Saturday, August 01, 2009

Phonon Lasers

Phonon laser action in a tunable, two-level photonic molecule
The phonon analog of an optical laser has long been a subject of interest. We demonstrate a compound microcavity system, coupled to a radio-frequency mechanical mode, that operates in close analogy to a two-level laser system. An inversion produces gain, causing phonon laser action above a pump power threshold of around 50 $\mu$W. The device features a continuously tunable, gain spectrum to selectively amplify mechanical modes from radio frequency to microwave rates. Viewed as a Brillouin process, the system accesses a regime in which the phonon plays what has traditionally been the role of the Stokes wave. For this reason, it should also be possible to controllably switch between phonon and photon laser regimes. Cooling of the mechanical mode is also possible.

Nuclear Astrophysics

Massive stars as thermonuclear reactors and their explosions following core collapse
Nuclear reactions transform atomic nuclei inside stars. This is the process of stellar nucleosynthesis. The basic concepts of determining nuclear reaction rates inside stars are reviewed. How stars manage to burn their fuel so slowly most of the time are also considered. Stellar thermonuclear reactions involving protons in hydrostatic burning are discussed first. Then I discuss triple alpha reactions in the helium burning stage. Carbon and oxygen survive in red giant stars because of the nuclear structure of oxygen and neon. Further nuclear burning of carbon, neon, oxygen and silicon in quiescent conditions are discussed next. In the subsequent core-collapse phase, neutronization due to electron capture from the top of the Fermi sea in a degenerate core takes place. The expected signal of neutrinos from a nearby supernova is calculated. The supernova often explodes inside a dense circumstellar medium, which is established due to the progenitor star losing its outermost envelope in a stellar wind or mass transfer in a binary system. The nature of the circumstellar medium and the ejecta of the supernova and their dynamics are revealed by observations in the optical, IR, radio, and X-ray bands, and I discuss some of these observations and their interpretations.

Musical Numerology

Why the Kirnberger Kernel Is So Small discusses some interesting numerical coincidences in the most commonly used musical scale.

Open Problems in HadronPhysics

Confinement & Chiral Symmetry Breaking: The fundamental problems of hadron physics
Some of the difficulties arising when one tries to understand confinement as well as dynamical and anomalous chiral symmetry breaking are reviewed. Criteria to be fulfilled by a successful and complete picture of these phenomena are presented, and a few of the suggested explanations are listed.