Brainy Quote of the Day

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Big to Small...

The cosmos can be considered as a collider for human to access the results of particle physics experiments at ultimate high energies. Credit: Department of Physics, HKUST
Topics: Cosmology, Particle Physics, Standard Model, Theoretical Physics

Our observable universe is the largest object that physicists study: It spans a diameter of almost 100 billion light years. The density correlations in our universe, for example, correlations between numbers of galaxies at different parts of the universe, indicate that our vast universe has originated from a stage of cosmic inflation.

On the other hand, elementary particles are the smallest object that physicists study. A particle physics Standard Model (SM) was established 50 years ago, describing all known particles and their interactions.

Are density distributions of the vast universe and the nature of smallest particles related? In a recent research, scientists from HKUST and Harvard University revealed the connection between those two aspects, and argued that our universe could be used as a particle physics "collider" to study the high energy particle physics. Their findings mark the first step of cosmological collider phenomenology and pave the way for future discovery of new physics unknown yet to mankind.

The research was published in the journal Physical Review Letters on June 29, 2017 and the preprint is available online.

"Ongoing observations of cosmological microwave background and large scale structures have achieved impressive precision, from which valuable information about primordial density perturbations can be extracted, " said Yi Wang, a co-author of the paper and an assistant professor at HKUST's department of physics. "A careful study of this SM background would be the prerequisite for using the cosmological collider to explore any new physics, and any observational signal that deviates from this background would then be a sign of physics beyond the SM."

Scientist reveal new connections between small particles and the vast universe, Xingang Chen et al, Standard Model Background of the Cosmological Collider, Physical Review Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.118.261302 , On Arxiv:,

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


This image shows the NIST logo made from glowing nanowire LEDs. While the color of the nanowires in the image looks blue, they are actually emitting in the ultraviolet with a wavelength of approximately 380 nm. The other two images, from a scanning electron microscope, show the overall structure of the nanowires.
Topics: Atomic Force Microscopy, LEDs, Nanotechnology, Optical Physics

One of the persistent challenges in 21st century metrology is the need to measure ever-more-detailed properties of ever-smaller things, from microchip features to subcomponents of biological cells. That’s why, four years ago, a team of NIST scientists patented (link is external) the design for a nanoscale probe system that can simultaneously measure the shape, electrical characteristics, and optical response of sample regions a few tens of nanometers (nm, billionths of a meter) wide. 100 nm is about one-thousandth the width of a human hair.

Now the researchers from NIST’s Physical Measurement Laboratory are closing in on a working prototype. The newest version of the device, which has a probe tip that functions as an ultra-tiny LED “spotlight,” holds great promise for identifying cancer-prone tissue, testing materials for improved solar cells, and providing a new way to put circuits on microchips, among other uses.

The Integrated Near-Field Optoelectronic (INFO) system has the general configuration of an atomic force microscope (AFM), in which a probe tip on the end of a tiny cantilever beam passes a few nanometers over the surface of a sample, recording exact details of its morphology. But the metal-plated INFO probe also serves as a transmitter that projects microwaves into the sample as well as a receiving antenna that detects the altered microwaves coming back out. The nature of that alteration reveals electrical and chemical properties of the material.

Sub-microscopic LEDs Shed New Light on Advanced Materials, Ben Stein, NIST

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Colloidal Coulomb Transistor...

Thin films made of metal nanoparticles (grey spheres) are electrically contacted by gold electrodes. The current flowing through the films (in blue) is adjustable by the voltage of a local electrode located below the film. For the characterization, needle-shaped probes are applied to the electrodes, which provide the corresponding voltages and measure the current. Credit: Christian Klinke, University of Hamburg

Topics: Electrical Engineering, Nanotechnology, Semiconductor Technology

Researchers at the University of Hamburg in Germany have succeeded in making the first Coulomb transistor from structured thin films of colloidal metal nanoparticles. Instead of having only two states, ON and OFF, as in classic transistors based on semiconductors, the new device has sinusoidal ON/OFF characteristics.

Modern-day transistors are based on semiconducting-type materials, usually silicon. In the quest for cheaper, less power-hungry microelectronics devices, such as those in laptops, tablets and smartphones, researchers are looking into alternatives to these materials.

A team led by Christian Klinke has now made transistors from metal nanoparticles. The small size of the particles means that they no longer show metallic characteristics under current flow but instead have an energy bandgap (akin to that in semiconductors) that arises from the Coulomb repulsion between electrons in the material. This effect is known as the Coulomb blockade, and it exists even at room temperature in the materials employed in the new devices (in this case cobalt-platinum nanoparticles).

Colloidal metal nanoparticles make Coulomb transistor, Belle Dumé, Nanotech Web

Friday, July 14, 2017

Torches and Pitchforks...

Image Source:
Topics: Existentialism, Humor, Politics

I'm 50% there after moving from New York to North Carolina, as I'm seeing more floor in the new place. Successfully registered Lowe's and Harris Teeter grocery store cards for discounts and gas points. I've humbly had to use GPS to relearn my way in my "old stomping grounds." I bought two Amazon Fire Sticks (ironically from Best Buy), and "jail broke" both to get local news and entertainment channels. It saves me $44.90 on a bundle from Spectrum/Time Warner that will likely double at the end of the year discount. I made an appointment with Dr. Zhang at the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering for 11:00 am, at the very least to meet him and thank him for his assistance thus far. That will be my "formal" tour, since out of excitement and to show [to] myself I could FIND the place, I visited already on Tuesday.

Planning on posting today; next week Tuesday - Friday. I'll hopefully be back on schedule after a week of unpacking and the viewing of more floor in the new home.

I've spent a while looking at the news, aghast at how bad our dysfunctional republic is, how some of my fellow citizens are practicing cognitive dissonance on steroids:

The emails show music promoter Rob Goldstone telling the future US president's son that "the crown prosecutor of Russia" had offered "to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father". Goldstone adds: "This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government's support for Mr Trump." Trump Jr replies 17 minutes later and welcomes the offer. "If it's what you say, I love it, especially later in the summer."

The email chain makes clear that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government. Further, it also makes plain that not only Junior, but also Manafort and Kushner knew the campaign had done so because Junior was kind enough to forward the emails to them. He incriminated himself. He incriminated the other two. He made a lie out of practically everything that the Trump camp has said on the subject for over a year. He landed a clean shot below the waterline of his father's administration. Again, I thought of Nixon, standing behind a podium in the White House, while the tape from June 23, 1972 unspooled to an eager world, and then telling the assembled press corps, "See? It's just like I said. I'm not involved." It also was announced that Junior would appear with Sean Hannity on Tuesday night. I fully expected Junior to show up on the set dressed as an evil boyar from an Eisenstein film.

The government of the United States is a shambles. An incompetent administration headed by an unqualified buffoon is now descending into criminal comedy and maladroit backstabbing. It is an administration that not only self-destructs, but glories in the process. There seems to be no end to it, and no desire to end it by the people who actually have the power to do so. That, in itself, seems curious, and it probably should remind us all that Paul Ryan's Super PAC was hip-deep in the borscht itself. Ryan, who really is the person best situated to close the circus down, seems to be afflicted with one of his periodic bouts of invisibility, poor lad. [1]


Marc Kasowitz, President Trump’s personal attorney on the Russia case, threatened a stranger in a string of profanity-laden emails Wednesday night.

The man, a retired public relations professional in the western United States who asked not to be identified, read ProPublica’s story this week on Kasowitz and sent the lawyer an email with the subject line: “Resign Now.’’

Kasowitz replied with series of angry messages sent between 9:30 p.m. and 10 p.m. Eastern time. One read: “I’m on you now. You are f*cking with me now Let’s see who you are Watch your back , b---h.”

In another email, Kasowitz wrote: “Call me. Don’t be afraid, you piece of s--t. Stand up. If you don’t call, you’re just afraid.” And later: “I already know where you live, I’m on you. You might as well call me. You will see me. I promise. Bro.” [2]

What ELSE can be said? If Putin had put in a Democrat (and for grins, he likely could in the future) we would be looking at torches, pitchforks, civil war: champaign and vodka as the Kremlin toasts our descent into dystopia; his Cheshire Cat, cheese-eating grin as he proves we were always only a nudge and a few clicks away from anarchy.

Other than...

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone. Rod Serling

1. How Much More Absurdity Can You Handle? Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Magazine
2. Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz Threatens Stranger in Emails: ‘Watch Your Back , B---h’, Justin Elliott, ProPublica

Saturday, July 8, 2017

The Death of Expertise...

Topics: Existentialism, Politics, Science, Research

"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

I've had similar posts as well as off line conversations about this theme. The unexpected caveat from the "Information Superhighway" has been the rise of know-nothings that feel search engines are a part of human DNA; that become *experts* on any subject with a few inquiries and clicks. It has extended quite contemporaneously to members of the clergy: some work in pulpits without a license to preach, ordination or degree from a divinity school. They just look and sound good, thus *anointed*, not credentialed.

From the article excerpt:

These are dangerous times. Never have so many people had so much access to so much knowledge and yet have been so resistant to learning anything. In the United States and other developed nations, otherwise intelligent people denigrate intellectual achievement and reject the advice of experts. Not only do increasing numbers of lay people lack basic knowledge, they reject fundamental rules of evidence and refuse to learn how to make a logical argument. In doing so, they risk throwing away centuries of accumulated knowledge and undermining the practices and habits that allow us to develop new knowledge.

This is more than a natural skepticism toward experts. I fear we are witnessing the death of the ideal of expertise itself, a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laypeople, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers—in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all.

I sincerely hope to not be a part of the "blog-sodden" or contributing to the morass. I used the term Information Superhighway - as the Internet was once publicly coined - deliberately, as the concern was there would be a divide between the "haves" (those who could afford $2,500 to plop down on a home desktop computer) and the 'have-nots," i.e. the urban poor demarcated by economics, ethnicity and cultural differences.

Enter the cellular telephone, first initially called a "brick" as it was heavy, clunky and analog as in Michael Douglas in "Wall Street." The conversion from analog to digital, the merger of phone and autonomous pager (obviously, the work of the devil); the miniaturization of transistors following Moore's Law increasing speeds and features to share cat, dog, owl and most recently cute baby elephants chasing birds on phones dubbed "smart", their owners another matter.

This has so far given us an interesting social makeup of a society that thoroughly depends on science and technology*, and disdains the people most equipped to bring about new systems and designs. The intellectual student is still a "nerd," noses are still shoved into lockers (or, students stuffed in them), bullying of them is still ignored; cheerleaders and jocks worshiped as the in-crowd cool gods from Mt. Olympus.

We tweet our versions of reality (45 is particularly deft at this), we join social media groups that conform to our already dug in notions. Google driver-less cars will likely lead to more distracted humans and stupid pet videos shared before they disembark.

The causalities of such an accidental dystopia are rationality, reality, science and ultimately what in an Orwellian era of "alternate facts" seems malleable and dangerously fungible: truth.

Social changes only in the past half century finally broke down old barriers of race, class, and sex not only between Americans in general but also between uneducated citizens and elite experts in particular. A wider circle of debate meant more knowledge but more social friction. Universal education, the greater empowerment of women and minorities, the growth of a middle class, and increased social mobility all threw a minority of experts and the majority of citizens into direct contact, after nearly two centuries in which they rarely had to interact with each other.

And yet the result has not been a greater respect for knowledge, but the growth of an irrational conviction among Americans that everyone is as smart as everyone else. This is the opposite of education, which should aim to make people, no matter how smart or accomplished they are, learners for the rest of their lives. Rather, we now live in a society where the acquisition of even a little learning is the endpoint, rather than the beginning, of education. And this is a dangerous thing.

* "We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology." Carl Sagan

America's Cult of Ignorance (excerpt), by Tom Nichols on The Daily Beast, author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Selenide Vibrations...

In this illustration, an infrared laser beam (orange) triggers atomic vibrations in a thin layer of iron selenide, which are then recorded by ultrafast X-ray laser pulses (white) to create an ultrafast movie. The motion of the selenium atoms (red) changes the energy of the electron orbitals of the iron atoms (blue). (Courtesy: Greg Stewart/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Materials Science, Solid State Physics, Superconductors

Two important breakthroughs in the understanding of iron-selenide superconductors have been made by two independent research groups. One team has shown that the electrons responsible for superconductivity in the material probably come from a specific atomic orbital. The other team, meanwhile, has measured the interaction between electrons and atomic vibrations in iron selenide, which is believed to be involved in its superconductivity.

The research could shed light on the mystery of why some materials based on iron selenide are superconductors at relatively high temperatures, which has puzzled physicists for more than a decade. While bulk iron selenide is a superconductor below 8.5K, this transition temperature can reach as high as 75K when an ultrathin trilayer of the material is grown on certain substrates.

Experiments shed new light on iron superconductors, Hamish Johnston, Physics World

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Crystal Cavitation...

Time sequence showing the growth of a cavitation bubble. The large circle is an obstruction to the flow of a liquid crystal, which is moving from left to right. The cavitation bubble is forming at the right side of the obstruction. (Courtesy: Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization)

Topics: Condensed Matter Physics, Fluid Mechanics, Materials Science

The formation and subsequent collapse of bubbles has been seen for the first time in a flowing liquid crystal. This process is called cavitation and occurs when the pressure drop in a flowing fluid is large enough to allow some of the fluid to vaporize and create a bubble. Cavitation is of great interest in hydrodynamics because the collapsing bubbles can dissipate large amounts of energy in small regions and cause significant damage to machinery such as propellers.

The discovery was made by Tillmann Stieger and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen, the Technical University of Berlin and the ETH Zürich. Liquid crystals are fluids that are made of rod-like molecules that tend to align under certain conditions. In its experiments, the team pumped liquid-crystal fluids through tiny channels just 0.1 mm wide. The channels contained obstructions, which increase the speed of the flow and encourage cavitation (see image).

Bubble cavitation spotted in liquid crystals, Hamish Johnston, Physics World