Notes from the Back Row: "Electrons In Flatland"

In James Eisenstein's Watson lecture on January 18, 2012, he uses vivid analogies and nifty animations to lead us through the basics of quantum electronics to his own work with some very bizarre particles—even for quantum mechanics.

Fermi Space Telescope Helps Scientists Narrow Search for Dark Matter

Scientists have further narrowed the search for a hypothetical particle that could be dark matter, the mysterious stuff that makes up 80 percent of all the mass in the universe. Caltech postdoc Jennifer Siegal-Gaskins presented the researchers' results, compiled from two years' worth of data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, at a meeting of the American Physical Society in Atlanta earlier this week.

Astronomers Find Light-Bending Quasars

Astronomers have found celestial objects called quasars that bend and distort the light coming from galaxies behind them. The discovery may finally allow astronomers to determine the masses of galaxies that host quasars.

Experiment Observes Elusive Neutrino Transformation

An international team of physicists—including several from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech)—has detected and measured, for the first time, a transformation of one particular type of neutrino into another type. The finding, physicists say, may help solve some of the biggest mysteries about the universe, such as why the universe contains more matter than antimatter—a phenomenon that explains why stars, planets, and people exist at all.

Vladimir Markovic Receives Clay Research Award

Caltech's Vladimir Markovic, professor of mathematics, has been chosen to receive the 2012 Clay Research Award from the Clay Mathematics Institute. 

A Powerful New Astronomy Instrument Gets Ready for Hawaii

It's time to go to Hawaii—at least, if you're MOSFIRE, a new near-infrared spectrometer that's now on its way to the W. M. Keck Observatory, atop Mauna Kea. But the powerful new instrument, six feet in diameter, about a dozen feet in length, and weighing in at 4,500 pounds—10,000 if you include the mount and packing crate—isn't going there to surf. MOSFIRE will be the newest weapon in the Keck's arsenal to survey the cosmos, helping astronomers learn about star formation, galaxy formation, and the early universe. 

Radio Stars

Growing up in rural northwest Ireland, beyond the reach of city lights, Gregg Hallinan fell in love with the night sky. "When you didn't have bad weather, and you didn't have clouds, the skies were nothing short of spectacular," he says. "From a young age, I was obsessed with astronomy—it's all I cared for. My parents got me a telescope when I was seven or eight, and from then on, that was it." Now, Hallinan has brought his celestial obsession to Caltech as a new assistant professor of astronomy.

Caltech's George Helou Honored by Home Country of Lebanon

George Helou, senior research associate in physics at Caltech, has received numerous honors over the past year from his home country of Lebanon in recognition of his work in astronomy. "It is gratifying to receive these accolades from my country of origin, as an indication of the value they attach to science and education," says Helou, who is also executive director of the Infrared Processing and Analysis Center (IPAC), deputy director of the Spitzer Science Center, and director of the Herschel Science Center. 

 

Michael Aschbacher Wins Wolf Prize in Mathematics

Michael Aschbacher, the Shaler Arthur Hanisch Professor of Mathematics, will share the 2012 Wolf Prize in mathematics. The award recognizes his role in classifying types of mathematical objects called finite simple groups. According to the prize citation, "His impact on the theory of finite groups is extraordinary in its breadth, depth, and beauty."

AAS Honors John Johnson for Observational Astronomical Research

John Johnson, assistant professor of astronomy at Caltech, has been named the recipient of the American Astronomical Society's 2012 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, which is awarded for outstanding achievement in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object.

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