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How sustainable is future technology growth?

This is a cross-posting of my first post over at Medium, as I was curious to try out their site…   We certainly live in the future. The smallest features on computer chips are reaching atomic dimensions. At the same time, biotechnology has advanced so much that molecular biologists are working on synthetic biological cells. One of the promises behind...

Nature Communications is recruiting a physicist

Interested in a career with one of the top journals in science publishing? Nature Communications is going through a phase of intense growth, and we are now recruiting an editor to join my team in the physical sciences. This is an exciting career opportunity. To me, reading up on exciting scientific discoveries on a daily basis, and being able to discuss...

Competition in flatland

Move over graphene, there is competition in town. A new type of two-dimensional materials – with the far less appealing family name, transition metal dichalcogenides –  are increasingly gaining attention. Well, at least they’re giving it a shot. Graphene, a sheet of carbon atoms only one atomic layer thick, still has plenty going for itself in terms...

Graphene’s new look

It’s been only a week ago that I wrote about the increasing competition for graphene. But as I said then, there are still some exciting advances based on graphene. An example is photonics, which is an area where traditionally graphene perhaps has not been as strong as in electronics. A reason for this is that being only a single atomic layer thin, graphene...

Samarium hexaboride

There is a lot of buzz in the physics community about a new topological insulator: samarium hexaboride, SmB6. The reason why any major discovery about topological insulators seems to be big news is that these materials have some unique electrical characteristics that make them not only very interesting from a fundamental point of view but also for electronic...

Atoms at negative absolute temperatures

Usually we tend to think about temperature as being related to the motion of atoms. At lower temperatures, atomic motions slow down. Absolute zero, defined as zero Kelvin or −273.15 degrees Celsius, then is the point where all atomic motion stops. But what comes beyond that, does something like a negative absolute temperature exist? Indeed, as Ulrich...

Measuring mass by telling the time

How do you measure mass with high precision? This is not an easy question, as it is very difficult to measure the weight of something with the same ultra-high precision with which atomic clocks measure time. To this day, the kilogram is defined by a piece of metal made of platinum and iridium that is stored in Paris. If you want to know with absolute...

Lithium-ion batteries and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the most recent major new aircraft design from Boeing, and the manufacturer’s most fuel-efficient plane. I have never had the pleasure of being passenger on one of these, but the design is certainly very modern. Composite materials are widely used in the aircraft, which is key to the plane’s fuel efficiency and explains...

The curse of the obsession with doctorate degrees

Today the University of Düsseldorf in Germany has revoked the doctorate of the German Federal Minister of Education and Research, Annette Schavan, following accusations of plagiarism.  She denies the accusations and has announced to continue the fight for her degree in court. This is the second case in two years of a German federal minister losing their...

X-ray crystallography made easy

Sixty years ago this month Nature published the famous paper by Watson and Crick solving the structure of DNA. At the time many researchers pursued this goal, made difficult by the complexity of the DNA itself. A key contribution to the solution of the puzzle was the x-ray diffraction data provided by Rosalind Franklin. Indeed, without x-ray diffraction...

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