A quantum of science

In physics we do things and afterwards worry about whether they worked

Category Archives: Physics

Carbon is this year’s theme: Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Congratulations to Richard F. Heck, Ei-iechi Negishi and Akira Suzuki who were awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry for “palladium catalysed cross couplings in organic synthesis”. It is a very well deserved prize: one of today’s articles mentioned that about 25% of all reactions in pharmaceutics uses the methods developed by the three professors, and with that in mind it is a surprise that they they did not receive the award earlier.

As has already been pointed out elsewhere, carbon seems to be the theme of this year’s Nobel Prizes, in science at least, given the graphene Physics Prize (see the post below) and today’s prize on carbon bonding. It is a testimony, I think, to the growing important of the emerging interdisciplinary field of Materials Science 🙂

For those interested in learning more about Heck, Negishi and Suzuki’s work, I would point to the Swedish Academy’s Scientific Background document for the prize (the link is directly to a reasonably-sized pdf file). If you are interested in theoretical approaches to the problem, I would suggest that you visit this article by Ross H. McKenzie who has found a study of the problem using DFT.

Nobel Prize in Physics 2010

Congratulations to Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov who received today’s Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on graphene.

Graphene, as some of you will no doubt know, has been a “hot” research topic since 2004 with an astonishing number of potential applications; however, how much of this potential is actually realized is to be seen, as Joerg Heber argues in his post Great, the physics Nobel prize for graphene! Now don’t overhype it… .

For those wishing to find out more, I recommend the post on Backreaction which contains some excellent links.

Finally, I would also like to congratulate the exceptionally well deserved yesterday’s Nobel Prize in Medicine laureate, Robert Edwards.

QuantumFIRE alpha

QuantumFIRE alpha is a research project that invites the public to donate computing power for scientific research in Quantum Foundations and Solid State Physics. The initiative comes from Cambridge University research groups I believe (though I may be wrong on this one!). It is easy to participate: you just download and run a free program on your computer – see here.

Needless to say, I encourage everyone to take part in this initiative, if you can. I certainly will.


Quantum metrology

According to Wikipedia, quantum metrology is the study of making high-resolution and highly sensitive measurements of physical parameters using quantum theory to describe the physical systems, in particular exploiting quantum entanglement.

If you are interested, you might want to take a look at this. It is a paper entitled Ensemble based quantum metrology.  Quoting the abstract:

We consider measurement of magnetic field strength using an ensemble of spins, and we identify a third essential resource: the initial system polarisation, i.e. the low entropy of the original state. We find that performance depends crucially on the form of decoherence present; for a plausible dephasing model, we describe a quantum strategy which can indeed beat the standard quantum limit.

Feynman and Hibbs

Feynman’s path integral formulation is important in quantum physics. Some people learn it when they come to do Quantum field theory where it plays a central role. However, there is a book that introduces a sophisticated physics student with reasonable background to path integral in non-relativistic quantum mechanics, “Quantum mechanics and path integrals”, by Feynman and Hibbs.

It is highly recommended. It is a book full of deep and extraordinary insights, as one expects from Feynman. It is not a standalone textbook in QM – it should be used in conjunction with a conventional text.

What I love the most about this book is how quickly the laws of physics are laid out – by the end of chapter 2 they are in place, and the rest of the book is applications. It is an approach similar to the one he adopts in Vol. 2 of Feynman Lectures on Physics where Maxwell’s equations are laid before you in their finished form in the first chapter and the rest of the book is devoted to understanding those equations.

The original edition, 1967, was riddled with errors. The new one is amended and available on Amazon at the end of September this year, and being a Dover costs an agreeable £15. Should you happen to come across the first edition, Daniel Styer’s errata is an absolute must. It is available here.