Disharmony in the desert
Most controversies in science focus on the big questions of our existence - like the nature of matter or the fate of the Universe. But passions can run just as deep in more down-to-earth subjects too. Physics World this month reveals the remarkable story of physicists battling to understand the puzzle of "singing sand dunes" - the strange low-frequency sounds emitted by nothing more than piles of sand in the desert. The two physicists at the heart of the dispute have both come up with different explanations for the sounds, which were first reported by Marco Polo and other travellers some 700 years ago. But their rivalry has become so intense they can no longer bear to work in the same laboratory. (p25).
The doctorate in transition
The PhD used to be seen as the gold standard of scientific education, in which bright young students mastered the art of research through an intensive, three-year project. But the once-vaunted degree is now under pressure as universities - keen to draw in hefty fees and secure lucrative grants - seek to churn out to churn out ever more numbers of doctorates. Even the financial field is desperate for PhD physicists to carry out advanced data analysis and modelling tasks. John McInerney - head of physics at University College Cork - calls for the PhD to be revamped. He wants it to be extended to a minimum of four years so that students have time for a solid piece of research and can also be pick up essential project-management, business and financial skills. (p. 14)
Also in this issue:- Phil Anderson: against reductionism
Dianne Stilwell | alfa
What happens when we heat the atomic lattice of a magnet all of a sudden?
17.07.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin
Subaru Telescope helps pinpoint origin of ultra-high energy neutrino
16.07.2018 | National Institutes of Natural Sciences
For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.
To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...
For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.
Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...
Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.
A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...
Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.
"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....
Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.
Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...
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