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LASSP -  Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics

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Communicating Science: A Kavli Workshop for Scientists

Update May 28, 2013 -
The Chronicle has posted: reflections on the workshop and reflections on the public talk.

Join Alan Alda, The Kavli Foundation, and the Center for Communicating Science for an innovative workshop, May 21-24, 2013, at the Kavli Institute for NanoScale Science at Cornell in Ithaca, NY.

As host of Scientific American Frontiers, Alan Alda interviewed 700 scientists around the world. Now he is helping scientists learn to communicate effectively with the public, including public officials, funders, employers, students, the media, and potential collaborators in other disciplines.

There will be a a public lecture May 22 on science communication will be at 7:30 p.m. in Schwartz Auditorium, Rockefeller Hall. Free tickets are available starting May 10 in 420 Physical Sciences Building, 242 Carpenter Hall and 260 Roberts Hall.

Information and registration for the three day workshop can be found at the Kavli Institute at Cornell.

Shekhawat, Sethna & Zapperi develop unified theory of fracture

Clean materials like glasses break abruptly. Complex materials like bones and seashells develop many small damaged regions (microcracks) before breaking. These microcracks happen with a broad, scale-invariant distribution of sizes reminiscent of earthquakes and crackling noise. But this can not be due to a phase transition, because as the system size goes to infinity the strength of disordered materials goes to zero. ‘Smaller is stronger’ really means ‘large is weak’ here — a rare, large damaged zone will cause an infinite system to fail at arbitrarily low stress – hence nothing else breaks. Ashivni Shekhawat, Stefano Zapperi, and James Sethna show that these precursor fracture events are due to ‘finite-size criticality’. At short length scales, all materials are sensitive to disorder; at long length-scales all behave like glass. They describe the smooth, finite-size crossover between these two regimes quantitatively using universal scaling functions and their leading corrections. Bones, seashells, and modern composite materials are tough because of this distributed damage — which we finally now understand clearly.

Read more in the Chronicle and in the viewpoint by Elisabeth Bouchaud.

Different types of crack formation predicted to occur in a brittle solid when the size of the system or the amount of disorder is varied.

Sol Gruner part of team developing nano compartments to aid drug delivery

Prof Sol Gruner, along with a team of Cornell researchers led by Prof Ulrich Wiesner with the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, have created nano particles with multiple compartments that could be used for drug delivery or could carry chemical catalysts. The results appear in a paper by lead authors Cornell researcher Teeraporn Suteewong and graduate student Hiroaki Sai in the April 19 issue of Science.

Read more in the Chronicle

Paul McEuen & Chris Xu contribute expertise to national BRAIN Initiative

Paul McEuen, Director of LASSP and Cornell’s Kavli Institute, along with Kavli member Prof Chris Xu have contributed expertise to a national initiative aimed to study the brain. The BRAIN (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies) initiative was launched on April 2 by President Obama with $100 million in federal funds.

“We helped to identify emergent optical and electronic techniques useful for brain imaging,” said McEuen, who attended Obama’s April 2 briefing on BRAIN. These advances in brain imaging can lead to new understandings of brain disorders and their prevention.

Read more in the Chronicle.

Brain scan image

Physicists crack science of ice formation

Matthew Warkentin, Robert Thorne and James Sethna have published the first molecular-level understanding of exactly how solutes slow down ice formation with implications in fields ranging from climate physics to cryopreservation and artificial insemination.
Read more in the Chronicle.

ice crystals

Cornell Remembers Robert Richardson

Professor of physics Robert Richardson passed away in Ithaca on February 19. The University’s first Vice Provost for Research, Richardson was exceptionally distinguished serving as director of the Laboratory for Atomic and Solid State Physics, the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science and most notably as the recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics with Prof. David Lee and Prof. Douglas Osheroff (Ph.D. ’73 now a Stanford emeritus).

Richardson’s obituary in the Cornell Chronicle can be found here.