Tag Archive for physics

Voth Receives NSF Grant for Rod Dynamics Research

Greg Voth, associate professor of physics, received a grant worth $300,000 from the National Science Foundation’s Material Research division to support his study on “Rod Dynamics in Turbulence: Simultaneous 3D measurements of Anisotropic Particles and Velocity Fields” through May 31, 2015.

In a wide range of natural and industrial situations, turbulent flows carry particulate material. For example, clouds are turbulent flows containing water droplets and ice crystals. Papermaking uses turbulent suspensions of fibers. If the particles are spheres, there are a variety of tools available for measuring their motion. But usually the particles are not spheres, and the movement and rotations of non-spherical particles have never before been measured as they are carried by a turbulent flow. Voth’s project will develop experimental tools to make these measurements. Particle rotations are of particular interest because their statistics are expected to be similar in all turbulent flows, and measurements can be compared with theoretical predictions for the universal properties of turbulence. This work seeks to establish a clear understanding of the fundamental characteristics of non-spherical particle motion in laboratory turbulent flows that can be used to understand more complex applications such as icy clouds and papermaking. Education and research training are central to this project, which will support the mentoring of undergraduates, graduate students, and a postdoctoral scientist, as well as training K-12 educators in physical science.

Kottos’s Research Presented to U.S. Air Force

Tsampikos Kottos

Research on PT-symmetric optics by Tsampikos Kottos, associate professor of physics, was mentioned at the 2012 Spring Review of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

In this meeting, program directors from AFOSR Scientific Directorates presented briefings that highlighted basic research programs beneficial to the U.S. Air Force. The review took place March 5-9.

Kottos’s work appears on page 26 of this presentation.

Zane ’84 Co-Writes Book About Physics Law Governing Design, Evolution

J. Peder Zane '84

Peder Zane ’84 has co-written a new book Design in Nature (Doubleday) with Professor Adrian Bejan of Duke University, which describes Bejan’s groundbreaking discovery, the constructal law, a principle of physics that governs all design and evolution in nature.

The constructal law holds that all shape and structure emerges to facilitate flow. Rain drops, for example, coalesce and move together, generating rivulets, streams, and the mighty river basins of the world because this design allows them to move more easily. The question to ask is: Why does design arise at all? Why can’t the water just seep through the ground? The answer is that it flows better with design. This is the same reason we find a similar tree-like structure in the lightning bolts that flash across the sky and in the tree-like structure of our circulatory and nervous systems.

Before the constructal law, scientists knew that these similar tree-like structures arose in nature, but they did not know why. The constructal law identifies the fundamental tendency of nature to generate design to facilitate flow. It tells us the why of what we see before our eyes. The constructal law is a unifying principle because it governs inorganic phenomenon (river basins, lightning bolts) as well as the organic (biological creatures) and the man-made world of technology and ideas (we are governed by the law because we, too, are part of nature).

Design in Nature by Adiran Bejan and J. Peder Zane '84

In addition, the constructal law predicts that these designs should evolve with a particular direction in time—they configure and reconfigure themselves to enhance flow. That is, they get better. Thus, evolution is not a biological phenomenon (just applying to animals) but a law of physics (it applies to everything). Thus, the constructal law provides a new understanding for what it means to be alive. Anything that flows evolves, morphing to persist in time. When the flow stops, it is dead. This is as true for old river beds as it is for human beings.

Bejan’s discovery also provides, for the first time, a physics basis for the idea of purpose and progress in nature. The purpose is to flow more and more easily. The progress is measurable, the evolution of designs that move more mass per unit of useful energy consumed.

Zane says, “I met Adrian in 2007 after receiving a press release from Duke saying that one of its professors had discovered a law of the universe. I thought, ‘that doesn’t happen every day’ and visited him. My profile ran in the News & Observer of Raleigh. About six months later, I asked Adrian—who has published 25 scholarly books and 458 peer-reviewed papers—if he was interested in writing a book for a general audience. He was, and for the next two years we met every week to write this book.”

Zane is an assistant professor of journalism and mass communications at St. Augustine’s College.

Physics Faculty, Students Published in Physical Review

A paper written by two faculty members and three undergraduates was published in the American Physical Society’s Physical Review A, Volume 84, on Oct. 13.  Their paper was one of six highlighted in the publication’s Physics Focus and This Week in Physics. The paper is titled “Experimental study of active LRC circuits with PT symmetries.”

The authors include Tsampikos Kottos, associate professor of physics; Fred Ellis, professor of physics, Joseph Schindler ’12, Ang Li ’13 and Mei Zheng ’10.

The abstract of the paper is online here.

NSF Supports Kottos’s Optics Research

Tsampikos Kottos, associate professor of physics, received a grant worth $140,121 from the National Science Foundation on Sept. 1. The grant will support a project titled “IDR:Novel Photonic Materials and Devices based on Non-Hermitian Optics” through August 2014. Kottos is collaborating with faculty from Southern Methodist University, University of Central Florida, University of Arkansas and Yale University.

“Drug Design” Topic of Sept. 22 Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat

Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, will speak on "Phase Transitions in Biological Membranes" during the Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat.

“Drug Design from Transition State Analysis” will be the central topic of the 12th annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 22. The public is invited to the retreat, which will be held at Wadsworth Mansion in Middletown.

Faculty from chemistry, physics and biology will present lectures.

Geyer Receives Goldwater Honorable Mention for Antimatter Research

Guy Geyer '13, who studies an antimatter called antihydrogen, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship.

By synthesizing the antimatter particle antihydrogen, physicists will have the ability to create a more accurate picture and explanation of the universe.

“Would antimatter fall down — or fall up?,” asks physics major Guy Geyer ’13. “If we could trap antihydrogen for a longer length of time, we could test the gravitational effects of the particle. This would certainly be what scientists aim to do in the end.”

Geyer, who studies antihydrogen at Wesleyan, received honorable mention for the 2011-12 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He competed with 1,095 mathematics, science, and engineering students nationwide for the award.

Geyer began his antihydrogen research last summer under the direction of Reinhold Blümel, the Charlotte Augusta Ayres Professor of Physics. Since then, he has turned the project, titled “Antihydrogen Production in a Paul Trap,” into a successful thesis in partial fulfillment of the Informatics and Modeling Certificate.

While hydrogen is made of an electron and a proton bound together in orbit, antihydrogen

5 Questions With…Greg Voth on Turbulence and Grain Flow

Greg Voth studies turbulent fluid flows and flows of granular materials.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Greg Voth, associate professor of physics.

Q: Professor Voth, what are your primary areas of research and how did you become involved in them?

A: My research group studies turbulent fluid flows and flows of granular materials. These complex systems have a wide range of environmental and industrial applications, but fundamental understanding of these systems has been held back because of the difficulty of measuring rapidly changing flow fields. Advances in high speed digital imaging over the past two decades have opened new ways to measure the trajectories of particles transported by these flows. I started studying turbulence during my graduate research in the mid 1990s, at Cornell Univ. There we built our own high speed imagers out of silicon strip detectors that had been designed for detecting sub-atomic particles in high-energy physics

McNair Program Offers Faculty, Student Research Talks

The Wesleyan McNair Program assists students from underrepresented groups in preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through post-graduate education. The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to go on to Ph.Ds. All fields of research leading to a Ph.D. are eligible.

In efforts to prepare undergraduates from diverse backgrounds for graduate studies, the McNair Program hosts a series of research talks. These talks are designed for interested, non-expert, students. They are free and open to all students.

The next McNair Research Talk will take place from noon to 1 p.m., Friday, April 15 in Exley Science Center room 121. Christian Hoyos ’11 will speak on “Direction-of-transfer effects in Children’s map use” with his mentor, Anna Shusterman, assistant professor of psychology; Matthew Narkaus ’11 will speak on “Race Language in Psychological Experiments” with his advisor, Jill Morawski, professor of psychology and director of the Center for the Humanities; and Jessica Bowen ’11 will speak on “Breaking Habit (U.S.) Diversifying the Elite at……” with her mentor, Sarah Wiliarty, assistant professor of government, tutor in the College of Social Studies. More information is online here.

On March 25, the McNair Program hosted a talk by Francis Starr, associate professor of physics.  Pictures of his talk are below:

On March 25, the Wesleyan McNair Program presented “Some Assembly Required: DNA-based Nanomaterials,” with Associate Professor of Physics Francis Starr. While DNA has long been known as the chemical foundation of genetics, Starr is exploring new ways to take advantage of the special features of DNA.

5 Questions With . . . Bill Trousdale on Energy

Bill Trousdale, professor of physics, emeritus, stands near a statue of inventor Nikola Tesla. Trousdale taught at Wesleyan for 30 years and has had an interest in global warming since 1972.

This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Bill Trousdale, professor of physics, emeritus. He recently lectured on “Global Warming and Energy Options” and “The Pros and Cons of Nuclear Energy.”

Q: Professor Trousdale, you researched solid state physics at Wesleyan for 30 years, retiring in 1989. Did you always have a side interest in energy creation, consumption and global warming?

A: Yes for almost as long as I can remember, in the early 1950s when I learned about the second law of thermodynamics. I was appalled by burning oil at 2,000 degrees to maintain a house at 72 degrees. That is a thermodynamic abomination.

Hsu ’10 Honored by American Physical Society

The Department of Physics hosted a reception Oct. 8 in the Walter Cady Lounge to honor Wade Hsu ’10 (pictured at left), who received the LeRoy Apker Award from the American Physical Society. Hsu was the only student from a Ph.D-granting institution in the country to receive the award. (Photos by Brian Stewart)

The American Physical Society awarded Chia Wei “Wade” Hsu ’10 with its prestigious LeRoy Apker Award for his achievements while at Wesleyan.

The American Physical Society awards the Apker Award to only one student from a Ph.D-granting institution each year. Reinhold Blümel, the Charlotte Agusta Ayres Professor of Physics, calls it a “mini-Nobel Prize.”

The award provides encouragement to young physicists who have demonstrated great potential for future scientific accomplishment.

“This means that Wade out-competed students from MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and CalTech,” says Wade’s former advisor Francis Starr, associate professor of physics. “He’s the best of the best.”

On Oct. 8, the Physics Department hosted a reception in his honor.

“The celebration that people in physics department threw for me was a total surprise. I did not expect an event with such a scale, with so many professors, grads, undergrads and cheese and wine,” he says. “I felt like crying that so many people came, and that they seemed to be even happier than me. It was great. And certainly I had never felted as honored as on that day.”

The Apker award came with a $5,000 award,