Brainy Quote of the Day

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Fermilab and Wakandacon...

Fermilab intern Tiffany Price connects with Dana Simone Stovall-Savage at Fermilab’s booth. Photo: Bailey Bedford

Topics: Afrofuturism, Black Panther, Diversity, Diversity in Science, Women in Science

In July, Fermilab joined Wakandacon in Chicago, the three-day Afro-futuristic celebration of the black experience, nerd culture and science. It was a perfect opportunity to present the public with a broader view of science and who can be a scientist.

Designed to be free from prejudice, Wakandacon included cosplay contests, video game contests, panels on topics such as writing fan fiction as an African American girl, a variety of vendors and more. It embraced the themes of the Marvel blockbuster “Black Panther” and ran with them.

At the event, members of the Fermilab community discussed the challenges of minorities working in science, promoted opportunities to engage with the lab, and shared scientific demonstrations — including liquid-nitrogen experiments and magnetic levitation. The diverse representatives of Fermilab encouraged attendees to contribute their skills and perspectives to the scientific community to build a more diverse, scientifically advanced future.

Embracing the event’s themes of diversity and advanced science, Mario Lucero, a diversity and inclusion specialist at Fermilab, moderated a panel of four other Fermilab scientists who are members of minority groups. The members recounted the obstacles that they experienced working in technical fields, how they came to find a place at Fermilab, and how they are working to improve Fermilab and the larger STEM community.

“It’s inspiring seeing so many black women and men in a field that historically has been underrepresented for us,” said Ayanna Jones, a chemistry doctoral student from the panel audience. “And for me it is inspiring because I think we all have similar stories and times where it got really hard.”

The speakers’ experiences included people assuming they were incompetent, accusing them of plagiarism without cause, speaking over them and making sexist, racist or micro-aggressive statements. The negative effects of these incidents and other aspects of their career were exacerbated by the lack of mentors to guide them in responding to the particular challenges they faced.

Fermilab scientist Jessica Esquivel shared how it felt to join Fermilab after being the second black woman to graduate from the Syracuse University physics doctoral program, where she often felt ostracized.

“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders. There was diversity,” Esquivel said. “And Fermilab as an institution really cares about equity, diversity and inclusion. And it wasn’t lip service. They value my input and value my work when it came to helping increase diversity in STEM.”

Fermilab promotes science and diversity at Wakandacon in Chicago
Bailey Bedford, Fermilab

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

5G Caveat Emptor...

New 5G antennas (left) are smaller than 4G ones (right). Upcoming 5G networks will use higher-frequency radio spectrum, which will provide more bandwidth and enable the faster data-transfer rates that new technologies, such as autonomous vehicles, smart energy grids, and internet-of-things devices, will demand. (Photos by KPhrom/

Topics: Electromagnetic Radiation, Mathematics, Stochastic Modeling, Research, Satellite, Weather

The fight is on over 5G. Telecommunication companies and the US government promote the latest mobile broadband because it will provide faster data-transfer rates than the current broadband communication standard. Faster, more reliable digital communication is needed for the newest technologies—autonomous vehicles, internet-of-things devices, and smart energy grids, among others. But meteorologists, US science agencies, and other countries worry that strong 5G signals, if not properly regulated, may interfere with satellites that are crucial to weather forecasting.

Today’s 4G network, nearly a decade old, moves data by bouncing radio waves between cell towers and devices such as smartphones. A 5G network would operate similarly but use a wider frequency range and more bandwidth, which would increase data-transfer rates by an order of magnitude. The higher-frequency signals proposed for 5G can’t travel through buildings like their lower-frequency 4G counterparts, but specialized antenna arrays would transmit the 5G signal across long distances. Earlier this year, two telecom companies in South Korea launched small 5G networks using busy lower-frequency bands, and Verizon deployed a 5G test in Chicago at the higher-frequency 28 GHz band.

Widespread 5G deployment will depend on building a new infrastructure of antennas that operate in high-frequency radio bands. Telecom companies and US regulators support 24 GHz for 5G networks because of its greater bandwidth and because the 1–6 GHz radio spectrum is already crowded with 4G, digital TV, radar, and other applications. (The 24 GHz band spans 24.25–24.45 GHz and 24.75–25.25 GHz.)

Fifth-generation broadband wireless threatens weather forecasting
Alex Lopatka, Physics Today

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Lamina Tenuissima...

Illustration of a tungsten disulfide monolayer suspended in air and patterned with a square array of nanoholes. Upon laser excitation, the monolayer emits photoluminescence. A portion of this light couples into the monolayer and is guided along the material. At the nanohole array, periodic modulation in the refractive index causes a small portion of the light to decay out of the plane of the material, allowing the light to be observed as guided mode resonance. Courtesy: E Cubukcu, UCSD

Note: lamina tenuissima = thinnest (Latin)

Topics: Applied Physics, Nanotechnology, Optical Physics, Photonics

Researchers have succeeded in making the thinnest ever optical device in the form of a waveguide just three atomic layers thick. The device could lead to the development of higher density optoelectronic chips.

Optical waveguides are crucial components in data communication technologies but scaling them down to the nanoscale has proved to be no easy task, despite important advances in nano-optics and nanomaterials. Indeed, the thinnest waveguide used in commercial applications today is hundreds of nanometres thick and researchers are studying nanowire waveguides down to 50 nm in the laboratory.

“We have now pushed this limit down to just three atoms thick,” says Ertugrul Cubukcu of the University of California at San Diego, who led this new research effort. “Such a thin waveguide, which is at the ultimate limit for how thin an optical waveguide can be built, might potentially lead to a higher density of waveguides or optical elements on an optoelectronic chip – in the same way that ever smaller transistors have led to a higher density of these devices on an electronic chip.”

Cubukcu and colleagues’ waveguide is just six angstroms thick. This makes it 104 times thinner than a typical optical fiber and about 500 times thinner than on-chip optical waveguides in integrated photonic circuits.

Three-atom-thick optical waveguide is the thinnest ever, Belle Dumé, Physics World

Monday, August 19, 2019


From left to right, precursor molecule C24O6, intermediates C22O4 and C20O2 and the final product cyclo [18]carbon C18 created on surface by dissociating CO masking groups using atom manipulation. The bottom row shows atomic force microscopy (AFM) data using a CO functionalized tip. Credit: IBM Research

Topics: Applied Physics, Atomic Force Microscopy, Chemistry, Nanotechnology, Research

A team of researchers from Oxford University and IBM Research has for the first time successfully synthesized the ring-shaped multi-carbon compound cyclocarbon. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes the process they used and what they learned about the bonds that hold a cyclocarbon together.

Carbon is one of the most abundant elements, and has been found to exist in many forms, including diamonds and graphene. The researchers with this new effort note that much research has been conducted into the more familiar forms (allotropes) how they are bonded. They further note that less well-known types of carbon have not received nearly as much attention. One of these, called cyclocarbon, has even been the topic of debate. Are the two-neighbor forms bonded by the same length bonds, or are there alternating bonds of shorter and longer lengths? The answer to this question has been difficult to find due to the high reactivity of such forms. The researchers with this new effort set themselves the task of finding the answer once and for all.

The team's approach involved creating a precursor molecule and then whittling it down to the desired form. To that end, they used atomic force microscopy to create linear lines of carbon atoms atop a copper substrate that was covered with salt to prevent the carbon atoms from bonding with the subsurface. They then joined the lines of atoms to form the carbon oxide precursor C24O6, a triangle-shaped form. Next, the team applied high voltage through the AFM to shear off one of the corners of the triangle, resulting in a C22O4 form. They then did the same with the other two corners. The result was a C18 ring—an 18-atom cyclocarbon. After creating the ring, the researchers found that the bonds holding it together were the alternating long- and short-type bonds that had been previously suggested.

Ring-shaped multi-carbon compound cyclocarbon synthesized, Bob Yirka ,

Friday, August 16, 2019

Lords and Serfs...

Danny Kaye - The Court Jester
Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Human Rights

If there is a lesson in all of this it is that our Constitution is neither a self-actuating nor a self-correcting document. It requires the constant attention and devotion of all citizens. There is a story, often told, that upon exiting the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin was approached by a group of citizens asking what sort of government the delegates had created. His answer was: "A republic, if you can keep it." The brevity of that response should not cause us to under-value its essential meaning: democratic republics are not merely founded upon the consent of the people, they are also absolutely dependent upon the active and informed involvement of the people for their continued good health.

Richard R. Beeman, Ph.D. - National Constitution Center

The idea behind a republic: "a government in which supreme power resides in a body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by elected officers and representatives responsible to them and governing according to law" Merriam-Webster

I seriously doubt he ever planned to win.

The outrageous things he said on the campaign trail quickly got replaced by the daily outrageous things he says in the oval office.

It's why he never backed out of the Moscow Tower deal: the reason he doesn't look like he has a plan or a clue is because he's NEVER had one beyond his own wallet.

His former life as a conman masquerading as a billionaire on a faux reality show he has publicly announced he misses. A child of privilege and the hell spawn of a New York real estate scion, he's never had to face his own limitations as no one in his space of living has ever given him any. He's never doubted his own self-aggrandized fantasies of himself as he dismissed quickly anyone that countered the addictive fantasy with stone-cold facts. Thus, climate change is a Chinese hoax and Russia didn't install a Manchurian candidate.

Nielsen Ratings alone could never feed the ravenous appetite of a person that craves constant attention; that may never forgive the deserved punning received at the White House Correspondents Dinner, itself a response by then President Obama on his racist birtherism shtick. It drove up ratings. It drove attention and crowds to him. It's the kind of thing that feeds the never-ending hunger of a malignant narcissist.

How does such a being... come to be?

For [Dr. Justin] Frank, the dynamic between infant and mother has a profound influence on a person’s psychological outlook and health. Trump’s mother was Mary Anne MacLeod, who arrived in New York from the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis in 1930. After six years as a domestic worker and nanny, she married the property developer Fred Trump and they had five children.

The otherwise garrulous president has said little about his mother. Notably, for his first few months in the Oval Office, the only photo behind his desk was of his father. His mother was added later. Yet, Frank points out, 72-year-old Trump’s gravity-defying hair is a very deliberate homage to his mum’s.

“The fact that he tries to get us to feel his anxiety and he externalizes responsibility makes me feel that, as a young child, he did not feel contained or held by his mother or other caretakers,” he says. “He didn’t have a strong maternal force in his life.

“The one thing we do know biographically is that when he was two, the last child in the family was born, but when his mother went to the hospital she didn’t come home right away. She had a hemorrhage, she had four surgeries and came close to dying and there was virtually no talk about that in the family. His older siblings just went to school as if it were normal while they’re terribly worried about their mother.”

His mother’s frequent absences, Frank suggests, left Trump devoid of empathy.

“One of the things that you do when you’re feeling ignored and abandoned in some way,” he says, “is develop contempt for that part of yourself. You have the hatred of your own weakness and you then become a bully and make other people feel weak, or mock other people to make it clear that you’re the strong one and that you don’t have any needs.

In the end, he has mommy issues.

He tweets from the shitter, and gets two strong, opinionated congresswomen barred from Israel. He belittles and demeans those he feels most intimidated by: opinionated, strong women. It explains his venom in the 2016 campaign against his opponent. His following may be like him: everyone loves mommy until she runs for president. The United States managed before Barack Obama to maintain the continued hegemony of White Anglo Saxon Protestant (John F. Kennedy the noted exception) Cisgender Male Supremacy. No person of color before him came close, no woman, no openly gay candidate, no Asian, Hispanic/Latino. The Make America Great Again (ironically, "MAGA" in Nigerian means one who has been conned) desperately wants to restore that sociopathic order, murderous to everyone else but themselves.

He wishes to be a lord like the royal families in Europe, always emphasizing innate qualities bequeathed by biology or deity: "good genes," a public compensation for feeling less than worthy of his ascension to a golden toilet throne.

He wishes to be lord in a realm of actual billionaires and successful business empires who haven't filed for bankruptcy six times, closed down and settled fraudulent universities or fraudulent charities and Olympic level lawsuits only exceeded by his pathological lies.

He wishes to be a lord above the serfs who follow him, that like any conman he disdains.

In the end, despite the Newsweek article, he's lower than a court jester made king...he may even think he's as witty and talented as his fellow New York resident, the late Danny Kaye.

In the end, he's just Biff: "Lord of the Flies" (and we know what they eat).

Image Source: Entertainment Weekly

Thursday, August 15, 2019


Credit: Getty Images

Topics: Computer Engineering, Quantum Computing, Quantum Teleportation, Star Trek

For the first time, researchers have teleported a qutrit, a tripartite unit of quantum information. The independent results from two teams are an important advance for the field of quantum teleportation, which has long been limited to qubits—units of quantum information akin to the binary “bits” used in classical computing.

These proof-of-concept experiments demonstrate that qutrits, which can carry more information and have greater resistance to noise than qubits, may be used in future quantum networks.

Chinese physicist Guang-Can Guo and his colleagues at the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC) reported their results in a preprint paper on April 28, although that work remains to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. On June 24 the other team, an international collaboration headed by Anton Zeilinger of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and Jian-Wei Pan of USTC, reported its results in a preprint paper that has been accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters. That close timing—as well as the significance of the result—has each team vying for credit and making critiques of the other’s work.

The name quantum teleportation brings to mind a technology out of Star Trek, where “transporters” can “beam” macroscale objects—even living humans—between far-distant points in space. Reality is less glamorous. In quantum teleportation, the states of two entangled particles are what is transported—for instance, the spin of an electron. Even when far apart, entangled particles share a mysterious connection; in the case of two entangled electrons, whatever happens to one’s spin influences that of the other, instantaneously.

“Qutrit” Experiments Are a First in Quantum Teleportation, Daniel Garisto, Scientific American

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Argonne and Oak Ridge scientists plan to demonstrate sensors for concentrating solar power plants – like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, shown here – that can monitor and safely maintain molten salt above 700 Celsius. (Image courtesy of SolarReserve and the U.S. Department of Energy.)

Topics: Alternative Energy, Green Energy, Green Technology, Solar Power

Scientists at Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a promising solar technology.

Nuclear power and solar power may seem like very different energy sources. Nuclear power stems from the energy released when neutrons crash into uranium atoms, splitting them apart. Solar power stems from the sunlight beaming down on earth. But some solar plants convert that light into heat, which can be used just like the heat of a nuclear reactor to generate steam to make electricity. And both energy sources often share a key ingredient: salt.

Engineers sometimes use molten salt to fuel and cool nuclear reactors. As nuclear fuel, salt is attractive because it withstands radiation and can operate at near-normal pressure and relatively low temperatures. Salt also remains fairly inert and stable within the nuclear fuel cycle. Now engineers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne and Oak Ridge national laboratories are drawing on decades of nuclear research on salts to advance a solar technology called concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP).

In the heat of the light, Dave Bukey, Argonne National Laboratory