Focus Stories on

Physics, sponsored by the American Physical Society, aims to "spotlight exceptional research." Focus Stories, the longest-running part of the site, are aimed at physics undergraduates, physics professionals who want to learn about new fields, and science journalists.

Big Twist for Electron Beam

January 23, 2015

Electrons that diffract from a grating with an intentional defect acquire a high orbital angular momentum.
Using Plasma to Manipulate Light

November 14, 2014

Polarizing components could be created by the interaction of lasers with a plasma.
Granular Materials Arenít Like Liquids, Except When They Are

May 8, 2014

The weight of granular materials can be supported by friction with the walls of their vessel, but not always.
X rays Measure Lone Molecules

February 28, 2014

Scattering of an x-ray free-electron laser determines an interatomic distance in a beam of aligned molecules, without needing a crystal.
Slowing Heat without Obstructions

February 7, 2014

Placing pillars on top of a silicon film could slow the vibrational waves that carry heat without impeding electrons, a combination that enhances thermoelectricity.
Shake a Condensate to Spawn Dozens of Them

December 20, 2013

Vigorous excitation of a Bose-Einstein condensate can drive particles to collect in multiple states--but always an odd number of them.
Controlling Electrons Reaches a New Level

November 22, 2013

An electron pump developed to create a precise current standard can deliver individual electrons for fundamental experiments.
Accelerating Electrons with Light

September 27, 2013

Patterned insulator surfaces can harness the electric field of a light beam to boost electrons passing slowly by up to relativistic speeds.
A Faster Liquid Crystal

September 6, 2013

Modifying the degree of alignment in a liquid crystal instead of its direction makes for a faster optical response.
A New Direction for Thermoelectric Cooling

May 31, 2013

Making heat flow sideways to an electric current could allow new cooler designs.
Invisibility Cloak for Heat

May 10, 2013

Experimenters guide the flow of heat around a two-dimensional obstruction.
Model Suggests Link between Intelligence and Entropy

April 19, 2013

Modifying entropy to account for future possibilities gives systems what looks like adaptive intelligence.
Lubricant for Liquids

March 8, 2013

Hydrophobic "ball bearings" could let two liquids slide by each other.
Blood Plasma is Not So Normal

February 15, 2013

Plasma has a slight springiness that may affect the way blood flows in tiny vessels.
Ground-Based Instruments Could Detect Cosmic Wall Structures

January 11, 2013

A possible source of dark matter or dark energy
Tracking Rearrangments in a 2D Liquid

November 26, 2012

A dusty plasma provides a model for a liquid near freezing.
Connecting a Thin-Shellís Stiffness with Its Geometry

October 5, 2012

Exploring how the shape of curved surface makes it more rigid
Taming Light Filaments

September 14, 2012

Intense self-trapped laser pulses can be controlled by forming them in a lattice.
Measuring the Shape of a Photon

August 3, 2012

Researchers use a genetic algorithm to match their detection system to a stream of individual photons.
How Cells Regulate the Length of Filaments

June 22, 2012

Coordinated motion of molecular motors precisely regulates the length of microtubules.
Detecting Quantum Motion in a Gas

June 1, 2012

Images of an atomic cloud at a few billionths of a degree show signs of residual quantum motions.
Proteins Hook up Where Water Allows

May 4, 2012

A new calculation attributes binding between proteins to regions where water can't order properly near the unbound proteins.
Quantum Information Not Lost in Translation

March 30, 2012

Modulating a circuit with an acoustic wave could allow it to exchange quantum information with a trapped ion, opening new possibilities for hybrid quantum computing.
Scenic Route for Sound Allows Extra Control

March 16, 2012

A metamaterial consisting of tiny tubes could modify sound propagation.

When Does a Liquid Break Up?

February 17, 2012

Experiments show how the breakup of a thin liquid filament depends on its viscosity.

Graphene Arrays Could Be Perfect Absorbers

January 27, 2012

A sheet of tiny structures could completely absorb light, from any direction, as long as the frequency matches that of charge oscillations in the structures.

Nanoscale patterning of superconductivity

December 9, 2011

The transition temperature of a thin superconductor layer is locally reduced by 30K by polarizing an atomically registered ferroelectric on top of it.

The Menace of Underground Ice

October 14, 2011

Damaging frost heaves aren't caused by the expansion of freezing water, but by new water that is sucked from deeper underground.

Nobel Focus: Discovery of Quasicrystals

October 7, 2011

Experiments revealed that not all crystals are peridic.

Ultrasound Cleans with a Twist

August 12, 2011

A focused laser creates bubbles that mimic those that dislodging contaminating particles in ultrasonic clearning.

Gravitational Theory Reproduces Superconducting Circuitry

June 3, 2011

The abstract mapping between curved spaces and field theories passes another test.

Tumbling of Molecules Affects Experiments

May 12, 2011

The thermal rotation of molecules broadens photoemission spectra just as their linear motion does.

Material Strongly Deformed by Magnetic Field

March 4, 2011

Shape-changing materials may work better when they are structured on the nanometer scale.

Electrons Take Turns Like Pedestrians

January 21, 2011

Electrons skating on the surface of liquid helium have to queue up to pass through a narrow constriction.

Reversing a Quantum Force

January 7, 2011

The Casimir force between topological insulators can be repulsive, rather than attractive.

Controlling a Condensate's Texture

November 19, 2010

A new way to create cotnrolled topological defects.

Fluid Pump without Moving Parts

October 15, 2010

A nanochannel that wets differently along its length could drive fluid flow to cool computer chips.

Neutron Star Formation Could Awaken the Vacuum

October 1, 2010

Collapsing matter could trigger an explosive increase in the energy of empty space.

Pinpointing Earthly Gamma Rays

September 17, 2010

Satellite measurements home in on the thunderstorm sources of gamma-ray flashes.

Metamaterials Probe Changes in Spacetime Structure

August 6, 2010

Laboratory metamaterials, like those proposed for "invisibility cloaks," could also explore the effects of dramatic changes in spacetime geometry that may have occurred in the early universe.

Triangular Hole Reveals Light's Rotation

July 30, 2010

A light beam reveals its subtle "orbital angular momentum" when it passes through a triangular aperture.

Atomic Clock Beats the Quantum Limit

June 25, 2010

Entangling and squeezing the state of many cold atoms lets atomic clocks do better than a simple quantum-mechanical prediction.

Mapping Turbulence in the Solar Wind

April 30, 2010

Using multiple satellites to probe the complex flow of particles from the sun

New Material: Network of 'Streets' for Light

April 16, 2010

A proposed addition to the light-manipulating toolkit

Modeling Ultracold Chemistry

March 26, 2010

Chemistry below a millionth of a degree

Turbulence Helps Photons Remain Connected

February 26, 2010

Survival of the most entangled

Single Electron Squats in Graphite Vacancy

February 22, 2010

Experiments confirm that a missing carbon atoms in a sheet have the ingredients for magnetism.

Why Leaves Aren't Trees

February 4, 2010

A revised view of how metabolism scales with body size, and why the veins in leaves often have loops

A Surface Attraction

December 28, 2009

The surprising tendency of some large negative ions to accumulate at the water surface may reflect their electrical polarizability

Molecular Currents

October 30, 2009

Researchers measure the electrical conduction between two carefully positioned carbon-60 molecules.

The Overlap of Two Photons

September 21, 2009

Researchers probe the femtosecond-scale time profile of two engtangled photons.

What Makes It So Hard?

September 4, 2009

A simple model accounts for the direction-dependent hardness of new materials that can scratch diamond.
Sam Pullara

One-way Mirror for Sound Waves

August 25, 2009

A proposed structure would let sound energy pass in only one direction.
Randomness Reigns in Crystalline Order

July 31, 2009

Densely-packed spheres naturally form a crystal to increase entropy, even when they are connected into a polymer.
Mix Master Magnets

July 7, 2009

In a spinning magnetic field, magnetizable beads spontaneously join into chains that stir even tiny volumes of liquid.
Stringy Soot

June 12, 2009

Some rare soot particles are much less bushy than the usual ones.
A Light Touch

May 8, 2009

A surprisingly feeble light can help flip the magentization of a semiconducting ferromagnetic film at low temperatures.
Copper, Sputter Thyself

February 3, 2009

When researchers push a sputtering machine very hard, as plasma of atoms from the target itself deposits many more ions.
Big Waves from a Small Source

October 23, 2008

Theorists find a new type of persistent eddy in banded turbulent flows like that on Jupiter.
Elizabethan Geometry

October 3, 2008

Extra material inserted into a growing disk causes it to buckle into complex shapes.
Journey to the Center of the Neutron

September 26, 2008

A newly recognized negative charge at the center of the nucleus is traced to an abundance of very fast "down" quarks.
To Slide or Not to Slide

September 19, 2008

Some nanoscale islands move without friction, while others do not, supporting the idea that frictionless motion is normal except when impurity molecules gunk up the surface.
Nuclear Chemistry

July 25, 2008

A nucleus in which extra neutrons bind alpha particles like electrons bind atoms in molecules can be directly created in collisions, theorists predict.
Squeezed into Darkness

May 8, 2008

A new way to "squeeze" the quantum noise from a light beam.
Atomic Dance Drives Melting

April 30, 2008

Simulations suggest that melting of an infinite perfect crystal happens when atoms form a bucket brigade.
What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Weaker

March 5 , 2008

Researchers relate a century-old law of fatigue failure of repetitively stressed materials to the accumulation of microscopic damage.
Waves on a Plane

February 6, 2008

Using anisotropic materials could let researchers keep surface waves confined at a metal surface to exploit their light-like properties.
Crystal Healing

January 28, 2008

An electric field along the surface of a crystal can prevent a stress-driven instability.
Nuclei in Collision

November 12, 2007

The fusion rate between large nuclei may depend on loss of effective phase coherence due to nuclear excitations
Clarity through Diversity

November 2, 2007

Precisely tune intermolecular attractions may clarify cataract formation
Sensitive Magnetic Sandwich

October 15, 2007

The 2007 Nobel Prize in Physics for Giant Magnetoresistance
How Steady is a Molecular Clock?

September 19, 2007

The varying topology of the underlying network of possible mutated forms of a protein makes it an erratic gauge of evolution.
The Best of Both Worlds

June 22, 2007

A story on "multiferroics" that have both permanent magenetism and electrical polarization.
Water Molecules, Unite!

June 18, 2007

Enhanced dipoles on each molecule and collective motions both contribute to the extraordinarily high polarizability of water.
Packin' em In

June 8, 2007

Randomly arranged hard spheres can't pack any tighter once all of them are part of tetrahedra.
Xenon on the Verge of Electric Breakdown

February 9, 2007

Researchers measure the electric field as an "ionization front" turns a neutral gas into a plasma.
Molten Metal Magnet

January 30, 2007

A turbulent, swirling tank of molten sodium generates its own magnetism, just as Earth does.
Tracking Nuclei on the Move

October 25, 2006

Nuclear magnetic can track exchange of molecules between pores of rock to aid petroleum recovery.
Photons Team Up September 26, 2006 Intense, synchronized pulses of infrared and ultraviolet light could probe electrons at surfaces with sub-femtosecond resolution.
Cosmology in the Lab May 19, 2006 Looking at a vortex trapping in a superconducting bagel sandwich for clues about the early universe.
Off the Wall March 9, 2006 The heat flow from turbulent convection is different far from any confining boundaries
Doing the Twist March 3, 2006 The spiral shape of the cochlea lets it respond better to low frequencies
Winner of one of the Acoustical Society of America's 2006 Science Writing Awards
Rough Skin is Good February 17, 2006 Texturing a surface can reduce drag
Nobel Focus: Photons at the Forefront October 25, 2005 The 2005 Nobel Prize in Physics
Just a Tool September 8, 2005 Using the Bose-Einstein condensate for fundamental measurements
Living on the Edge April 26, 2005 A Colossal-Magnetoresistance story
Watching Atoms Move February 11, 2005 A surface-science story
The Most Antimatter January 14, 2005 The most antiprotons ever captured
X-Rayed Movie June 14, 2004 The fastest movie ever made
Twisty Tweezers May 19, 2004 Applying a controlled torque to a particle in optical tweezers
Don't let them know you're watching May 14, 2004 Demonstration of nonlocality in single photons
Ghost of Superconductivity on a Fall Day May 1, 2004 A high-temperature superconductivity story
A New Direction for Liquid Crystals April 12, 2004 A long-sought phase of liquid crystals
A Constant Worthy of the Name March 31, 2004 Quasar spectra may not indicate a changing fundamental constant, after all
Light at the End of the Tunnel March 19, 2004 A photonic crystal story
Complexity is Elusive March 4, 2004 A cellular automaton story
Stop Light on a Chip February 27, 2004 Manipulating the quantum nature of light
Beam Up an Electron February 6, 2004 A quantum teleportation story
Birth of a Crystal February 5, 2004 Computer simulation of nucleation
Timing is Everything January 15, 2004 A spintronics story
Last modified February 3, 2015 by Don Monroe