Brainy Quote of the Day

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Diaspora, 29 February 2012

T Shirt Guru
Starting tomorrow, I will blog once a day. It's been a busy month.

I've long championed what I like to term "conversational physics concepts," as well as diversity on this blog, particularly gender ascendancy in science, technology, engineering and math. Thus, my concentration this month wasn't all physics (though, I'm admittedly partial). For the nation to advance in the future, we need every one of us.

It is my hope one or several posts during the month informed, entertained and inspired. I started these posts with something that struck me as wrong: that due to someone's name and attending a historically black college and university as an undergrad, they would most likely not get a grant from the National Institute of Health. It affected me because I know and have taught one such young man that in his future, this impediment will affect him: he currently attends Howard University in Biology Pre Med, and plans to research in Ear, Nose and Throat ailments. Something that because of my own struggles with Sinusitis, I sincerely HOPE he's successful in getting research dollars!

I post this as a father, with two young men with dreams, hopes and futures in medicine (USARMY) and Civil Engineering. I have watched over Robert and Mildred Goodwin's grandsons. As they did for me, I hope and work for a future that they can contribute to positively.

It's a leap year, and my hope is that teachers, professors...and students have found something of themselves in these postings. (Shout out to the students and teachers at Manor High School Smiley)

For students, your futures lie not just in sports or rap music; a future in science, technology, engineering and math is not only possible: it is "what you can do for your country" (John F. Kennedy)...and for yourselves.

Metronome Denouement...

I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ev-er have to go
I wish those days could come back once more
Why did those days ev-er have to go
Cause I love them so

Stevie Wonder, "I Wish"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Diaspora, 28 February 2012 (Repost)

Mayer                                            Mason
 Nadya Mason, PhD

University of Illinois

"For innovative experiments that elucidate the electronic interactions and correlations in low-dimensional systems, in particular the use of local gates and tunnel probes to control and measure the electronic states in carbon nanotubes and graphene."
I attended her talk at the NSBP conference in Austin, Texas. Nobel Prize next, Dr. Mason!


Cosmic Microwave Background mapping
The theory is called Big Bang nucleosynthesis and describes a stage early in the universe's evolution when, at temperatures of thousands of degrees, protons and neutrons began to assemble into atomic nuclei and form the first light elements: deuterium, along with isotopes of helium and lithium. As temperatures dropped, nucleosynthesis drew to a close, and eventually electrons began to add themselves to the nuclei during a period called recombination. At this time, photons stopped scattering off charged particles and the universe became transparent.

Sikivie and colleagues point out that axions can form a Bose–Einstein condensate (BEC). Such condensates contain particles that have all fallen into their lowest energy state, and are best known to occur in low-density gases at temperatures close to absolute zero. But since the critical temperature for transition to a BEC depends on density, say the Florida researchers, particles can form BECs at higher temperatures as long as they are dense enough. Even in the primordial heat of the Big Bang, the researchers say, axions would easily be dense enough to form a BEC.

All well for the universe: what about my laptop battery? Smiley

Physics World: Axions could solve lithium problem

Monday, February 27, 2012

Diaspora, 27 February 2012

Lydia Thomas, PhD
To begin to understand the remarkable achievements of Dr. Lydia Thomas, the 2003 Black Engineer of the Year, first realize she is the daughter of the principal of the only all-Black high school in Portsmouth, Va., and that her mother was the school's head guidance counselor. She has said of that experience: "I grew up in Virginia, in segregated schools, but I had tremendous encouragement for my interest in science -- from my teachers and from my parents, who had a great love of learning. They taught me that a book was better than a candy bar." She also was encouraged to achieve, to soar above any limits others might wish to impose.

"As a young Black girl in high school, no one ever told me that math was hard or that science was for boys," Dr. Thomas says.

She continued her education at Howard University, receiving a B.Sc. in zoology in 1965, and went on to earn an M.Sc. in microbiology from American University in 1971. She returned to Howard in 1973, as a divorced mother of two, to earn a Ph.D. in cell biology, just in time to join the emerging technology revolution.

Dr. Thomas joined MITRE in the 1970s and rose through the ranks through a combination of skill and willingness to soar. She spent the vast majority of her career at The MITRE Corporation and Mitretek Systems, where she shaped programs that were the beacon for the nation in energy, environment, public safety, health, and national security.

Mitretek is now Noblis, Dr. Thomas is President and CEO of the company.

2003 Black Engineer of the Year: Lydia Thomas, PhD
Press Release: Mitretek Systems Changes Name to Noblis

A Junction With a Function...

Optical Fibre with Integrated High-Speed Junction

An international team of researchers has integrated a semiconductor junction into an optical fibre for the first time. The device, which works at gigahertz frequencies, is the first step in creating an all-fibre optical-communications network where light is generated, modulated and detected within a fibre itself without the need for integration with electronic chips. Its range of applications could run from improved telecommunication systems and laser technology to more-accurate remote-sensing devices.

Physics World: Optical fibres with integrated semiconductor junctions developed

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Diaspora, 26 February 2012

Kevin T. Kornegay, PhD

Motorola Foundation Professor; Associate Professor
Electronic Design and Applications, and Microelectronics/Microsystems

Kevin Kornegay received his B.E.E. from Pratt Institute in 1985 and his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in 1990 and 1992, respectively. In the early part of his career, he was employed in industrial research positions at AT&T Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, N.J. and at IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. From August 1994 through December 1997, he was an assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) at Purdue University. In 1997, Professor Kornegay was the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visiting Professor in the EECS department at MIT.

Faculty Profile, Georgia Tech: Kevin Kornegay, PhD

"Much Ado About"...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Diaspora, 25 February 2012

From the Welcome page:

"The dream of blacks making science fiction as a concept has been in the minds of many of us since we were all children watching science fiction movies and television shows such as Buck Rogers, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek. Most of us have however, found that the characters that are ethnic, as a general rule most often have been relegated to secondary roles, sidekicks, stereotypes, sex objects, dope heads, not in the show at all, or my favorite: the first to die in the show.

"We however, feel it is only right to present science fiction with a different face, one that is not filled with the normal negative representation of ethnic characters. We think that it is essential for characters of all colors and creeds to be represented positively and fairly."

Many of us...

Henry David Thoureau said: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them."

Many of us played the game of "go along to get along," quietly knowing full well the security guy in the red shirt (old Star Trek) was always the first to go down by phaser fire, the first to die. Insignificant to the storyline, but "PC enough" to attract a diverse audience.

I proudly own copies of "Dark Matter" and "Future Earths Under African Skies" as well as books by Octavia Butler and other Diaspora authors of speculative fiction. Part of building positive futures are what we dare to dream for ourselves to participate in (and be).

I'm grateful for the images in my young mind of Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura), and for my own sons, LeVar Burton (Lieutenant Commander Geordi la Forge), Michael Dorn (Lieutenant Commander Worf) and Avery Brooks (Captain Benjamin Sisko).

Images still are needed for this generation, to dare to dream, participate, and be. Many members of the Black Science Fiction Society are published authors - print and Kindle/Nook - I am thankful and proud they will not go to the grave with "the [many] songs still in them," ...that many still need to hear.

The free bird leaps
on the back of the wind,
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill for the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" Dr. Maya Angelou

Whispering Gallery...

Nanoshells - Tiny spheres capture light
Researchers in the US have reported on a new way to increase the amount of light absorbed by thin-film solar-cell materials. The new technique relies on "whispering gallery" modes in which light becomes trapped inside tiny shells made of silicon. The result could lead to more efficient photovoltaics, claims the team.

Nanocrystalline silicon could be ideal for making photovoltaic devices because it is an excellent conductor of electricity and can withstand harsh sunlight without suffering any damage. However, there is a problem: silicon does not absorb light very efficiently. Layers of the material have to be built up to increase the amount of light absorbed – a process that is both time-consuming and expensive.

Now, Yi Cui and colleagues at Stanford University have shown that nanoshells made of silicon could offer a quicker and cheaper route to solar-cell fabrication.

Physicsworld: Nanoshells could boost photovoltaics

Friday, February 24, 2012

Diaspora, 24 February 2012

Shirley M. Malcom, PhD

Shirley Malcom is Head of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The directorate includes AAAS programs in education, activities for underrepresented groups, and public understanding of science and technology. Dr. Malcom serves on several boards—including the Heinz Endowments and the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment—and is an honorary trustee of the American Museum of Natural History. In 2006 she was named as co-chair (with Leon Lederman) of the National Science Board Commission on 21st Century Education in STEM . She serves as a Regent of Morgan State University and as a trustee of Caltech. In addition, she has chaired a number of national committees addressing education reform and access to scientific and technical education, careers and literacy. Dr. Malcom received her doctorate in ecology from Pennsylvania State University; master's degree in zoology from the University of California, Los Angeles; and bachelor's degree with distinction in zoology from the University of Washington. She also holds 15 honorary degrees. In 2003 Dr. Malcom received the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences, the highest award given by the Academy.

AAAS Science Talk: Shirley M. Malcom, PhD

A Recalibration...

From a previous post on supposed superluminal neutrinos (a response):


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Diaspora, 23 February 2012 (Repost)

Tadias is an online magazine for the Ethiopian-American community. It means "hi," "what's up," or "how are you?"

This is about a professor at my alma mater. The text and link will speak for itself:

"WASHINGTON, DC (TADIAS) – When Physicist Solomon Bililign was a young teacher imprisoned in Ethiopia during the “Red Terror” era, he never imagined that he would one day receive a Presidential Award in the United States.

Now a professor at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Dr. Bililign is one of nine individuals whom President Obama this week named recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. The honorees will receive their awards at a White House ceremony later this year. The award recognizes the role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering. According to the White House, candidates are nominated by colleagues, administrators, and students at their home institutions.

“Through their commitment to education and innovation, these individuals are playing a crucial role in the development of our 21st century workforce,” President Obama said. “Our nation owes them a debt of gratitude for helping ensure that America remains the global leader in science and engineering for years to come.”

Dr. Bililign said that success in science, engineering or math is not as glamorous as success in performing arts or sports in the U.S., but the economic competitiveness of the nation, depends on a solid foundation in the sciences. “Young people need to be encouraged, pushed, persuaded to do it,” he said. “Not for the money or fame but for the love of discovery and innovation. I believe every one has a gift, and a mentor’s role is to identify the gift and nurture it.”

TADIAS: Obama Honors Physicist Solomon Bililign With Presidential Award for Excellence

Hitting That Golden Note...

NASA - Gold Record on Voyager spacecraft

"In the upper left-hand corner is an easily recognized drawing of the phonograph record and the stylus carried with it. The stylus is in the correct position to play the record from the beginning. Written around it in binary arithmetic is the correct time of one rotation of the record, 3.6 seconds, expressed in time units of 0,70 billionths of a second, the time period associated with a fundamental transition of the hydrogen atom. The drawing indicates that the record should be played from the outside in. Below this drawing is a side view of the record and stylus, with a binary number giving the time to play one side of the record - about an hour."

"Things that make you go: hmm..."

That's assuming our aliens still have something like a record player with a stylus. (For me), I'm afraid my father's collection of Nate King Cole albums (to date) remain unplayed. I bought the CD.

NASA: Voyager Golden Record

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Diaspora, 22 February 2012

Percy A. Pierre, PhD Electrical Engineering
Percy A. Pierre is Vice President Emeritus and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Michigan State University. He created and directs the Sloan Engineering Program which recruits, helps fund, and mentors domestic engineering doctoral students, with an emphasis on underrepresented groups. Since 1998, he has personally mentored 45 engineering doctoral graduates, including 36 underrepresented minority doctoral graduates.

He earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering at The Johns Hopkins University. He is recognized as the first African American to earn a doctorate in electrical engineering ('s.htm).

He subsequently published research on stochastic processes in communications systems. His work focused on characterizing non-Gaussian random processes, including commonly used "linear processes". Results in signal detection, central limit theorems, sample function properties, and conditions for stochastic independence were developed.

List of papers: Mathematicians of the African Diaspora (bottom of page)

Metamaterials, Dams and Powerstations...

Physics arXiv - Seismic Metamaterials
In recent years, cloaking technology has taken the world of physics and engineering by storm. The possibility that any object can be hidden from incident waves has numerous applications, both practical and fantastical.

One of the more interesting is the possibility of protecting buildings from seismic waves. The idea here is to surround a building, or at least its foundations, with a metamaterial that steers seismic waves around the structure. Various groups have explored ways of doing this.

Today, however, Sang-Hoon Kim at the Mokpo National Maritime University in South Korea and Mukunda Das at The Australian National University in Canberra, suggest another idea. They point out that while seismic cloaks can protect buildings, they steer waves towards other buildings. "The cloaked seismic waves are still destructive to the buildings behind the cloaked region," they say.

Instead, they suggest that metamaterials could instead dissipate the energy in seismic waves by converting them into evanescent waves, which die down exponentially as they travel.

This would have been a good thing for Fukushima Daiichi, or any other reactors in the future...

Physics arXiv: Seismic Metamaterials Could Cloak Dams and Power Stations

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Diaspora, 21 February 2012

Dr. Clifford Johnson

The Road goes ever on and on,
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone
And I must follow if I can.

Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it meets some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- J.R.R. Tolkien

B.S. Physics, Imperial College, London University, 6/1989
Ph.D. Theoretical Physics, University of Southampton, 6/1992

Postdoctoral Training
Postdoctoral Researcher
Institute for Theoretical Physics, UC Santa Barbara, 09/1995-08/1998

Instructor and Postdoctoral Researcher
Princeton University, 01/1995-08/1995

Institute for Advanced Study
Princeton, 09/1992-12/1994

Dr. Clifford Johnson is a professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at the University of Southern California. His work involves research and teaching, undergraduates and postgraduates.

He works mainly on superstring theory, quantum gravity, gauge theory, and M-theory, studying objects such as black holes and D-branes, using a variety of techniques from Mathematics and Physics.

Faculty profile: Dr. Clifford V. Johnson

A Small, Mighty KABOOM...

Physics arXiv
Carbon nanotubes offer a number of exotic options for therapies. For example, tubes filled with drugs and sealed with biodegradable caps, could work their way inside cells where they deliver their load.

But the worry is that such a scheme may not target the drugs well enough if the caps degrade too quickly or too slowly.

So Vitaly Chaban and Oleg Prezhdo at the University of Rochester in New York state have a suggestion. Their idea is to fill the tubes with a mixture of drugs and water molecules and seal them with a secure cap.

Inside the body, the tubes enter various types of cell. But a treatment would involve illuminating only the cells of interest with an infrared laser which heats the tubes and boils the water they contain. The resulting increase in pressure bursts the cap and forces the water and drug molecules into the cell, like a grenade bursting.

Physics arXiv: Exploding Carbon Nanotubes Could Act as Drug Grenades

Monday, February 20, 2012

Diaspora, 20 February 2012

Dr. Derrick Pitts
In Philadelphia, a radio program called Skytalk features a weekly discussion led by astronomer Derrick Pitts, also the chief astronomer at the Franklin Institute of Astronomy. There you can hear Pitts ruminate about astronomical forecasts for 2010, the 400th anniversary of Galileo finding Jupiter's moons with a telescope, and the discovery of new planets in the galaxy.

The image of Benjamin Franklin, for whom Pitts' Institute is named, peering out into the universe through a telescope from Philadelphia may have been the prevailing icon of American astronomy since the 18th century, but today it's a black man named Derrick. He's been at the Institute since 1978 and through the years has become a top scientific consultant for entities like Lockheed Martin and NASA.

TheGrio's 100: Derrick Pitts, a star among the stars

Godspeed, John Glenn...

I guess for my mother, it was t-minus six months and counting (I was happily gestating in her womb)...

It took chutzpah, moxie for a human being to consciously strap (at that time) himself to a large lit stick of dynamite with no guarantee that the procedure, though thoroughly calculated and considered, would not end in disaster.

So was this Marine Corp pilot, who confidently climbed into a Mercury rocket - Friendship 7, and took the first flight by an American to orbit the Earth.

Mercury - Gemini - Apollo: it would change our world with semiconductor-manufactured spinoff technologies that we now take for granted. It would change our focus, our nerve on what was possible. We would look to the stars and listen for signs of humanity's cousins.

50 years later: Godspeed, John Glenn

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Diaspora, 19 February 2012

Philip Emeagwali, PhD
Philip Emeagwali was born in 1954 in Nigeria. He was raised in the town of Onitsha which is located in South-Eastern Nigeria. Dubbed "Calculus" by schoolmates, Emeagwali at age 14 had mastered the subject, and could even out-calculate his instructors. Then a crisis struck. He had to drop out of school because his family could not afford to send all eight children. But he continued studying on his own, and after getting a general certificate of education from the University of London, at the age of 17, he was awarded a full scholarship to Oregon State University where he majored in math. Upon graduation, he attended George Washington University and was awarded two engineering master's degrees, one in civil engineering and the other in marine engineering, a master's in mathematics from the University of Maryland. He later achieved his doctorate from the University of Michigan in civil engineering (really scientific computing).

Philip Emeagwali's greatest achievement, that warranted him the most praise, was The Connection Machine. The Connection Machine utilizes 65,000 computers linked in parallel to form the fastest computer on Earth. This computer can perform 3.1 billion calculations per second. This is faster than the theoretical top speed of the Cray Supercomputer. Though he did not "invent" The Connection Machine, his work on it won Philip Emeagwali the Gordon Bell Prize of 1989. The parallel computer was twice as fast as the previous year's computer. The Connection Machine was a great advancement over previous designs built by IBM's design teams of Thomas J. Watson, Jr. and Fred Brook.

At the Army High Performance Computing Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Emeagwali conducts research on next-generation supercomputers that will enable scientists and engineers to solve important problems in diverse fields: meteorology, energy, the environment, health, etc. He has also worked with the Maryland State Highway Administration, U.S. National Weather Service, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and the University of Michigan, where he conducted his award-winning research.

Web site: Emeagwali
Computer Scientists of the African Diaspora: Philip Emeagwali, PhD

Invisible Iron...

Illustration of the principle of optical resonance, where thin sheets of iron can be made transparent using X-ray lasers
Transparency is generally a property of a material's density or crystal structure, and varies depending on the wavelength of light. However, transparency can also be achieved by exploiting quantum interference between energy level transitions in atoms. Up until now, such transparency has been confined to optical wavelengths, due to the typical energies of atomic transitions.

Transitioning between energy levels within atomic nuclei (instead of electron transitions) involves much higher energies, corresponding to hard X-ray frequencies. Ralf Röhlsberger, Hans-Christian Wille, Kai Schlage, and Balaram Sahoo of the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) in Germany have induced transparency in iron-57 nuclei, using an X-ray laser to drive the nuclei to resonance. The experiment not only made the iron nuclei nearly vanish, but also slowed the X-ray photons to a small fraction of their usual speed. This result holds out the tantalizing possibility of quantum optics in the nuclear regime, providing us new ways of manipulating light at far higher energies than have previously been possible.

The basic technique is termed electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT). It involves balancing the absorption of light by an atom or nucleus with a corresponding emission, which makes it appear as though the material is nearly absent.

Ars Technica: Forget transparent aluminum-researchers make iron invisible to X-rays

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Diaspora, 18 February 2012

Dr. Lisa Egbuonu-Davis
Lisa Egbuonu-Davis, MD, vice-president of global outcomes research and medical services for Pfizer, is determined to improve global access to necessary medicines.

She may be the most efficient woman you'll ever meet. Ninety seconds after a phone call requesting her to send a list of names and a resume, an e-mail with the goods was on my computer screen. She created the letter and attached the documents as we spoke!

"I like multitasking," she says simply.

With that kind of efficiency, it's no wonder she was able to earn a medical degree, a masters in public health, and a masters in business all by the time she was 30. Now at 42, she's vice-president of global outcomes research and medical services for Pfizer, the largest pharma company in the world.

It's difficult to summarize the work she does because it extends across many areas of the industry. But Davis' basic function is to develop and implement research strategies that contribute to pricing and marketing tatics worldwide by assessing potential investments in pharmaceutical products and health management programs.

PharmExecdotcom: Woman With a Mission: Pfizer's Lisa Egbuonu-Davis

Your Pencil's Going Vertical...

Vertical Graphene Transistor

Graphene is highly conducting and thus ideal for electronic applications. However, its extreme conductivity can also be a problem because devices made from the material remain conducting even when switched off. Researchers at the University of Manchester have now taken a step forward in overcoming this problem by making a new type of transistor from graphene that contains layers of boron nitride or molybdenum disulphide sandwiched between graphene sheets. The layers act as vertical tunnelling barriers that minimize current leakage – even at room temperature.

Nanotech Web: Graphene transistor goes vertical

Friday, February 17, 2012

Diaspora, 17 February 2012

Darnell Diggs, PhD
Darnell Diggs and his twin sister are the youngest of 15 children who grew up in the small Alabama town of Brundidge to parents who did not finish high school. Their parents did value education. "Our parents inspired us to work hard at school, and if you didn't, you got disciplined. That was encouragement enough," Diggs recalls.

Thirty-four-year-old Darnell is now Dr. Diggs, a physicist working at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. Most of his siblings have at least undergraduate degrees in areas as diverse as chemistry, math, physics, business, and education.

Diggs was a 2004 Black Engineer of the Year Award winner in the "Promising Scientist in Government" category. He was also named one of the 50 Most Important Blacks in Research Science in 2004 by Science Spectrum magazine.

An Alabama native, Dr. Diggs received his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees, all in physics, from Alabama A and M in Normal, Ala.

From Poverty to Ph.D. - A Scientist Finds Himself in Physics: Dr. Darnell Diggs

Quantum Teleportation in a Nutshell...

Don't expect to yell: "beam me up, Scotty" any time soon! It appears to only have a 25% success rate on photons or other atomic particles.Smiley
American Institute of Physics - News Graphics
AIP: Quantum Teleportation

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Diaspora, 16 February 2012

Birth: March 2, 1957, Place: Jefferson City, Tennessee

BS Electrical Engineering, University of Tennessee, 1979
MSEE, Florida Atlantic University, 1982
PhD in EE, Stanford University, 1992

IBM Fellow and Vice President of Systems in IBM Research

Is Mark Dean a computer scientist or is he an engineer? He surely is a tinker. As a boy, he and his father built a tractor from scratch.

Mark Dean's grandfather was a high school principal, his father was a supervisor at the TVA (Tennessee Vally Authority) Dam. One of the few African American students attending his Jefferson City (Tenn.) High School, he was both a star athelete and a straight-A student. In 1979 he graduated at the top of his class at the University of Tennessee though he was actually a part of the university's Minority Engineering Program.

After integration, he recalls, one white friend in sixth grade asked if he was really black. Dean said his friend had concluded he was too smart to be black.

"That was the problem -- the assumption about what blacks could do was tilted," Dean said.

That was the same bias Dean said he encountered when he first joined IBM, and a problem that has not completely disappeared.

"A lot of kids growing up today aren't told that you can be whatever you want to be," he said. "There may be obstacles, but there are no limits."

Dean holds 3 of the original 9 patents on the computer that all PCs are based upon: Soon after joining IBM, Dean and a colleague, Dennis Moeller, developed the interior achitecture (ISA systems bus) that enables multiple devices, like modem and printer, to be connected to personal computers. Then he worked for a number of years before considering the doctorate.

Computer Scientists of the African Diaspora: Mark E. Dean, PhD

Iron-Based Superconductors...

National Institute of Standards and Technology
A team from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland has found an iron-based superconductor that operates at the highest known temperature for a material in its class.* The discovery inches iron-based superconductors—valued for their ease of manufacturability and other properties—closer to being useful in many practical applications.

Iron-based superconductors, which were discovered only about four years ago, are a hot research topic, in part because they are more amenable to commercial applications than copper-based superconductors, which are more difficult to make and are frequently brittle. Of the four broad classes of iron-based superconductors, the 1:2:2 class—so named because their crystals are built around a hub of one atom of calcium, two of iron and two of arsenic—is particularly promising because these superconductors’ properties can be custom-tailored by substituting other atoms for these basic elements.

NIST: Unusual 'Collapsing' Iron Superconductor Sets Record for Its Class

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Diaspora, 15 February 2012

Dr. Kim Michelle Lewis

Rensselaer Professor Kim Lewis Receives NSF CAREER Award
Young Physicist To Investigate Electronics at the Molecular Level

Kim Lewis, assistant professor of physics, applied physics, and astronomy at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has won a prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Award (CAREER) from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Lewis will use the five-year, approximately $575,000 award to study electronics at the molecular level. The research seeks to better understand how molecules are transported through advanced electronic systems.

Lewis’ CAREER program, titled From Self-Assembled Monolayers to Molecular Multilayers: The Electronic Properties of Molecular Junctions,” holds promise to stimulate the advancement of electronics used in areas as diverse as medicine and toxic sensing technology. Lewis’ goal is to better understand and improve the movement of molecules through electronic systems. Such knowledge would increase the functionality and efficiency of new devices.

Along with educating undergraduates and graduate students in the areas of molecular and nano electronics and advanced atomic force microscopy, Lewis will use this funding to cultivate broader participation by underrepresented groups in science. Lewis will develop an educational summer program for students from historically black colleges and universities to participate in leading-edge research at Rensselaer.

She received her bachelor’s degree in physics from Dillard University (an HBCU), her master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Michigan, and her doctoral degree in applied physics also from the University of Michigan.


Rensselar Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY: News and Events
Professor Kim Michelle Lewis



Google book link: Popular Science, 1909 mentioning Tesla's prediction, NY Times

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Diaspora, 14 February 2012

George Washington Carver, Jr.: Chemurgist

Born: ~Spring 1865
Died: January 5, 1943
Birthplace: Diamond Grove, Missouri

George Washington Carver was born on a Missouri farm near Diamond Grove (now called Diamond), Newton County in Marion Township, Missouri. He received a B.S. from the Iowa Agricultural College in 1894 and a M.S. in 1896. He became a member of the faculty of Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts in charge of the school's bacterial laboratory work in the Systematic Botany department. His work with agricultural products developed industrial applications from farm products, called chemurgy in technical literature in the early 1900s. His research developed 325 products from peanuts, 108 applications for sweet potatoes, and 75 products derived from pecans. He moved to Tuskegee, Alabama in 1896 to accept a position as an instructor at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute and remained on the faculty until his death in 1943. His work in developing industrial applications from agricultural products derived 118 products, including a rubber substitute and over 500 dyes and pigments, from 28 different plants. He was responsible for the invention in 1927 of a process for producing paints and stains from soybeans, for which three separate patents were issued.

Faces in Science: George Washington Carver

Optical Frequency Comb...

Physics World
Physicists in the US have created an optical frequency comb that operates in the extreme ultraviolet (XUV). Touted as the first practical comb to work in this region of the spectrum, the device could be used to look for tiny variations in the fine-structure constant and other physical constants that could point to new physics. An XUV comb could also be used to create better atomic clocks and new techniques for atomic spectroscopy.

Frequency combs are created with an ultrafast mode-locked laser, in which pulses of light bounce back and forth in an optical cavity. The frequency spectrum of the resulting train of pulses from such a laser is a series of very sharp peaks that are evenly spaced in frequency, like the teeth on a comb.

Science Prep
Physics World: Frequency comb reaches extreme ultraviolet

Monday, February 13, 2012

Diaspora, 13 February 2012

The Optical Society
Peter J. Delfyett received the Ph.D. degree from The Graduate School & University Center of the City University of New York in 1988 where his work focused on developing a real time ultrafast spectroscopic probe to study molecular and phonon dynamics in condensed matter using optical phase conjugation techniques.

After obtaining the Ph.D. degree, he joined Bell Communication Research as a Member of the Technical Staff, where he concentrated his efforts towards generating ultrafast high power optical pulses from semiconductor diode lasers, for applications in applied photonic networks. Some of his technical accomplishments were the development of the worlds fastest, most powerful modelocked semiconductor laser diode, the demonstration of an optically distributed clocking network for high speed digital switches and supercomputer applications, and the first observation of the optical nonlinearity induced by the cooling of highly excited electron-hole pairs in semiconductor optical amplifiers. While at Bellcore, Dr. Delfyett received numerous awards for his technical achievements in these areas, including the Bellcore Synergy Award and the Bellcore Award of Appreciation.

Dr. Delfyett joined the faculty at the The School of Optics and the Center for Research and Education in Optics and Lasers (CREOL) at the University of Central Florida in 1993, and currently holds the positions of University Trustee Chair Professor of Optics, ECE & Physics.

Physicists of the African Diaspora: Peter J. Delfyett, PhD

In Our Image?...

Daily Galaxy graphic

“I see a strong parallel between the evolution of robot intelligence and the biological intelligence that preceded it. The largest nervous systems doubled in size about every fifteen million years since the Cambrian explosion 550 million years ago. Robot controllers double in complexity (processing power) every year or two. They are now barely at the lower range of vertebrate complexity, but should catch up with us within a half century."

Hans Moravec, pioneer in mobile robot researcher and founder of Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute.

According to Moravec, our robot creations are evolving similar to how life on Earth evolved, only at warp speed. By his calculations, by mid-century no human task, physical or intellectual, will be beyond the scope of robots.

Starfleet Academy - ex astris scientia

Daily Galaxy: Is Robot Evolution Mirroring the Evolution of Life?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Diaspora, 12 February 2012 (Repost)

SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: The president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., came to that job in 1999 with a stellar resume. Besides being the first African-American woman to earn a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Shirley Ann Jackson headed the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission during the Clinton administration and was a physicist at Bell Laboratories and other notable research institutions. How did this lightning-quick thinker develop her interest in both science and education policy?

An excerpt to the book can be found on SciAm and the link below.

Wikipeda: Dr. Shirley Ann Jackson

The National Academy Press: Strong Force: The Story of Physicist Shirley Ann Jackson

Islamic Quasicrystal...

Cartwheel pattern at the Gunbad-I Kabud tomb tower, Maragh

A researcher in the US reports to have found the first examples of perfect quasicrystal patterns in Islamic architecture. Her upcoming paper also describes how the designers were creating these geometric patterns from as early as the 12th century CE using nothing but rudimentary tools. It was not until the 1970s that academics began to develop mathematics that could explain these striking patterns seen in nature.

Quasicrystals are patterns that fill all of a space but do not have the translational symmetry that is characteristic of true crystals. In two dimensions this means that sliding an exact copy of the pattern over itself will never produce an exact match, though rotating the copy will often produce a match. They were first described mathematically by the British academic Roger Penrose in the guise of the famous Penrose tiles. About 10 years later Danny Schechtman of Israel's Technion University showed that the positions of atoms in a metallic alloy had a quasicrystalline structure. Since then, hundreds of different quasicrystals have been discovered in nature.

In 2007 two physicists in the US reported that they had found an example of a 15th-century geometric pattern in Iran that showed an "almost perfect" example of Penrose tiling. These researchers concluded that the Islamic craftsmen most likely created the patterns using a set of tiles of distinct shapes, each decorated with lines that join to form the final patterns. Several other studies have also suggested that quasiperiodic patterns in Islamic architecture were constructed through local rules such as subdividing or overlapping of tiles. But none of the proposed methods has able to explain how the ancients ended up creating global long-range order in their patterns.

Now an explanation may be at hand. In this latest work, Rima Ajlouni, an architectural researcher at Texas Tech University in the US, believes that she has identified three examples of quasiperiodic patterns in Islamic architecture without any imperfections.

Dr. Schechtman won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 2011 for: "the discovery of quasicrystals."

Physics World: Ancient Islamic architects created perfect quasicrystals

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Diaspora, 11 February 2012

University of Chicago News Office
Department of Mathematics

PhD Institution: University of Chicago, 1942
Dissertation: Multiple Integral Problems in Parametric Form in the Calculus of Variations
MA Institution: University of Chicago, 1941
AB Institution: University of Chicago, 1940

J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. lives in Atlanta, Georgia where he is currently working as Distinguished Professor of Applied Mathematics and Mathematical Physics at Clark Atlanta University. Prior to joining the faculty of Clark Atlanta University in September 1990, he had retired from an already exemplary career as a mathematician, physicist, and engineer. Responding to the influence, nurture and guidance of his parents, and developing his talents, he achieved much.

Born on November 23, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois, J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr. entered the University of Chicago to study mathematics at the age of 13. He received his B.S. degree as a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in 1940 at the age of 16, his M.S. degree in 1941 at the age of 17, and his Ph.D. degree in December 1942 at the age of 19. In 1942 he was also a Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study. This was the beginning of one of the most exemplary careers of scholarship and application of an American mathematician/physicist/engineer in the 20th century.

Mathematical Association of America: J. Ernest Wilkins, Jr., PhD


Encrypted "DNA chip" images
(Nanowerk News) Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute in California and the Technion–Israel Institute of Technology have developed a "biological computer" made entirely from biomolecules that is capable of deciphering images encrypted on DNA chips. Although DNA has been used for encryption in the past, this is the first experimental demonstration of a molecular cryptosystem of images based on DNA computing.

"Our biological computing device is based on the 75-year-old design by the English mathematician, cryptanalyst, and computer scientist Alan Turing," Keinan said. "He was highly influential in the development of computer science, providing a formalization of the concepts of algorithm and computation, and he played a significant role in the creation of the modern computer. Turing showed convincingly that using this model you can do all the calculations in the world. The input of the Turing machine is a long tape containing a series of symbols and letters, which is reminiscent of a DNA string. A reading head runs from one letter to another, and on each station it does four actions: 1) reading the letter; 2) replacing that letter with another letter; 3) changing its internal state; and 4) moving to next position. A table of instructions, known as the transitional rules, or software, dictates these actions. Our device is based on the model of a finite state automaton, which is a simplified version of the Turing machine."

Nanowerk News: Scientist develop biological computer to encrypt and decipher images

Friday, February 10, 2012

Diaspora, 10 February 2012

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Born: 1959
Place: Bronx, New York
Pre-doctoral education:
  • B.A. from Harvard University (1980 physics)
  • MS University of Texas at Austin ( )
  • Doctorate: Ph.D. from Columbia University (Astrophysics)

Current employment. Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History.

Neil Tyson realized that he wanted to study space science when he was a young boy looking up at the moon through a pair of binoculars. At the age of nine, when he traveled from the Bronx to sit for his first clear view of the night sky under the old Hayden planetarium dome, Neil De Grasse Tyson was formally introduced to the stars. His interest in science was not supported by his community, however; in Neil's New York City neighborhood, African-American boys were expected to be athletes, not scholars. In the streets of New York City, "being smart is not on the list of things that gets you respect," he recalls. Neil played sports with his friends, while also pursuing his interest in science. When he was thirteen, Neil went to summer astronomy camp in the Mohave Desert, where the sky was clear and he could see millions of stars. At the Bronx High School of Science, he focused his studies on astrophysics.

Being a gifted athlete did not sidetrack his childhood ambition. At Harvard University, Neil majored in physics, rowed on the crew team, joined the wrestling team and earned a Bachelor's degree in Physics. He earned a Master's degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and then went home to New York to do his doctoral work at Columbia. as an astrophysicist and research scientist at Princeton University, as a columnist for Stardate magazine, and, from 1996, as the acting director of the American Museum of Natural History-Hayden Planetarium.

On his role as an African-American scientist, he says that more is expected of him because of his race. "There's an extra social tax I have to pay," he says. "It's not a burden, I just pay the tax."

Now he is the youngest director in the Hayden Planetarium's long history.

Skip to around 29:30 for an amazing story. Smiley

Astronomers of the African Diaspora: Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Solids That Flow Like Liquid...

Physics Review Focus - Supersolid, with a Twist
A series of neutron scattering experiments at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and other research centers is exploring the key question about a long-sought quantum state of matter called supersolidity: Does it exist?

"The goal of our experiments is to find this new quantum state of supersolidity. This is a challenge for theory as well as experiment," says principal investigator Hans Lauter of ORNL. "The superfluid transition we have observed in solid helium may lead to supersolid helium as a new quantum state."

Whether there's such a thing as supersolidity isn't an issue apt to cause much of a stir outside the physics community. But in the world of condensed matter physics, discovering a new quantum state would be like sighting a new species would be for a biologist, or a new star for an astronomer.

Research and Development Magazine: Searching for a solid that flows like a liquid

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Diaspora, 9 February 2012 (Repost)

I was actually looking for a video of him playing the saxaphone in orbit and happened upon this history by Related to the previous post: his PhD was in Laser Physics from MIT.

"Education was the secular god of the black community" (a quote I remember, but have no sources for it).

"Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.

"When you control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his actions."
Carter G. Woodson

NASA: Dr. Ronald E. McNair


EBEC 2012
Non Solus (Latin): "not alone."

A protest against Elsevier, the world's largest scientific journal publisher, is rapidly gaining momentum since it began as an irate blog post at the end of January. By Tuesday evening, about 2,400 scholars had put their names to an online pledge not to publish or do any editorial work for the company's journals, including refereeing papers.

The boycott is growing so quickly—it had about 1,800 signers on Monday—that Elsevier officials on Tuesday broke their official silence to respond to protesters' accusations that they charge too much and support laws that will keep research findings bottled up behind a company paywall.

Chronicles of Higher Education: As Journal Boycott Grows, Elsevier Defends Its Practices

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Diaspora, 8 February 2012

Mae C. Jemison (M.D.)
NASA Astronaut (former)

PERSONAL DATA: Born October 17, 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, but considers Chicago, Illinois, to be her hometown. Recreational interests include traveling, graphic arts, photography, sewing, skiing, collecting African Art, languages (Russian, Swahili, Japanese), weight training, has an extensive dance and exercise background and is an avid reader. Her parents, Charlie & Dorothy Jemison, reside in Chicago.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Morgan Park High School, Chicago, Illinois, in 1973; received a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering (and fulfilled the requirements for a B.A. in African and Afro-American Studies) from Stanford University in 1977, and a doctorate degree in medicine from Cornell University in 1981.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member, American Chemical Society, Association for the Advancement of Science, Association of Space Explorers. Honorary Member, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Board Member, World Sickle Cell Foundation, American Express Geography Competition. Honorary Board Member, Center for the Prevention of Childhood Malnutrition. Clinical Teaching Associate, University of Texas Medical Center.

NASA: Mae C. Jemison, MD

The Limit as it Approaches...

South African Agency for Science and Technology Advancement

Harvard Theoretical Physicist Dr. Lisa Randall
PHYSICS TODAY: Of all the sciences in the US, physics continues to have the lowest representation of women. Currently, women earn just 21% of bachelor’s degrees and 17% of PhDs in the field. Discourse about women in physics often centers on representation, and the unspoken assumption seems to be that if the representation of women were to increase to some higher level, all would be well. However, the focus on representation obscures important issues and ignores the day-to-day experiences of women physicists.

In fact, women physicists could be the majority in some hypothetical future yet still in their careers experience problems that stem from often unconscious bias. After all, science, and especially physical science, is seen by many cultures as a primarily male domain. But do women actually experience problems in their day-to-day work as physicists? Do they have equal access to opportunities and resources? If not, how does that inequity affect their careers? If harmful, sex-based differences of access exist, then those of us who care about the situation of women in physics need to come up with a solution that encompasses more than just increasing female representation.

I had the pleasure of being educated by Dr. Elvira Williams at North Carolina A and T State University. She was the fourth African American female awarded a PhD in physics in the United States, specifically Condensed Matter-Diffusion Physics, from Howard University (she's third from the bottom of this list). She last taught at Shaw University.

Cambridge Who's Who
I'm proud and honored to have studied General Physics II and Electromagnetic Field Theory from her.

Physics Today: Women in Physics: A Tale of Limits