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  Mobile version   RSS   Subscribe   Unsubscribe   Archive   Media Kit Oct. 27, 2012
Volume: III
Number: 39

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


1st 'black widow' pulsar found from gamma ray observations
Ars Technica    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Astronomers generally discover millisecond pulsars by their radio emissions. But many of the stars are also very strong gamma ray sources. Astronomers have now used the Fermi Gamma-Ray Space Telescope to identify a so-called "black widow" pulsar that's stripping mass off a close companion star while simultaneously evaporating it by emitting intense radiation. The stars are so close that they complete an orbit around each other in just 93 minutes. The discovery was made through a combination of tedious blind-searching of data taken by the Large Area Telescope onboard the Fermi space telescope. Follow-up optical observations confirm the finding, which is reported in Science. More

South African biophysicists make important advance in fight against tuberculosis
NSBP via South African Institute of Physics and University of Cape Town    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
The World Health Organization has declared tuberculosis infection to be a global health emergency. It is a major complication in HIV pathology, urban poverty as well as in rural settings. A specific anti-TB drug would be an important new clinical modality to treating TB infections . And rational drug design informed by protein biophysics research would be very useful in continuing the decline of TB deaths; just as it has been in development of anti-HIV drugs. In a paper in the biological crystallography section of Acta Crystallographica, a team of biophysicists in South Africa report a significant advance towards rational anti-TB drug design. The zinc-dependent enzyme, N-acetyl-1-d-myo-inosityl-2-amino-2-deoxy-d-glucopyranoside deacetylase (MshB) is important in the survival of the tuberculosis bacteria. Inhibit this enzyme and the infection could effectively be stopped. The South African team was able to grow protein crystals that diffract to 1.95 angstroms. Their images present a compelling view of the enzyme's active site, and the researchers were able to determine the stereoelectronic and dynamic roles of specific amino acids in the active site. Importantly, in this work they found that glycerol could be competitive inhibitor of this enzyme. More

NSBP is participating in the 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress

The 2012 Quadrennial Physics Congress will be hosted by Sigma Pi Sigma, the physics honor society, in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 8-12. It will center on the theme Connecting Worlds Through Science & Service. Undergraduates, practicing physicists and physics alumni from a broad spectrum of career paths will gather together to address the interconnectivity of the modern world and what it means to science. More

Astronomers report dark matter 'halos' may contain stars, disprove other theories
University of California Los Angeles    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Astronomers see more infrared radiation than what is emitted from known galaxies. They see what are neither stars nor galaxies nor a uniform dark sky but mysterious, sandpaperlike smatterings of infrared light. And the explanation for this Cosmic Infrared Background is far from settled.

Galaxies exist in dark matter halos that are much bigger than the galaxies; when galaxies form and merge together, the dark matter halo gets larger and the stars and gas sink to the middle of the halo. Could it be that dark matter halos are not completely dark after all but contain a small number of stars, and that explains this excess radiation?

A team of astronomers make a case for that in recent paper published in Nature. They contend that the small number of stars that were kicked to the edges of space during violent collisions and mergers of galaxies may be the cause of the infrared light halos across the sky and may explain the mystery of the excess emitted infrared light. At the same time the researchers point out that explanations relying on the excess light coming from far-off galaxies are not supported by the available data.

Increase your options for graduate or REU program admissions
NSBP    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
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

Aftermath of massive storm on Saturn seen by NASA's Cassini spacecraft
NASA    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
From December 2010 through much of 2011 both professional and amateur astronomers observed a rare massive storm on Saturn. Data obtained by the composite infrared spectrometer onboard NASA's Cassini spacecraft show ongoing record-setting disturbances in Saturn's upper atmosphere occurred long after the visible signs of the storm abated. Specifically, a giant oval vortex can be seen in infrared, which does not exist in the optical data, and which for a short time was even larger than Jupiter's Big Red Spot. Furthermore, the temperature of the vortex was far higher than expected, namely 83 K warmer than the surrounding atmosphere. In addition, huge spikes in the amount of gases like ethylene and acetylene were detected. Ethylene, an odorless, colorless gas, isn't typically observed on Saturn. On Earth, it is created by natural and man-made sources. Its origin on Saturn is a mystery. A paper describing the vortex has already been published in the journal Icarus. Another will appear next month in the Astrophysical Journal. More

With activation of ASKAP, Australia advances SKA and radio astronomy research capabilities
Reuters    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Australia's SKA Pathfinder precursor telescope was officially opened Oct. 5. When fully operational in 2013, it will be the world's fastest survey radio-telescope, thanks to innovative Phased Array Feed "radio cameras" developed by Australia's CSIRO. These "radio cameras" provide wide but clear images of the sky, allowing astronomers to map and compare astronomical objects faster than ever before. More than just a precursor instrument to demonstrate advanced technology for the SKA, the $160 million, 36-dish telescope is a premier telescope facility in its own right with clear science objectives. In ASKAP’s first five years of operation at least 75% of its time will be used for large survey science projects, each needing more than 1,500 hours to complete and all designed to make use of the telescope’s unique capabilities. During phase 1 of the SKA beginning in 2016, ASKAP will be built-out with an additional 60 antennas to form the 96-dish SKA Survey Array. More

Molecular motion in glassy state revealed
Emory University    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A team of physicists at Emory University has provided the first direct observation of how particles move and tumble through space during a transition from a supercooled liquid to the glass state. When a solution turns to ice, it goes to a well-ordered crystal structure. In glasses, however, molecules do not crystallize. Instead, the movement of molecules in glasses slows down as the temperature cools, and the molecules jumble up as the molecular solution becomes more viscous. No one understands exactly why. In their confocal microscopy study, the team was able to provide the first clear 3-D picture of the particle dynamics for glass formation. As the glass transition of their colloidal was approached, translational and rotational diffusion decoupled from each other. Rotational diffusion remains inversely proportional to the growing viscosity whereas translational diffusion does not, decreasing by a much lesser extent. This decoupling demonstrates that as the glass transition is approached, the sample can no longer be approximated as a continuum fluid when considering diffusion. These results are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More

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Italian geophysicists convicted and sentenced 6 years in prison for wrong earthquake prediction
Nature    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
An Italian court has convicted six scientists and one public official on manslaughter charges for not adequately assessing the risk of a major earthquake, and for not communicating the known, unknown and unknowable risks to the general public.

In April 2009, an earthquake devastated the Italian city of L'Aquila and killed more than 300 people. The magnitude-6.3 quake had been preceded by hundreds of low-level tremors over several months. The night before the major quake, L'Aquila shook with a strong, magnitude-3.9 tremor. At the time a panel of scientists assessed the risk of a devastating earthquake to be low, and as a result the L'Aquila was not evacuated.

The convicted include Enzo Boschi, then-president of Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome; Franco Barberi, at the University of "Rome Tre;" Mauro Dolce, head of the seismic-risk office at the national Department of Civil Protection in Rome; Claudio Eva, from the University of Genova; Giulio Selvaggi, director of the INGV's National Earthquake Centre in Rome; and Gian Michele Calvi, president of the European Centre for Training and Research in Earthquake Engineering in Pavia; as well as government official Bernardo De Bernardinis, then vice-director of the Department of Civil Protection.

Many view the prosecution and subsequent conviction as an attack on science and against scientists. But the prosecutor differs, saying instead the issue is that the defendants were criminally negligent in the way they conducted their assessment and communication to the public. He asserts that the scientists engaged in a scheme that was more to pacify and falsely reassure the public rather than to inform it with all due candor. The results, he charged, and the court agreed, was the deaths of over 300 people.

Physicists show bias against female job applicants
Physics World    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A U.S. study, published in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences, has found that researchers assessing the employability of early-career scientists subconsciously favor male students over females. The study involved 127 tenured scientists across six universities in the U.S. being asked to provide feedback on an excerpt from a job application for a graduate-level lab-technician post at another institution. The findings include that not only did the scientists rate the male applicant as significantly more competent and employable than the (identical) female applicant, but also that the employers would have given the male student a higher starting salary. The bias shown by the potential employers was independent of their gender, age and seniority, indicating that even women show a subconscious bias against other women. More

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

Fresh insight into topological insulators
Boston University    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A team of physicists at Boston College report via Nature Communications that the placement of tiny ripples on the surface of a topological insulator engineered from bismuth telluride effectively modulates Dirac electrons so they flow in a pathway that perfectly mirrors the topography of the crystal's surface. Scanning tunneling microscopy is capable of revealing the characteristics of these tiny waves as they rise and fall, enabling the researchers to draw a direct connection between the features of the ripples and modulation of the waves across the material's surface. The rippled topography imposed a sinusoidal potential upon the electrons, giving them a landscape to follow. The electrons so exquisitely followed the surface ripples that imposing such surface imperfections may be a possible way of manipulating surface electrons in topological insulators. More

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.

New discovery advances high-pressure physics research
Argonne National Lab    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
An international team of scientists has invented a new technique that will allow researchers to exert pressure on samples in excess of four million atmospheres. This is 50 percent more pressure than previously demonstrated and 150 percent more pressure than accessible by typical high-pressure experiments. Static pressure of 640 GPa is 6 million times the pressure of the air at the Earth's surface and more than one and a half times the pressure at the center of the Earth. Pressures at this level have vast ramifications for earth science, cosmology, chemistry, shock physics and material science. At pressures this high, new unique compounds could form. Materials could change their chemical and physical properties. Metals, for instance, become insulators.

As reported in Nature Communications, the new anvil design uses micro-semi-balls made of nanodiamond as second-stage anvils in conventional diamond anvil cells. The nanocrystalline diamond balls have very high-yield strength and are less compressible and less brittle than single-crystal diamonds.

The new design allows for the exertion of static pressure, as opposed to dynamic, or shock-wave-based, techniques where the pressure exists only for fleeting moments. Static pressure allows in-situ measurements of material properties like X-ray structure.

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National Society of Black Physicists jobs board postings
NSBP    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Member-Advisory Committee on Reactor Safeguards
Post Doctoral (12-0164)
Renewable Energy REU at Colorado School of Mines
Post Doctoral Research Associate - Space Telescope Science Institute
Tenure-Track Faculty Position, Physics
Assistant Professor, Experimental Physics
Tenure-track Position Applied Physics — #18557
Tenure-Track Assistant Professor — University of Maryland Baltimore County
Assistant Professor, Astrophysics
Experimental Particle Physics Faculty
Cornell University Tenure Track Assistant Professor in Experimental Physics
Tenure Track Faculty Position in Experimental Particle Physics
National Radio Astronomy Observatory Jansky Fellowship Program
Faculty Positions in Science, Technology and Innovation
AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow
Tenure-track faculty position in physics at Middlebury College
Faculty Position in Theoretical Polymer Physics

Latest research from The Astrophysical Journal Letters
IOP Science    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
A Possible Carbon-rich Interior in Super-Earth 55 Cancri e

1st Detection of Water Vapor in a Pre-stellar Core

Nondetection of Previously Reported Transits of HD 97658b with MOST Photometry

Constraints on the Ionizing Efficiency of the 1st Galaxies

The Size Difference between Red and Blue Globular Clusters is not due to Projection Effects

Latest research from Optical Materials
Elsevier    Share    Share on FacebookTwitterShare on LinkedinE-mail article
Investigation of nc-PbS/a-Si1−xCx:H/pSi(100) heterostructures for LED applications

Photodegradation characteristics of sol–gel-derived glass-coated Eu-complex fabricated by solvothermal process using several silane alkoxides and solvents

Spectroscopic properties of Nd3+ doped borate glasses

Omnidirectional band gaps in quasiperiodic photonic crystals in the THz region

Quantitative analysis of energy transfer processes in Thulium–Bismuth germanate co-doped fiber amplifier

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