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Mueller and Reichl show quantum tsunamis are actually smoke rings

By shining light on a gas cooled to temperatures near absolute zero, physicists can create waves that propagate through the gas while maintaining their shape - the quantum version of a tsunami traveling through the ocean. By studying the motion of these "solitary waves" or "solitons" one learns about the underlying interactions between the atoms in the gas. In particular, one can test theories about the quantum mechanics of many interacting particles, with applications ranging from understanding the properties of neutron stars to the behavior of electronic devices. In work reported in Nature [Yefsah et al. Nature 499, 426 (2013)], experimentalists at MIT found solitons that moved many times slower than any known model, suggesting holes in our understanding of nature. Following up on a suggestion of Aurel Bulgac and collaborators [Bulgac et al. arXiv:1306.4266, to appear in Physical Review Letters], Prof Erich Mueller and Matthew Reichl, [arXiv:1309.7012, to appear in Physical Review A] explain the observations by showing that the solitons rapidly break up into structures reminiscent of smoke rings. The slow motion of these "vortex rings" is completely consistent with the experiments, which lack the resolution to distinguish between a tsunami and a smoke ring. This theoretical work will inspire further refinements in the experiments that will definitively identify the waves produced.


Fred Kavli 1927 - 2013

Fred Kavli, founder and chairman of The Kavli Foundation, passed away peacefully on Thursday, November 21, in his home in Santa Barbara at the age of 86. His foundation's mission to advance science for the benefit of humanity includes creation and support for the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science here at LASSP.

Read about Fred Kavli's work in physics, business, and philanthropy:

Fred Kavli 1927-2013

McGill & Silverberg present Soft Matters

LASSP PhD candidates Katie McGill and Jesse Silverberg have launched a video series with interviews of Cornell faculty. As their title "Soft Matters: Talking Physics, Talking Life" suggests they'll be exploring and sharing personal stories of work, life and discovery of doing science at Cornell.

Find out more about the series at their blog.


Prof Paul McEuen

Prof James Sethna

Prof Carl Franck

Prof Itai Cohen

Larry Bonassar from Biomedical Engineering

Soft Matters: Talking Physics, Talking Life

BRAIN Initiative Featured in the Sun

Today, 11/20, the Cornell Sun ran an article about the BRAIN initiative. The initiative, announced by President Obama back in April, is supported in part by the Kavli Foundation and includes research done here at Cornell by Prof Paul McEuen, director of the Kavli Institute of Nanoscale Science and by Chris Xu, Professor of Applied and Engineering Physics. Check out the article in the Cornell Sun. More details about the initiative are at the Kavli Foundation website.

Symposium to Honor Ken Wilson on November 16

A memorial symposium to celebrate Nobel laureate Ken Wilson’s scientific achievements will be held Saturday, Nov. 16, in Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall, beginning at 9 a.m.

Full details and registration are available from the Physics Dept.

A remembrance to Wilson is in the Cornell Sun.

Ken Wilson Symposium

Sethna describes how scientific theories work

Overwhelmed by the infinite complexities of how physics or life or economics work? Prof James Sethna along with Ben Machta, Ricky Chachra, and Mark Transtrum have applied a framework from physics to generalize how we understand scientific theories. They've coined this framework the "Sloppy" model and can apply it to fields as diverse as physics, biology and economics. It is used to show how our theories and predictions are based on a fairly limited number of important factors and that much of the complexity we wrestle with has negligible effects on outcomes. See the Chronicle article and the write up on Jesse Silvergerg's blog. Read the paper in the November issue of Science Explore more on Prof Sethna's site.

Watch the 2 related videos

Interview with Steve Reiner

Interview with Soft Matters

Sloppy Models