared radiation

MUSE, the goddess of muons and her future

Studies of nanomagnetism using synchrotron-based X-ray photoemission electron microscopy

Sonic sands

Hamiltonian complexityMore

Latest research from Reviews of Modern Physics
Reviews of Modern Physics
Hadronic D and Ds meson decays

Rotating massive stars: From 1st stars to gamma ray bursts

Superconductivity in iron compounds

1-dimensional bosons: From condensed matter systems to ultracold gases

Physical basis of radiation protection in space travel

Topological insulators and superconductorsMore