Waves & Packets
Feb. 25, 2012

Physicists raid Tevatron for parts — ORKA aims for its guts
Nature News
When the Tevatron closed, Fermilab announced that the CDF would become an educational display. Along with its companion experiment, D0, the detector was supposed to form the centerpiece of a tour through simulated control rooms and decommissioned accelerator tunnels. But tight budgets for experimental particle physicists — combined with their tendency to tinker and recycle — are pushing the outcome in a different direction, at least for the CDF. Although most of the part transfers involve small items that would not stop the CDF from going on display, the most ambitious recycling request so far would see it gutted. A proposed experiment called ORKA, which endeavors to make more sensitive kaon decay measurements, needs a massive solenoid magnet like the one at the CDF's heart. ORKA has yet to be funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, but the Physics Advisory Committee at Fermilab approved its scientific goals in December.More

OPERA's faster-than-light neutrino measurement has 2 possible errors
Nature News Blog
According to a statement by OPERA, two possible problems have now been found with its set-up. As many physicists had speculated might be the case, both are related to the experiment's pioneering use of Global Positioning System signals to synchronize atomic clocks at each end of its neutrino beam. First, the passage of time on the clocks between the arrival of the synchronizing signal has to be interpolated and OPERA now says this may not have been done correctly. Second, there was a possible faulty connection between the GPS signal and the OPERA master clock. More

Why quantum theory is so misunderstood
The Wall Street Journal
Brian Cox explores the space for science in popular culture. For some scientists, the unfortunate distortion and misappropriation of scientific ideas that often accompanies their integration into popular culture is an unacceptable price to pay. He asserts, however, that recognizing the innate human desire to be dazzled is the key to understanding why some people are drawn to pseudo-scientific drivel. Therefore he concludes that scientists must not be afraid to speak of their discoveries in language that fires the imagination and satiates the innate human need for wonder, because wonder is a doorway to a deeper appreciation and understanding of science. More

Time crystals: A weird idea in physics
MIT physicist Frank Wilczek, along with collaborator Al Shapere from the University of Kentucky, has just published two papers, one in the classical setting, the other in the quantum setting, examining how the mathematics that govern crystal formations in space could also work in time. They argue that time translation symmetry — the notion that a system will maintain the same features over a given interval of time — can be broken in low energy states and then reduced to a smaller part of the system, which they call time crystals. The key idea is that the system being described is in its lowest energy state, hence it has no movement. But if part of the system starts to move then time translation symmetry has been broken, but not lost, and that these moving objects could simply get stuck in an eternal loop.More

A step closer to a new kilogram
National Physical Laboratory
A physicist at the National Physical Laboratory in England has produced technology capable of accurate measurements of Planck's constant, which is a significant step towards changing the international definition of the kilogram — currently based on a lump of platinum-iridium metal kept in Paris. The kilogram is the only unit still defined by a physical artifact. The General Conference on Weights and Measures agrees that the kilogram should be redefined in terms of Planck's constant. This latest result, reported in Metrologia, describes how this can be done with the required level of certainty and provides a measured value of Planck's constant and extensive analysis of possible uncertainties that can arise during experimentation.More

Physicists foretell quantum computer with single-atom transistor
Physicists at Purdue University and the University of New South Wales have built a transistor from a single atom of phosphorous precisely placed on a bed of silicon. This latest result is reported in Nature Nanotechnology, and is another step towards realizing a quantum computer. In January, the New South Wales team advanced the cause by demonstrating that Ohm's Law of electrical resistivity extends to the world of very small particles, and now, together with Gerhard Klimeck and his team at Purdue, they've made a more significant breakthrough by placing a single-atom transistor exactly where they want to place it.More

UK overtakes US in research impact
Physics World
The U.K. has overtaken the U.S. in terms of the quality of physics-research output, according to a new report carried out by Evidence, which is owned by information-services provider Thomson Reuters. The report states that the U.K. is now second to Canada when ranked on the quality of research papers, measured as the average number of times that such papers are cited.More

Canadian scientists may have solved global technetium-99m shortage
The Globe and Mail
A team of Canadian scientists has come up with a way to adapt existing cyclotrons so they can be used to produce technetium-99m. This isotope only emits gamma rays, which makes it useful for medical imaging. It is mostly made in nuclear reactors. But the reactor that commercially produces a lion's share of technetium-99m is aging and is set for decommissioning in four years. Production in cyclotrons follows from irradiating molybdenum-100 with protons. Existing cyclotrons can be retrofitted for this purpose for as little as $500,000 each.More

Tellurium found for the 1st time in distant stars
Using near-ultraviolet spectra obtained with the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on board the Hubble Space Telescope, a team of researchers has detected the element tellurium (Z=52) for the first time in three ancient stars. The researchers found traces of this brittle, semiconducting element — which is very rare on Earth — in stars that are nearly 12 billion years old. The finding supports the theory that tellurium, along with even heavier elements in the periodic table, likely originated from a very rare type of supernova during a rapid process of nuclear fusion called the r-process. These latest results, published in the Astrophysical Journal, indicate that the ratios of heavy elements observed in the three stars matched the ratios predicted by r-process nucleosynthesis model, thus confirming the theory that heavier elements likely formed from a rare, extremely rapid supernova.More

Chandra X-ray Observatory sees black hole with 20 million mph winds
TG Daily
A black hole discovered by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory is generating winds blowing at 20 million mph — about 3 percent of the speed of light. This is nearly 10 times faster than has ever been seen before from a stellar-mass black hole, and matches some of the fastest winds generated by supermassive black holes — which can be billions of times more massive. A Chandra spectrum of iron ions made two months earlier showed no evidence of the high-speed wind, meaning the wind likely turns on and off over time. The details are reported in Astrophysical Journal Letters.More

Distant 'waterworld' is confirmed
BBC News
The exoplanet GJ-1214b was discovered in 2009 by ground-based telescopes. Recent observations using Hubble Space Telescope's wide-field camera, and reported in the Astrophysical Journal seem to confirm that a large fraction of its mass is water. An earlier report indicated that the planet's atmosphere was either water or haze. These latest results are more consistent with a dense atmosphere of water vapor, than one with a haze.More

Recent tectonic activity on the moon revealed
National Geographic
Images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera have revealed long, thin valleys — known as graben — suggesting that the Moon has undergone relatively recent tectonic activity, within the past 50 million years or so. In 2010 scientists suggested that the Moon has actually shrunk since its formation some 4.6 billion years ago. The new study, reported in Nature Geoscience, suggests that the moon has a molten core but could not have been totally molten when it first formed, because a fully melted Moon would have been subjected to higher levels of compression as it cooled, which would have overridden any localized stretching that formed the graben we see today. More

X-rays reveal why the moon has no volcanoes
Recent analysis of Apollo seismometers by NASA scientists found that perhaps as much as 30 percent of the lunar mantle should be molten. On Earth, that amount of magma would find its way to the surface to create lots of volcanic eruptions. But the moon appears to be completely dead volcanically. If there is plenty of magma inside the moon, why are there no volcanoes? Using a combination of synchrotron X-ray absorption techniques on samples that replicate moon rocks brought to Earth in Apollo missions, as well as molecular dynamics simulations to determine the density range of primitive lunar melts at pressures equivalent to those in the lunar interior, researchers at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility may have provided an answer. Reported in Nature Geoscience, the titanium-rich moon rocks are neutrally buoyant at depths corresponding to the top of the proposed partial melt zone.More

Survival in academia, the tenure track not taken
Ars Technica
A new study published in a recent issue of Science, examined the rates of promotion to tenure at some major U.S. universities. It found that the gender gap in STEM fields is the product not of unfair hiring practices, rather of a "leaky pipeline," where fewer females are present at each step in academia, i.e., the pool of females looking to go onto the next stage shrinks as you go higher up the academic chain. The authors conclude that it could be 100 years before women and men each hold half the slots on the faculty of a typical STEM department.More

How schools can help moms stay in science
In a study published in American Scientist, Wendy Williams and Stephen Ceci write, "It is when academic scientists choose to be mothers that their real problems start." Luckily, there are solutions. One is stopping the tenure clock. Another way is to provide on-site, affordable childcare and lactation rooms. Williams and Ceci offer a few other ideas, including the use of part-time tenure-track positions for women having children that segue to full-time once children are older.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
International Research Grant Competition - New Frontiers in Astronomy and Cosmology
Student Essay Contest - 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 Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internship
Notre Dame Physics REU Program
Iowa State University REU Microscale Sensing Actuation and Imaging
Jack E. Crow Postdoctoral Fellowship at National High Magnetic Field Laboratory
Iowa State University REU Interdisciplinary Research and Education Emerging Interface Technologies
Wiess Instructorship in Physics and Astronomy


Accepted/rejected — Now what?
Most programs will communicate their decisions in March through April for the following fall class. Congratulations, you have been offered admissions to programs of your choice. Now what do you do? First, consider the funding. Is it guaranteed for multiple years? Is the funding enough to cover tuition and a reasonable lifestyle? What kind of housing is available? And what is your relative ranking of all the things that factor into your happiness?More

After you're accepted to graduate school
You may have applied to more than one graduate program, but even if you applied to only a single program, you must assess how the program into which you have been accepted will fit your specific needs. This can be done through self-assessment, inquiries and research. You should identify what it is you are looking for in a graduate program — academically, personally and professionally.More

Internships 101
A focused research internship is an important part of a complete undergraduate physics curriculum. During an internship you can make contacts with new peers and mentors, and get a new perspective on your field of study. You can choose to go abroad and have a very different cultural experience. Importantly you can sharpen your baseline knowledge of physics and sharpen your skills in open-ended problem solving, information gathering and synthesizing, and communication. These are skills for which physicists are known, and they are useful no matter what ultimate career path you follow.More

Latest research from Physics Education
IOP Journal
Atwood's machine as a tool to introduce variable mass systems

Experimenting with string musical instruments

A simple method for determination of the density of granular materials

High accuracy optical inverse square law experiment using inexpensive light to frequency converters

An analysis of the changes in ability and knowledge of students taking A-level physics and mathematics over a 35 year period More

Latest research from AIP Advances
AIP Advances
Formation of ordered 1-dimensional microstructures of dislocations in near-surface layer of semiconductor, under laser radiation with microstructured distribution of intensity

Magnetic-field and temperature dependence of the energy gap in InN nanobelt

Towards nonvolatile memory devices based on ferroelectric polymers

Analytic behavior of the QED polarizability function at finite temperature

Triggering, guiding and deviation of long air spark discharges with femtosecond laser filamentMore