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  Mobile version   RSS   Subscribe   Unsubscribe   Archive   Media Kit Mar. 23, 2013
Volume: IV
Number: 10

National Society of Black Physicists    African Physical Society   South African Institute of Physics   African Astronomical Society  











 

1st cosmology results from Planck mission reveal fluctuations and anisotropies in CMB
European Space Agency
When the Universe first formed it evolved from a very hot, dense plasma of elementary particles; the so-called quark-gluon plasma, to a hot dense soup of interacting protons, electrons and photons at about 3000 degrees Kelvin. When the protons and electrons joined to form hydrogen atoms, the CMB photons were decoupled from matter and able to freely propagate through space. That radiation, now redshifted, is the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the subject of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics. The Planck mission has made the first all-sky map of the CMB with greater resolution and sensitivity than ever before. Scientists have now been able to remove the bright foreground emissions that lie between us and the Universe's first light. The resulting images reveal tiny temperature fluctuations in the CMB that represent the seeds what have become the stars and galaxies of today. The Planck data confirmed an asymmetry in the average temperatures on opposite hemispheres of the sky as well as a cold spot that extends over a patch of sky that is much larger than expected. The data also allowed scientists to make refinements to their estimates of the amount of dark matter and dark energy in the Universe, as well as to the rate Universe's rate of expansion. But while the data leaves the cosmology's standard model of inflation intact, there are several features that may require new physics to explain. A series of scientific papers describing the new results has been submitted to Astronomy and Astrophysics.
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NSBP member Philip Phillips and colleagues show electrons are not enough to carry the current in cuprate superconductors
University of Illinois
The story of electrical conduction in metals is told entirely in terms of electrons. But a new result by Philip Phillips and his colleagues indicated that some other entities might be carrying current in cuprate superconductors. Their analysis follows from the observation that in cuprates the hypotheses that Luttinger's theorem is built upon are violated at certain energies in these materials. Luttinger's theorem states that the number of electrons in a material is the same as the number of electrons in all of its atoms added together. The researchers' analysis, reported in Physical Review Letters, indeed found discrepancies between the measured charge and the number of mobile electrons in cuprate superconductors. So what could be the current carriers if not electrons? The researchers are exploring possible candidates for current-carriers, but are currently focused on unparticles, a concept introduced by Georgi in 2007. Unparticles can carry current but make no contribution to the density of particles. Recently physicists implicated unparticles in long range spin-spin interactions in the Earth's crust.
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Astronomers find the youngest known protostars yet
Max Planck Institute for Astronomy
Using the Herschel Space Telescope and the submillimetre telescope APEX, a multi-national group of astronomers has discovered the youngest known protostar yet. Protostars are expected to be found in deep in the interior of dusty molecular clouds. The gravitational contraction in these clouds leads to protostars that emit infrared radiation. The Hershel Space Telescope can see this infrared radiation. But there are many other sources of IR radiation beside protostars. However, as radiation reaching us from protostars formed long ago would be redshifted into the submillimeter range, thus observable by APEX. The astronomers combined the Hershel and APEX data with physical models of star formation to identify 15 new protostars, including the youngest one ever found. The observations are described in detail in the Astrophysical Journal. These new protostars will allow scientists to start refining their models of star formation, and follow-up observations with Hershel (which will cease operation soon), Green Bank (whose operation is also in jeopardy), and the very powerful ALMA telescope will reveal finer details of these protostars and their surrounding dusty molecular clouds.
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'Physics in South Africa' to be released in July
SAIP
The South African Institute of Physics is pleased to announce that the book "Physics in South Africa" will be released during the 2013 SAIP Annual Conference. The book is the most complete archival record to date of physics in South Africa. It is divided into three parts which cover the history of SAIP itself, the physics activities of South African universities, national research institutes and industries. Altogether it catalogues the tremendous growth of physics and astronomy in South Africa, as well as the role of the SAIP in representing its membership to maintain the trajectory of relevance, capacity, health, excellence and influence. The book is admittedly incomplete, and there are many untold stories that should be included. So although a limited run of hard copies will be available, the book’s release will be in the context of a website, which will allow it to evolve as more archives are uncovered and and oral histories are developed.
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Computed tomography provides real-time 3-D pictures showing how oil and water flow in porous rock
Paul Sherrer Institut
For the first time, experiments using computed tomography have allowed scientists to observe in 3D the flow of oil and water in real rock on an unprecedented scale. Oil and gas are typically trapped inside small pores in sedimentary rocks. Conventional oil production leaves approximately 50-70 percent of the oil behind. Standard approaches for describing macroscopic behavior of simultaneous flow of several immiscible fluids, such as oil and water have many shortcomings and do not contribute to our understanding of the processes on the level of single pores. Scientists illuminated small samples of the rock from different directions with high intensity X-rays, and then combined the images to provide high resolution 3D movie showing the flow processes. The results are presented in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. With this new insight into the fundamental processes the industry can develop new and safe methods to produce more oil from existing reservoirs.
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Emissions from the base of black hole jet detected for the 1st time
European Space Agency
Astronomers using the Herschel space observatory have detected emission from the base of black-hole jets for the first time. Black holes accrete mass from a disk about their centers. They also release of powerful jets of highly-energetic particles that stretch from the accretion disk into outer space. The physical mechanisms underlying the outburst of jets and their connection with the accretion process, however, are still unclear. While studying the black-hole binary system GX 339-4 in a multi-wavelength observation campaign, they noticed changes in the source's X-ray and radio emissions signaling the onset of powerful jets being released from the black hole's vicinity. This prompted the astronomers to observe the source at far-infrared wavelengths with Herschel. As the first observation of emission from jets in a black-hole binary system at these wavelengths, the data have allowed the astronomers to probe the jets down to their base, where the far-infrared emission originates as synchrotron radiation released by highly-energetic electrons. These far-infrared emissions have a compelling explanation, but they opened up new questions as to the origins of the optical near IR emissions. This work is reported in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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Giant photonic spin Hall effect observed in metamaterials
Physics World
Physicists have reported in Science the best yet measurement of the photonic spin Hall effect. The photonic spin Hall effect arises because photons, like electrons, also have spin. But photons have very small momentum, so the spin-orbit coupling is very weak. In this new work, researchers fabricated a metamaterial with optical resonators. The metamaterial's surfaces were constructed into V-shaped gold nanoantennas. The light propagation direction is along the V geometry. The photonic spin Hall effect depends on the curvature of the light's trajectory; the sharper the change in propagation direction, the stronger the effect. By adjusting the length and orientation of the arms of the Vs, researchers manipulated the propagation path to greatly enhance a naturally weak effect to the point where it was directly observable with simple detection techniques. This also had the effect of selecting as an output the circular polarization of the input light.
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Possible sign of annihilating Majorana pairs found in superconductor -semiconductor system
American Physical Society
In 1937, Majorana proposed that neutral spin-1/2 fermions can be described by real wave functions, rendering such entities their own antiparticles. Particle physicists have been searching for over 70 years for this hypothetical particle. But last year, condensed matter physicists reported a Majorana-like state in a hybrid superconductor-semiconductor nanowire device, but this interpretation is still under dispute. In such systems a signature of Majorana quasiparticles would be a conductance peak in the wire at zero voltage, a so-called zero-bias anomaly. A new experiment with an indium arsenide nanowire coupled to superconducting niobium nitride leads at high magnetic field has obtained this Majorana-like signature. The high magnetic field presumably suppresses the confounding effects such as Josephson supercurrents, Kondo resonances and reflection-less tunneling. The results, described in Physical Review Letters, may provide the first evidence of "annihilations" between Majorana pairs.
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Tests underscore potential hazards of green laser pointers
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Using a low-cost apparatus designed to quickly and accurately measure the properties of handheld laser devices, NIST researchers tested 122 laser pointers and found that nearly 90 percent of green pointers and about 44 percent of red pointers tested were out of compliance with federal safety regulations. Anecdotal reports of green laser hazards have previously appeared in scientific journals and the media, but the new NIST tests, reported in Measurement Science and Technology, are the first reported precision measurements of a large number of handheld laser devices. Under US regulations, laser pointers are limited to 5 milliwatts maximum emission in the visible portion of the spectrum and less than 2 milliwatts in the infrared portion of the spectrum. About half the devices tested emitted power levels at least twice the allowable limit at one or more wavelengths. The test bed and methods can be easily replicated for demonstration and instructional purposes.
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A fast new method for measuring hard-to-diagnose 3-D plasmas in fusion facilities
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory
Researchers at PPPL and NIFS have created a computer code that simulates 3-D magnetohydrodynamics along with diagnostic measurements. Previous codes did not have the ability to calculate diagnostic measurements. The researchers employed a mathematical technique called "virtual casing" to develop the new code, detailed in Plasma Physics and Controlled Fusion, for 3-D equilibrium fusion plasmas. Such plasmas are held in place by the balance of inward pressure from the magnetic field and outward pressure of the plasma itself. Knowing the magnetic field at the edge of the plasma, which can be achieve through virtual casing, is all that is necessary to calculate the magnetic diagnostic signals. The code is versatile and can be used is smooth or turbulent flow simulations. The code enables plasma scientists to do parametric predictions of fusion reactor behavior.
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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Designed as a unique and much-needed resource for educators, managers and policymakers, the Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering publishes original, peer-reviewed papers that report innovative ideas and programs for classroom teachers, scientific studies and formulation of concepts related to the education, recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups in science and engineering.

Access now available to NSBP members at www.nsbp.org.


Science policy round-up: Sequester, FY13 funding, helium supply and setback for political scientists
Waves and Packets
The sequester has happened and those funds will not be reinstated in the continuing resolution legislation that was given final passage on Thursday. This legislation is an omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the U.S. government through the rest of this fiscal year, that is, Sept. 30. NSF has said that existing grantees will not be affected by the sequester. However, there will be reductions to the number of new research grants and cooperative agreements awarded in FY 2013.

Political scientists suffered a setback in the continuing resolution. Both the House and Senate approved an amendment that would bar NSF from awarding any grants in political science unless the director can certify that the research would promote "the national security or economic interests of the United States." The political science programs at NSF have a combined budget of $13 million. The legislation requires the NSF director to move the uncertified amount to other programs. President Barack Obama is expected to sign the legislation. This kind of action against social science research is not new, but this is the first time in a long while that such a measure actually has become law.

On Wednesday the House Natural Resources Committee unanimously approved legislation that would significantly reform how one-half of the nation's domestic helium supply is managed and sold. H.R. 527, the Responsible Helium Administration and Stewardship Act would maintain the reserve's operation, require semi-annual helium auctions, and provide access to pipeline infrastructure for pre-approved bidders, in addition to other provisions on matters such as refining and minimum pricing. The bill now moves to the House floor. On the Senate side key Senators have pledged to address the matter quickly.

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Admissions criteria and diversity in graduate school
American Physical Society
There are about 180 physics programs listed in the AIP Graduate Programs book. The General GRE is required by 96 percent; a quarter of these have an explicitly stated minimum Quantitative GRE score for admission, with the median stated cut-off being 700. As educators, we naturally expect exams to be meaningful. Most people believe this is the case for the GRE exams, and may thus prefer high scores. But analysis of the data often finds no significant correlation between long-term success and GRE scores. The implications for diversity of using 700 as a minimum acceptable score are that nearly three quarters of Hispanics would be rejected, and significantly more than this for American Indians, African Americans, and Puerto Ricans; similarly, women are filtered out at a higher rate than men. Mixing cut-off scores with these racial and gender disparities sets the foundation of a glass ceiling erected by the lopsided treatment of minorities and women before they even set foot in grad school.
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Follow the APS March Meeting on Twitter @APSMeetings and #APSmarch


Your time line for graduate school applications
NSBP
Your time line towards applying to graduate school should begin in earnest in the summer before you are to graduate (assuming you will be graduating after the spring semester and want to go to graduate school right away). In June-August start thinking about what areas of physics interests you, and where you want to be in 5-10 years. You should use your advanced coursework, electives and senior research project to further explore your interests in physics. If you start practicing now your should be able to take the General GRE early in the coming summer. The test is given year-round at computer-based test centers located around the world. The physics subject GRE is still a paper and pencil based test. It is offered in early October, mid-November, and early April. Unless you are really ahead of the game and are ready for the physics GRE next month, you need to key on the fall administrations as the scores for the April 2014 test will not be available in time for an application for the following fall's class.
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365 Days of Astronomy Podcast
365 Days of Astronomy Podcast publishes daily podcasts, five to 10 minutes in duration. They are written, recorded and produced by people around the world. We are looking for individuals, schools, companies and clubs to provide five to 10 podcasts. You can do as few as one episode or up to 12 episodes (one per month, subject, of course, to our editorial discretion). Our goal is to encourage people to sign up for a particular day (or days) of the year. For more information, see the 365 Days of Astronomy website.




National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
NSBP
Upper School Physics Teacher
Full-time Lecturer in Experimental Physics
Summer Internship
Schuler Postdoctoral Fellowship
Postdoctoral Fellowship - Stanford Molecular Imaging Scholars Program
Summer Undergraduate Researcher
Postdoctoral Research Associate Positions

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NSBP member Philip Phillips and colleagues show electrons are not enough to carry the current in cuprate superconductors
University of Illinois
The story of electrical conduction in metals is told entirely in terms of electrons. But a new result by Philip Phillips and his colleagues indicated that some other entities might be carrying current in cuprate superconductors.

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Superheated water under graphene can corrode diamonds
R&D Magazine
Superheated water trapped between a layer of graphene and a diamond surface becomes corrosive enough to cut the diamond. Apparently at high temperature, the chemical bonding between graphene and diamond is robust enough that the water molecules stay trapped between the two.

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Carbon monoxide and water signatures in distant planet show clues to its formation
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Using the OSIRIS instrument on the Keck II telescope a multi-national team of scientists has made the most detailed examination yet of the atmosphere of a Jupiter-size like planet beyond our solar system.

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Latest research from IOP Collections: Reviews
IOP Publishing
Determination of the third neutrino-mixing angle θ13 and its implications

Correlation effects in two-dimensional topological insulators

Anisotropy of spin relaxation and transverse transport in metals

Theory of coherent phonons in carbon nanotubes and graphene nanoribbons

Determination of the transfer function for optical surface topography measuring instruments—a review

The importance of methane breath testing: a review


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Subscribe to NSBP e-newsletters for daily updates on physics, astronomy, photonics, policy and more. Twitterphysics, Twitter Astronomy Observer, Photonics and Optics Daily, Cosmology and Quantum Gravity, Science Policy Monitor and Science Funding Report. Powered by Paper.li


Latest research from Reviews of Geophysics
American Geophysical Union
Dusty plasma effects in comets: Expectations for Rosetta

Periodicities in Saturn's Magnetosphere

Environmental magnetism: Principles and applications

Constraints on subduction geodynamics from seismic anisotropy

Convective quasi-equilibrium

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NSBP Waves and Packets
Colby Horton, Vice President of Publishing, 469.420.2601
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