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From the College of Natural Sciences
Rethinking Brain-Inspired Computing from the Atom Up

Rethinking Brain-Inspired Computing from the Atom Up

If you wanted to deliver a package across the street and avoid being hit by a car, you could program a powerful computer to do it, equipped with sensors and hardware capable of running multiple differential equations to track the movement and speed of each car. But a young child would be capable of doing the same task with little effort, says Alex Demkov, professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin.

Attacking Weaknesses in Killer Bacteria with Help from Glowing Beads

Attacking Weaknesses in Killer Bacteria with Help from Glowing Beads

Biofilms – tightly packed sticky blobs of many bacteria – are a huge problem in the medical world. Biofilms can form on joint replacements and medical equipment, they cause long-term infections in lungs and urinary tracts, and, according to Centers for Disease Control estimates, are responsible for 1.7 million infections in U.S. hospitals every year – and 99,000 deaths.

Twisted Physics: Magic Angle Graphene Produces Switchable Superconductivity

Twisted Physics: Magic Angle Graphene Produces Switchable Superconductivity

When the two layers of bilayer graphene are twisted relative to each other by 1.1 degrees -- dubbed the "magic angle" -- electrons behave in a strange and extraordinary way. The effect was first theorized by UT Austin physics professor Allan MacDonald and postdoctoral researcher Rafi Bistritzer. Illustration credit: David Steadman/University of Texas at Austin.

Last year, scientists demonstrated that twisted bilayer graphene — a material made of two atom-thin sheets of carbon with a slight twist — can exhibit alternating superconducting and insulating regions. Now, a new study in the journal Nature by scientists from Spain, the U.S., China and Japan shows that superconductivity can be turned on or off with a small voltage change, increasing its usefulness for electronic devices.

Feliciano Giustino Uses Quantum Mechanics to Create New Materials

Feliciano Giustino Uses Quantum Mechanics to Create New Materials

Feliciano Giustino recently joined the University of Texas at Austin faculty in the Department of Physics and is a Moncrief Chair in the Oden Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences, where he will direct the Center for Quantum Materials Engineering. He was previously a professor in the Department of Materials at Oxford University.

Katherine Freese Has Ideas to Support Detection of Dark Matter

Katherine Freese Has Ideas to Support Detection of Dark Matter

This summer the Department of Physics welcomed an astrophysicist whom Global Citizen put on a list of the "17 Top Female Scientists who have Changed the World," alongside names like Jane Goodall and Marie Curie.

New Material Holds Promise for More Secure Computing

New Material Holds Promise for More Secure Computing

When the two atomically-thin sheets of this new material are rotated slightly with respect to each other, an interference pattern known as a moiré pattern appears. This feature appears to enable Li’s new material to act as a series of single photon emitters. Credit: University of Texas at Austin.

As computers advance, encryption methods currently used to keep everything from financial transactions to military secrets secure might soon be useless, technology experts warn. Reporting today in the journal Nature, a team of physicists and engineers led by University of Texas at Austin physics professor Xiaoqin Elaine Li report they have created a material with light-emitting properties that might enable hack-proof communications, guaranteed by the laws of quantum mechanics.

New Material Might Lead to Higher Capacity Hard Drives

New Material Might Lead to Higher Capacity Hard Drives

Over the past few decades, the cost of storing data on hard disk drives (HDDs) has fallen dramatically, enabling revolutions in personal, scientific and cloud computing and allowing for storage of ever-greater amounts of data. But even as data collection continues to skyrocket, the cost-per-bit trend has been flattening out, leading to calls for new innovations in technology.

Newly Identified Gravitational Waves Include Best Pinpointed Black Hole Pair

Newly Identified Gravitational Waves Include Best Pinpointed Black Hole Pair

Numerical simulations of gravitational waves caused by the collision of two black holes. Credit: NASA/Ames Research Center/C. Henze

The scientists looking for gravitational waves report that last year they observed four additional ripples in space-time. During about a nine-month period, scientists involved with the National Science Foundation's LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) collaboration and the European-based Virgo gravitational-wave detector encountered eight gravitational waves—twice as many as previously reported—including a newly identified binary black hole that was the most precisely located in the sky to date.

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UT Austin Selected for New Nationwide High-Intensity Laser Network

UT Austin Selected for New Nationwide High-Intensity Laser Network

The Texas Petawatt Laser, among the most powerful in the U.S., will be part of a new national network funded by the Dept. of Energy, named LaserNetUS. Credit: University of Texas at Austin.

The University of Texas at Austin will be a key player in LaserNetUS, a new national network of institutions operating high-intensity, ultrafast lasers. The overall project, funded over two years with $6.8 million from the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fusion Energy Sciences, aims to help boost the country's global competitiveness in high-intensity laser research.

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Physicists Catch Higgs Boson Interacting with Top Quarks

Physicists Catch Higgs Boson Interacting with Top Quarks

Artistic view of the Brout-Englert-Higgs Field. Image credit: Daniel Dominguez/CERN.

The ATLAS Collaboration, an international team of physicists including Peter Onyisi from the University of Texas at Austin, has announced the observation of Higgs bosons produced together with a top-quark pair. Observing this extremely rare process is a significant milestone for the field of high-energy physics.

UT Austin Mourns Passing of George Sudarshan, Titan of 20th Century Physics

UT Austin Mourns Passing of George Sudarshan, Titan of 20th Century Physics

World-renowned physicist E.C. George Sudarshan died of natural causes this week at the age of 86. A professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin from 1969 to 2016, he made many important contributions to theoretical physics. Ennackal Chandy George Sudarshan was born in Kottayam, Kerala, India on Sep. 16, 1931. He received his Ph.D. de...
The Physics of Rapidly Spreading Cancer

The Physics of Rapidly Spreading Cancer

Using a computer simulation that models the physical and chemical interactions of cancerous cells (colored dots), researchers discovered that over time, tumors develop a distinctive two-part structure: slow moving cells moving randomly in a dense core (blue and purple), surrounded by a band of cells moving faster and more directly outward (green, yellow, red). Arrows indicate direction of motion. The image at right is the same tumor cut in half to reveal the inner structure. Image credit: Anne Bowen, Texas Advanced Computing Center at the University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists have recently discovered a method in cancer's madness. Before now, they've been perplexed by how cancer cells, growing alongside healthy cells, often spread much faster into surrounding tissue than randomness would dictate. It's as if cancerous cells are intentionally moving directly outward, invading healthy tissue.

Gregory Fiete Named a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics

Gregory Fiete Named a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics

Gregory Fiete has been named a Simons Fellow in Theoretical Physics. Photo by Alex Wang.

Gregory Fiete, associate professor of physics at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named one of this year's 12 Simons Fellows in Theoretical Physics by the Simons Foundation. The fellowship program provides researchers a full year of academic leave, enabling recipients to focus solely on research for the long periods often necessary for significant advances.

New ‘Nanotweezers’ Open Door to Innovations in Medicine, Mobile Tech

New ‘Nanotweezers’ Open Door to Innovations in Medicine, Mobile Tech

It's difficult to conceptualize a world where humans could casually manipulate nanoscale objects at will or even control their own biological matter at a cellular level with light.

Researchers Demonstrate How to “Freeze” Sand

Researchers Demonstrate How to “Freeze” Sand

Using a novel imaging technique, a team of U.S. and German researchers found that wiggling the walls of a box packed with sand-sized glass spheres causes the spheres to form crystal structures similar to those formed when liquids freeze. By increasing the order among grains, the grains took up less space. One possible application would be to pack sand or other granular material more densely to save on shipping costs.