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Physics & Astronomy Research News Archive

Spontaneous emergence of modularity of evolving individuals and in real networks   (Deem; 3/17/09)
We investigate the selective forces that promote the emergence ofmodularity in nature. We demonstrate the spontaneous emergence ofmodularity in a population of individuals that evolve in a changingenvironment. We show that the level of modularity correlates with therapidity and severity of environmental change.

Forced evolution: Can we mutate viruses to death?  (Deem; 11/19/08, Press Release)
It sounds like a science fiction movie: A killer contagion threatensEarth, but scientists save the day with a designer drug that forces thevirus to mutate itself out of existence. The killer disease? Stillfictitious. The drug? It could become a reality, thanks to a new studyby Rice University bioengineers.

How Random Disorder Destroys Superfluidity (Hulet; 11/20/08)
Materials, no matter how pure they may be or how carefully they are prepared, inevitably have some random disorder. This disorder can be caused by crystal defects, impurities, or anything that changes the landscape of how electrons move about in the material. Many years ago, P.W. Anderson from Princeton University suggested that with enough disorder, an electrical conductor can be transformed to an insulator due to localization of the electrons. Disorder can also induce an otherwise superconducting material to become insulating, withe implications for important classes of superconductors, such as those made of thin films or small grains.

Rice physicists play role in new discovery from Fermilab's DZero experiment (Corcoran; 7/31/08, Press Release)
Physicists from the DZero collaboration at Fermi National AcceleratorLaboratory in Batavia, Ill., this week announced the observation of akey pairing of subatomic particles called "Z bosons." The subatomic,force-carrying particles were produced at Fermilab's Tevatron particleaccelerator. The multinational DZero collaboration consists of morethan 600 scientists, including several from Rice's Bonner NuclearLaboratory.

Tiny Vortex could be key to computing future  (Rau; 7/11/08, Physical Review Letters)
In a research first that could lead to a new generation of hard drivescapable of storing thousands of movies per square inch, physicists atRice University have decoded the three-dimensional structure of atornado-like magnetic vortex no larger than a red blood cell.

Rice Scientist make breakthrough in Single-Molecule Sensing (Natelson; 2/6/08, Nano Letters)
Ina study that could lay the foundation for mass-produced single-moleculesensors, physicists and engineers at Rice University have demonstrateda means of simultaneously making optical and electronic measurements ofthe same molecule.

Making plasmas in the deepest of deep freezes (Killian; 1/23/08, Science)
RiceUniversity physicist Tom Killian is one of a growing group ofresearchers worldwide who are unlocking some of the mysteries ofplasmas by doing something nature never does-freezing them to less thana degree above absolute zero.

New surprise in an old material: Nonequilibrium Phase Transition in Magnetite (Natelson; 1/18/08, Nature Materials)
Magnetite(Fe3O4), also known as lodestone, has been studied for thousands ofyears, since its first use in primitive compasses to currentapplications in magnetoelectronic devices.

Exploding Plasmas (Killian; 10/8/07, Physical Review Letter 99, 155001 2007)
Explodingplasmas expand into surrounding space under the influence of manyfactors, such as thermal energy and inertia of the plasma constituents,particle interactions, and magnetic fields.

Mapping Protein Folding Energy Landscapes (Kiang; 09/26/07, Physical Review Letter 99, 068101 2007)
Understanding biomolecular interaction is one of the most important questions of biological physics.

Magnetic Fields in Stellar Jets (Hartigan; 09/18/07, Atrophysical Journal)
To `B' or not to `B': astronomers ponder whether or not supersonic jets of material from young stars are magnetized.

Noisy Marjoranas  (Bolech; 09/17/07, Physical Review Letter 98, 237002 2007)
Did you know Majorana Fermions can also be found in condensed matter systems? Or so we hope in our quantum computing dreams...

A Twist in the Tale (Alexander; 9/14/07, Astrophysical Journal)
Solar filaments (or prominences) commonly spawn large geomagneticstorms. New observations of writhing filaments may tell us why

Mathematical adventures in biology (Deem; 9/13/07, Physics Today)
How might biology open new avenues for research in physics?

Microscopic Views of Gold Nanorods (Hafner; 9/6/07, Journal Physical Chemistry B)
Very small gold particles lack the element’s familiar yellow luster.  At a size scale of 10’s of nanometers, their optical properties are dominated by an effect called localized surface plasmon resonance (LSPR), which can be thought of as a resonance in the oscillation of the gold particle’s free electrons due to excitation by light.  It has long been known that the LSPR of spherical gold particles peaks in the green.

The Hubble Space Telescope Can Do That?!  (Hartigan; 8/7/07, Astrophysical Journal)
Therarely-used capability of slitlessspectroscopy on HST producesunprecedented images of real physicalquantities in collimated jets fromyoung stars

Quantum effects writ large (Si; 2/15/07, Science)
Ateam of physicists from Rice University, Rutgers University, and theMax Planck Institute for Chemical Physics of Solids in Dresden,Germany, this week reports in the journal Science the discovery ofsurprising quantum effects in a member of a broad class of materialsthat include high-temperature superconductors and quantum magnets.

Failure to Launch: Solar prominences find it difficult to leave home  (Alexander; 1/7/07, Astrophysical Journal)
Eruptingsolar prominences can frequently cause major geomagnetic effects at theEarth. However, some prominences prefer to stay home and release energythere.

A Hint of Negative Electrical Resistance  (Du; 11/1/06, Physical Review Letters)
Ahint of negative electrical resistance emerges from a new experiment inwhich microwaves of two different frequencies are directed at a 2DEG

A New Mechanism for Laser Plasma Accelerators  (Liang; 10/12/06, Physics Of Plasmas)

Metals in Low Mass Stars  (Johns-Krull; 10/11/06, Astrophysical Journal)
Rice astronomer finds an improved technique to measure the metal content of the lowest mass stars.

Making gold act more like platinum improves organic devices  (Natelson; 7/5/06, Nano Letters)
Moleculescan tune metal surfaces' electronic properties. This allows theengineering of contacts between metals and organic semiconductors.

NASA's Cassini satellite probes the mysterious world of Enceladus   (Hill; 7/5/06, J. Geophys. Res.)
Enceladus,one of Saturn’s moons, is geologically active, and hence a potent sourceof icy dust, water vapor, and plasma for the Saturnian system.

Uncovering the High Energy Particles in Solar Flares  (Johns-Krull; 5/30/06, Astrophysical Journal)
Weshow that the RHESSI satellite can for the first time study thedetaileddistribution of high energy electrons in a large sample ofsolar flares

The Hot Outer Layers of a Cold Star  (Johns-Krull; 5/30/06, Astrophysical Journal)
Astronomers combine data from four satellites with observations from radio telescopes to study the outer layers of cool stars.

New Planet Around a Sun-Like Star  (Johns-Krull; 5/30/06, Astrophysical Journal)
Agroup of professional and amateur astronomers have discovered a newJupiter mass planet in a tight 4-day orbit around a Sun-like star. 

Rice Lab leads $7M nuclear project  (Bonner; 5/4/06, Press Release)
Agroup of professional and amateur astronomers have discovered a newJupiter mass planet in a tight 4-day orbit around a Sun-like star.

Rice particle physicist to lead major US contribution at CERN (Padley; 4/24/06, Press Release)
Rice University physicist B. Paul Padley has been chosen to lead thescientific operations for the $40 million Endcap Muon System ofparticle detectors at the European Organization for Nuclear Research's(CERN) Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Atomic Engineering  (Dunning; 3/7/06, Physical Review Letters)
Theability to shape and sculpt individual atoms has been demonstrated withpotential applications in information storage and quantum computing.

Search for Exotic Matter  (Mutchler; 3/2/06, Physical Review Letters)
Aninternational search for a new exotic form of matter has led to a greatdeal of controversy. A new dedicated experiment does not see this newform of matter.

High energy radiation illuminates Sun's magnetic field   (Alexander; 2/22/06, Astrophysical Journal)
SimultaneousUV and X-ray radiation from the Sun highlight a complex magneticstructure as the origin of solar storms which drive Space Weather.

Debris From Massive Star Turns Into a Laboratory for Atomic Physics  (Hartigan; 2/20/06, Astrophysical Journal)
Astronomersstudying the remains of a 400-yr old stellar explosion measure keyproperties of the iron atom impossible to calculate in Earth-based labs.

Vortices in transition  (Pu; 2/20/06, Physical Review Letters)
Swirlingan atomic condensate creates a lattice of vortices. Pushing aroundthese vortices could shed light on how vortices get pinned insuperconductors.

W Bosons light up the Standard Model  (Padley; 2/20/06, Physical Review D)