Friday, June 25, 2010


Graphene Photonics and Optoelectronics preprint.
The richness of optical and electronic properties of graphene attracts enormous interest. Graphene has high mobility and optical transparency, in addition to flexibility, robustness and environmental stability. So far, the main focus has been on fundamental physics and electronic devices. However, we believe its true potential to be in photonics and optoelectronics, where the combination of its unique optical and electronic properties can be fully exploited, even in the absence of a bandgap, and the linear dispersion of the Dirac electrons enables ultra-wide-band tunability. The rise of graphene in photonics and optoelectronics is shown by several recent results, ranging from solar cells and light emitting devices, to touch screens, photodetectors and ultrafast lasers. Here we review the state of the art in this emerging field.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Calculating the Day of the Week

A Method for Accelerating Conway's Doomsday Algorithm preprint.
A simplified version of Conway's Doomsday Algorithm for calculating the day of the week of any calendar date.

The surprising effect of handling objects on subsequent decision-making

Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions in Science.
Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical means of information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physical touch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual and metaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the application of this knowledge. In six experiments, holding heavy or light clipboards, solving rough or smooth puzzles, and touching hard or soft objects nonconsciously influenced impressions and decisions formed about unrelated people and situations. Among other effects, heavy objects made job candidates appear more important, rough objects made social interactions appear more difficult, and hard objects increased rigidity in negotiations. Basic tactile sensations are thus shown to influence higher social cognitive processing in dimension-specific and metaphor-specific ways.

Evolution of Microbial Cooperation

A Generalization of Hamilton’s Rule for the Evolution of Microbial Cooperation in Science.
Hamilton’s rule states that cooperation will evolve if the fitness cost to actors is less than the benefit to recipients multiplied by their genetic relatedness. This rule makes many simplifying assumptions, however, and does not accurately describe social evolution in organisms such as microbes where selection is both strong and nonadditive. We derived a generalization of Hamilton’s rule and measured its parameters in Myxococcus xanthus bacteria. Nonadditivity made cooperative sporulation remarkably resistant to exploitation by cheater strains. Selection was driven by higher-order moments of population structure, not relatedness. These results provide an empirically testable cooperation principle applicable to both microbes and multicellular organisms and show how nonlinear interactions among cells insulate bacteria against cheaters.

Ice Age Terminations

The Last Glacial Termination in Science.
A major puzzle of paleoclimatology is why, after a long interval of cooling climate, each late Quaternary ice age ended with a relatively short warming leg called a termination. We here offer a comprehensive hypothesis of how Earth emerged from the last global ice age. A prerequisite was the growth of very large Northern Hemisphere ice sheets, whose subsequent collapse created stadial conditions that disrupted global patterns of ocean and atmospheric circulation. The Southern Hemisphere westerlies shifted poleward during each northern stadial, producing pulses of ocean upwelling and warming that together accounted for much of the termination in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. Rising atmospheric CO2 during southern upwelling pulses augmented warming during the last termination in both polar hemispheres.

Velocities in Globular Clusters

Testing Newtonian gravity in the low acceleration regime with globular clusters: the case of omega Centauri revisited preprint.
Stellar kinematics in the external regions of globular clusters can be used to probe the validity of Newton's law in the low acceleration regimes without the complication of non-baryonic dark matter. Indeed, in contrast with what happens when studying galaxies, in globular clusters a systematic deviation of the velocity dispersion profile from the expected Keplerian falloff would provide indication of a breakdown of Newtonian dynamics rather than the existence of dark matter. We perform a detailed analysis of the velocity dispersion in the globular cluster omega Centauri in order to investigate whether it does decrease monotonically with distance as recently claimed by Sollima et al. (2009), or whether it converges toward a constant value as claimed by Scarpa Marconi and Gilmozzi (2003B). We combine measurements from these two works to almost double the data available at large radii, in this way obtaining an improved determination of the velocity dispersion profile in the low acceleration regime. We found the inner region of omega Centauri is clearly rotating, while the rotational velocity tend to vanish, and is consistent with no rotation at all, in the external regions. The cluster velocity dispersion at large radii from the center is found to be sensibly constant. The main conclusion of this work is that strong similarities are emerging between globular clusters and elliptical galaxies, for in both classes of objects the velocity dispersion tends to remain constant at large radii. In the case of galaxies, this is ascribed to the presence of a massive halo of dark matter, something physically unlikely in the case of globular clusters. Such similarity, if confirmed, is best explained by a breakdown of Newtonian dynamics below a critical acceleration

Omega Centauri ESO

While this paper asserts that globular clusters cannot contain dark matter, it didn't actually seem to provide the reason why not. Upon googling, I didn't stumble upon a really definitive explanation of this, and it seemed that other researchers may disagree.

Quantum Lithography

On the efficiency of quantum lithography - preprint.
Quantum lithography promises, in principle, unlimited feature resolution, independent of wavelength. However, in the literature at least two different theoretical descriptions of quantum lithography exist. They differ in to which extent they predict that the photons retain spatial correlation, and while both predict the same feature size, they differ vastly in predicting how efficiently a quantum lithographic pattern can be exposed.
Until recently, essentially all experiments reported have been performed in such a way that it is difficult to distinguish between the two theoretical explanations. However, recently an experiment was performed which gives different outcomes for the two theories. We comment on the experiment and show that the model that fits the data unfortunately indicates that the trade-off between resolution and efficiency in quantum lithography is very unfavorable.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Magnetic resonance force microscopy

Force-detected nuclear magnetic resonance: Recent advances and future challenges, preprint.
We review recent efforts to detect small numbers of nuclear spins using magnetic resonance force microscopy. Magnetic resonance force microscopy (MRFM) is a scanning probe technique that relies on the mechanical measurement of the weak magnetic force between a microscopic magnet and the magnetic moments in a sample. Spurred by the recent progress in fabricating ultrasensitive force detectors, MRFM has rapidly improved its capability over the last decade. Today it boasts a spin sensitivity that surpasses conventional, inductive nuclear magnetic resonance detectors by about eight orders of magnitude. In this review we touch on the origins of this technique and focus on its recent application to nanoscale nuclear spin ensembles, in particular on the imaging of nanoscale objects with a three-dimensional (3D) spatial resolution better than 10 nm. We consider the experimental advances driving this work and highlight the underlying physical principles and limitations of the method. Finally, we discuss the challenges that must be met in order to advance the technique towards single nuclear spin sensitivity -- and perhaps -- to 3D microscopy of molecules with atomic resolution

Monday, June 14, 2010

Neutrinoless Double Beta Decay

Nuclear Double Beta Decay, Fundamental Particle Physics, Hot Dark Matter, And Dark Energy preprint.
Nuclear double beta decay, an extremely rare radioactive decay process, is - in one of its variants - one of the most exciting means of research into particle physics beyond the standard model. The large progress in sensitivity of experiments searching for neutrinoless double beta decay in the last two decades - based largely on the use of large amounts of enriched source material in "active source experiments" - has lead to the observation of the occurrence of this process in nature (on a 6.4 sigma level), with the largest half-life ever observed for a nuclear decay process (2.2 x 10^{25} y). This has fundamental consequences for particle physics - violation of lepton number, Majorana nature of the neutrino. These results are independent of any information on nuclear matrix elements (NME)*. It further leads to sharp restrictions for SUSY theories, sneutrino mass, right-handed W-boson mass, superheavy neutrino masses, compositeness, leptoquarks, violation of Lorentz invariance and equivalence principle in the neutrino sector. The masses of light-neutrinos are found to be degenerate, and to be at least 0.22 +- 0.02 eV. This fixes the contribution of neutrinos as hot dark matter to >=4.7% of the total observed dark matter. The neutrino mass determined might solve also the dark energy puzzle. *{It is briefly discussed how important NME for 0nubb decay really are.}

Dark Matter: A Primer

Dark Matter: A Primer preprint.
Dark matter is one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in cosmology at the present time. About 80% of the universe's gravitating matter is non-luminous, and its nature and distribution are for the most part unknown. In this paper, we will outline the history, astrophysical evidence, candidates, and detection methods of dark matter, with the goal to give the reader an accessible but rigorous introduction to the puzzle of dark matter. This review targets advanced students and researchers new to the field of dark matter, and includes an extensive list of references for further study

see also this previous post: Dark Matter Review Article.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Making Rope

The ancient art of laying rope
We describe a geometrical property of helical structures and show how it accounts for the early art of ropemaking. Helices have a maximum number of rotations that can be added to them -- and it is shown that for an $N$-ply this is a geometrical feature, not a material property. This geometrical insight explains why nearly identically appearing ropes can be made from very different materials and it is also the reason behind the unyielding nature of ropes. The maximally rotated strands behave as zero-twist structures. Under strain they neither rotate one or the other way. The necessity for the rope to be stretched while being laid, known from Egyptian tomb scenes, follows straightforwardly, as does the function of the top, an old tool for laying ropes. The repetitive structures of twisted metal wires in Viking arm and neck rings are discussed in the light of the new insight arising for the understanding of zero-twist structures. They are maximally rotated structures.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Field Testing Sexual Selection in Crickets

Dance Like No One Is Watching, Sing Like No One Is Listening? in Science.
Genetic paternity testing and field observations of crickets challenge conventional wisdom about sex differences and fitness.
Freshwater Outburst from Lake Superior as a Trigger for the Cold Event 9300 Years Ago in Science.
Paleoclimate proxy records reveal a pervasive cooling event with a Northern Hemispheric extent ~9300 years ago. Coeval changes in the oceanic circulation of the North Atlantic imply freshwater forcing. However, the source, magnitude, and routing of meltwater have remained unknown. Located in central North America, Lake Superior is a key site for regulating the outflow of glacial meltwater to the oceans. Here, we show evidence for an ~45-meter rapid lake-level fall in this basin, centered on 9300 calibrated years before the present, due to the failure of a glacial drift dam on the southeast corner of the lake. We ascribe the widespread climate anomaly ~9300 years ago to this freshwater outburst delivered to the North Atlantic Ocean through the Lake Huron–North Bay–Ottawa River–St. Lawrence River valleys

The Lamb Shift

The Lamb Shift—Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow in Science.
"Quantum field effects are magnified by collective interactions between many atoms."

The Local Void

Local difficulty for Big Bang in Nature.
The relativistic Big Bang theory of cosmic evolution gives a good description of our expanding Universe on the grand scale. But closer to home, where we can observe galactic properties in detail, its predictions go awry. For instance, some of the largest galaxies in our neighbourhood are found in less crowded regions, contrary to standard-model predictions. And the region known as the Local Void contains many fewer galaxies than expected. The observations of nearby galaxies are more understandable if it is assumed that matter forms more rapidly into galaxies and clusters than current theory allows. Jim Peebles and Adi Nusser outline recent efforts by cosmologists to adapt fundamental theory to let new physics operate on the scale of galaxies, yet preserve the properties of the present model on cosmological scales

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Center of the Galaxy

The Massive Black Hole and Nuclear Star Cluster in the Center of the Milky Way

The Galactic Center is an excellent laboratory for studying phenomena and physical occurring in many other galactic nuclei. The Center of our Milky Way is by far the closest galactic nucleus, and observations with exquisite resolution and sensitivity cover 18 orders of magnitude in energy of electromagnetic radiation. Theoretical simulations have become increasingly more powerful in explaining these measurements. This review summarizes the recent progress in observational and theoretical work on the central parsec, with a strong emphasis on the current empirical evidence for a central massive black hole and on the properties of the surrounding dense star cluster. We present the current evidence, from the analysis of the orbits of more than two dozen stars and from the measurements of the size and motion of the central compact radio source, Sgr A*, that this radio source must be a massive black hole of about 4.4 x 10^6 Solar Masses, beyond any reasonable doubt. We report what is known about the structure and evolution of the dense nuclear star cluster surrounding this black hole, including the astounding fact that stars have been forming in the vicinity of Sgr A* recently, apparently with a top-heavy stellar mass function. We discuss a dense concentration of fainter stars centered in the immediate vicinity of the massive black hole, three of which have orbital peri-bothroi of less than one light day. This 'S-star cluster' appears to consist mainly of young early-type stars, in contrast to the predicted properties of an equilibrium 'stellar cusp' around a black hole. This constitutes a remarkable and presently not fully understood 'paradox of youth'. We also summarize more briefly what is known about the emission properties of the accreting gas onto Sgr A* and how this emission is beginning to delineate the physical properties in the hot accretion zone around the event horizon.

Chandra image of Sgr A*