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Physics Frontier Center News

Consider, for a moment, the humble puddle of water. If you dive down to nearly the scale of molecules, it will be hard to tell one spot in the puddle from any other. You can shift your gaze to the left or right, or tilt your head, and the microscopic bustle will be identical—a situation that physicists call highly symmetric.

That all changes abruptly when the puddle freezes. In contrast to liquid water, ice is a crystal, and it gains a spontaneous rigid structure as the temperature...

When your heart beats, blood courses through your veins in waves of pressure. These pressure waves manifest as your pulse, a regular rhythm unperturbed by the complex internal structure of the body. Scientists call such robust waves solitons, and in many ways they behave more like discrete particles than waves. Soliton theory may aid in the understanding of tsunamis, which—unlike other water...

Optical fibers are the backbone of modern communications, shuttling information from A to B through thin glass filaments as pulses of light. They are used extensively in telecommunications, allowing information to travel at near the speed of light virtually without loss.These days, biologists, physicists and other scientists regularly use optical fibers to pipe light around inside their labs....

When is a traffic jam not a traffic jam? When it's a quantum traffic jam, of course. Only in quantum physics can traffic be standing still and moving at the same time. A new theoretical paper from scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland suggests that intentionally creating just such a traffic jam out of a ring of several thousand...

The 2015 discovery of a Weyl semimetal—and the Weyl fermions it harbored—provoked a flurry of activity from researchers around the globe. A quick glance at a recent physics journal or the online arXiv preprint server testifies to the topic’s popularity. The arXiv alone has had more than 200 papers on Weyl semimetals posted in 2016.Researchers at JQI and the Condensed Matter Theory Center (CMTC...

Karina Jiménez-García, a former visiting graduate student who worked with JQI Fellow Ian Spielman, was one of 30 young women scientists to receive a 2016 L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science fellowship. She was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants and received the award for her ongoing research on the quantum behavior of...

For decades, particle accelerators have grabbed headlines while smashing matter together at faster and faster speeds. But in recent years, alongside the progress in high-energy experiments, another realm of physics has been taking its own exciting strides forward.That realm, which researchers call condensed matter physics, studies chunks of matter moving decidedly slower than the protons in...

Quantum computers promise speedy solutions to some difficult problems, but building large-scale, general-purpose quantum devices is a problem fraught with technical challenges.To date, many research groups have created small but functional quantum computers. By combining a handful of atoms, electrons or superconducting junctions, researchers now regularly demonstrate quantum effects and run...

A government report, authored by experts from a variety of federal agencies, has recommended that the US treat quantum information science as a national priority.

Theoretical physicists studying the behavior of ultra-cold atoms have discovered a new source of friction, dispensing with a century-old paradox in the process. Their prediction, which experimenters may soon try to verify, was reported recently in Physical Review Letters.The friction afflicts certain arrangements of atoms in a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC), a quantum state of matter in which...

Nature doesn’t have the best memory. If you fill a box with air and divide it in half with a barrier, it’s easy to tell molecules on the left from molecules on the right. But after removing the barrier and waiting a short while, the molecules get mixed together, and it becomes impossible to tell where a given molecule started. The air-in-a-box system loses any memory of its initial conditions....

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