Tagged: U Maryland Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • richardmitnick 3:48 pm on June 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Tiny Diamonds Could Enable Huge Advances in Nanotechnology, U Maryland   

    From Maryland: “Tiny Diamonds Could Enable Huge Advances in Nanotechnology” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    June 8, 2016
    Matthew Wright
    301-405-9267
    mewright@umd.edu

    1
    This electron microscope image shows two hybrid nanoparticles, each consisting of a nanodiamond (roughly 50 nanometers wide) covered in smaller silver nanoparticles that enhance the diamond’s optical properties. Credit: Min Ouyang

    Nanomaterials have the potential to improve many next-generation technologies. They promise to speed up computer chips, increase the resolution of medical imaging devices and make electronics more energy efficient. But imbuing nanomaterials with the right properties can be time consuming and costly. A new, quick and inexpensive method for constructing diamond-based hybrid nanomaterials could soon launch the field forward.

    University of Maryland researchers developed a method to build diamond-based hybrid nanoparticles in large quantities from the ground up, thereby circumventing many of the problems with current methods. The technique is described in the June 8 issue of the journal Nature Communications.

    The process begins with tiny, nanoscale diamonds that contain a specific type of impurity: a single nitrogen atom where a carbon atom should be, with an empty space right next to it, resulting from a second missing carbon atom. This “nitrogen vacancy” impurity gives each diamond special optical and electromagnetic properties.

    By attaching other materials to the diamond grains, such as metal particles or semiconducting materials known as “quantum dots,” the researchers can create a variety of customizable hybrid nanoparticles, including nanoscale semiconductors and magnets with precisely tailored properties.

    “If you pair one of these diamonds with silver or gold nanoparticles, the metal can enhance the nanodiamond’s optical properties. If you couple the nanodiamond to a semiconducting quantum dot, the hybrid particle can transfer energy more efficiently,” said Min Ouyang, an associate professor of physics at UMD and senior author on the study.

    Evidence also suggests that a single nitrogen vacancy exhibits quantum physical properties and could behave as a quantum bit, or qubit, at room temperature, according to Ouyang. Qubits are the functional units of as-yet-elusive quantum computing technology, which may one day revolutionize the way humans store and process information. Nearly all qubits studied to date require ultra-cold temperatures to function properly.

    A qubit that works at room temperature would represent a significant step forward, facilitating the integration of quantum circuits into industrial, commercial and consumer-level electronics. The new diamond-hybrid nanomaterials described in Nature Communications hold significant promise for enhancing the performance of nitrogen vacancies when used as qubits, Ouyang noted.

    While such applications hold promise for the future, Ouyang and colleagues’ main breakthrough is their method for constructing the hybrid nanoparticles. Although other researchers have paired nanodiamonds with complementary nanoparticles, such efforts relied on relatively imprecise methods, such as manually installing the diamonds and particles next to each other onto a larger surface one by one. These methods are costly, time consuming and introduce a host of complications, the researchers say.

    “Our key innovation is that we can now reliably and efficiently produce these freestanding hybrid particles in large numbers,” explained Ouyang, who also has appointments in the UMD Center for Nanophysics and Advanced Materials and the Maryland NanoCenter, with an affiliate professorship in the UMD Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

    The method developed by Ouyang and his colleagues, UMD physics research associate Jianxiao Gong and physics graduate student Nathaniel Steinsultz, also enables precise control of the particles’ properties, such as the composition and total number of non-diamond particles. The hybrid nanoparticles could speed the design of room-temperature qubits for quantum computers, brighter dyes for biomedical imaging, and highly sensitive magnetic and temperature sensors, to name a few examples.

    “Hybrid materials often have unique properties that arise from interactions between the different components of the hybrid. This is particularly true in nanostructured materials where strong quantum mechanical interactions can occur,” said Matthew Doty, an associate professor of materials science and engineering at the University of Delaware who was not involved with the study. “The UMD team’s new method creates a unique opportunity for bulk production of tailored hybrid materials. I expect that this advance will enable a number of new approaches for sensing and diagnostic technologies.”

    The special properties of the nanodiamonds are determined by their nitrogen vacancies, which cause defects in the diamond’s crystal structure. Pure diamonds consist of an orderly lattice of carbon atoms and are completely transparent. However, pure diamonds are quite rare in natural diamond deposits; most have defects resulting from non-carbon impurities such as nitrogen, boron and phosphorus. Such defects create the subtle and desirable color variations seen in gemstone diamonds.

    The nanoscale diamonds used in the study were created artificially, and have at least one nitrogen vacancy. This impurity results in an altered bond structure in the otherwise orderly carbon lattice. The altered bond is the source of the optical, electromagnetic and quantum physical properties that make the diamonds useful when paired with other nanomaterials.

    Although the current study describes diamonds with nitrogen substitutions, Ouyang points out that the technique can be extended to other diamond impurities as well, each of which could open up new possibilities.

    “A major strength of our technique is that it is broadly useful and can be applied to a variety of diamond types and paired with a variety of other nanomaterials,” Ouyang explained. “It can also be scaled up fairly easily. We are interested in studying the basic physics further, but also moving toward specific applications. The potential for room-temperature quantum entanglement is particularly exciting and important.”

    This work was supported by the United States Department of Energy (Award No. DESC0010833), the Office of Naval Research (Award No. N000141410328) and the National Science Foundation (Award No. DMR1307800). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

    Advertisements
     
  • richardmitnick 4:11 pm on May 10, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16, U Maryland   

    From U Maryland: “Nation’s Beekeepers Lost 44 Percent of Bees in 2015-16” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    May 10, 2016
    Matthew Wright
    301-405-9267
    mewright@umd.edu

    1
    Bee Informed Partnership/ University of Maryland

    Beekeepers across the United States lost 44 percent of their honey bee colonies during the year spanning April 2015 to April 2016, according to the latest preliminary results of an annual nationwide survey. Rates of both winter loss and summer loss—and consequently, total annual losses—worsened compared with last year. This marks the second consecutive survey year that summer loss rates rivaled winter loss rates.

    The survey, which asks both commercial and small-scale beekeepers to track the health and survival rates of their honey bee colonies, is conducted each year by the Bee Informed Partnership in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America, with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Survey results for this year and all previous years are publicly available on the Bee Informed website.

    “We’re now in the second year of high rates of summer loss, which is cause for serious concern,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland and project director for the Bee Informed Partnership. “Some winter losses are normal and expected. But the fact that beekeepers are losing bees in the summer, when bees should be at their healthiest, is quite alarming.”

    Beekeepers who responded to the survey lost a total of 44.1 percent of their colonies over the course of the year. This marks an increase of 3.5 percent over the previous study year (2014-15), when loss rates were found to be 40.6 percent. Winter loss rates increased from 22.3 percent in the previous winter to 28.1 percent this past winter, while summer loss rates increased from 25.3 percent to 28.1 percent.

    The researchers note that many factors are contributing to colony losses. A clear culprit is the varroa mite, a lethal parasite that can easily spread between colonies. Pesticides and malnutrition caused by changing land use patterns are also likely taking a toll, especially among commercial beekeepers.

    A recent study, published online in the journal Apidologie on April 20, 2016, provided the first multi-year assessment of honey bee parasites and disease in both commercial and backyard beekeeping operations. Among other findings (summarized in a recent University of Maryland press release), that study found that the varroa mite is far more abundant than previous estimates indicate and is closely linked to several damaging viruses.

    1
    Varroa mite

    Varroa is a particularly challenging problem among backyard beekeepers (defined as those who manage fewer than 50 colonies).

    “Many backyard beekeepers don’t have any varroa control strategies in place. We think this results in colonies collapsing and spreading mites to neighboring colonies that are otherwise well-managed for mites,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, a graduate student in the UMD Department of Entomology who leads the data collection efforts for the annual survey. “We are seeing more evidence to suggest that good beekeepers who take the right steps to control mites are losing colonies in this way, through no fault of their own.”

    This is the tenth year of the winter loss survey, and the sixth year to include summer and annual losses in addition to winter loss data. More than 5,700 beekeepers from 48 states responded to this year’s survey. All told, these beekeepers are responsible for about 15 percent of the nation’s estimated 2.66 million managed honey bee colonies.

    The survey is part of a larger research effort to understand why honey bee colonies are in such poor health, and what can be done to manage the situation. Some crops, such as almonds, depend entirely on honey bees for pollination. Estimates of the total economic value of honey bee pollination services range between $10 billion and $15 billion annually.

    “The high rate of loss over the entire year means that beekeepers are working overtime to constantly replace their losses,” said Jeffery Pettis, a senior entomologist at the USDA and a co-coordinator of the survey. “These losses cost the beekeeper time and money. More importantly, the industry needs these bees to meet the growing demand for pollination services. We urgently need solutions to slow the rate of both winter and summer colony losses.”

    ###

    This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) (Award No. 2011-67007-20017). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of the USDA.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:14 pm on September 21, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , U Maryland   

    From Astronomy Now: “Astronomers identify a new class of medium-sized black holes” 

    Astronomy Now bloc

    Astronomy Now

    21 September 2015
    No Writer Credit

    1
    This image, taken with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, shows the central region of galaxy NGC 1313. This galaxy is home to the ultraluminous X-ray source NCG1313X-1, which astronomers have now determined to be an intermediate-mass black hole candidate. NGC 1313 is 50,000 light-years across and lies about 14 million light-years from the Milky Way in the southern constellation Reticulum. Image credit: ESO.

    ESO VLT Interferometer
    ESO/VLT

    Nearly all black holes come in one of two sizes: stellar mass black holes that weigh up to a few dozen times the mass of our Sun, or supermassive black holes ranging from a million to several billion times the Sun’s mass. Astronomers believe that medium-sized black holes between these two extremes exist, but evidence has been hard to come by, with roughly a half-dozen candidates described so far.

    A team led by astronomers at the University of Maryland and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has found evidence for a new intermediate-mass black hole about 5,000 times the mass of the Sun. The discovery adds one more candidate to the list of potential medium-sized black holes, while strengthening the case that these objects do exist. The team reports its findings in the 21 September 2015 online edition of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

    The result follows up on a similar finding by some of the same scientists, using the same technique, published in August 2014. While the previous study accurately measured a black hole weighing 400 times the mass of the Sun using data from NASA’s Rossi X-ray Timing Explorer (RXTE) satellite, the current study used data from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite.

    NASA RXTE
    NASA/RXTE)

    ESA XMM Newton
    ESA/XMM-Newton

    “This result provides support to the idea that black holes exist on all size scales. When you describe something for the first time, there is always some doubt,” said lead author Dheeraj Pasham, a postdoctoral associate at the Joint Space-Science Institute, a research partnership between UMD’s Departments of Astronomy and Physics and NASA Goddard. “Identifying a second candidate with a different instrument puts weight behind both findings and gives us confidence in our technique.”

    The new intermediate-mass black hole candidate, known as NGC1313X-1, is classified as an ultraluminous X-ray source, and as such is among the brightest X-ray sources in the nearby universe. It has proven hard to explain exactly why ultraluminous X-ray sources are so bright, however. Some astronomers suspect that they are intermediate-mass black holes actively drawing in matter, producing massive amounts of friction and X-ray radiation in the process.

    Against this backdrop of haphazard X-ray fireworks created by NGC1313X-1, Pasham and his colleagues identified two repeating flares, each flashing at an unusually steady frequency. One flashed about 27.6 times per minute and the other about 17.4 times per minute. Comparing these two rates yields a nearly perfect 3:2 ratio. Pasham and his colleagues also found this 3:2 ratio in M82X-1, the black hole they identified in August 2014, although the overall frequency of flashing was much higher in M82X-1.

    Although astronomers are not yet sure what causes these steady flashes, the presence of a clockwork 3:2 ratio appears to be a common feature of stellar mass black holes and possibly intermediate-mass black holes as well. The flashes are most likely caused by activity close to the black hole, where extreme gravity keeps all surrounding matter on a very tight leash, Pasham said.

    The 3:2 ratios can also provide an accurate measure of a black hole’s mass. Smaller black holes will flash at a higher frequency, while larger black holes will flash less often.

    “To make an analogy with acoustic instruments, if we imagine that stellar mass black holes are the violin and supermassive black holes are the double bass, then intermediate-mass black holes are the violoncello,” said co-author Francesco Tombesi, an assistant research scientist in UMD’s Department of Astronomy who has a joint appointment at NASA Goddard via the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology.

    Pasham and Tombesi hope that identifying ultraluminous X-ray sources that exhibit the key 3:2 flashing ratio will yield many more intermediate-mass black hole candidates in the near future.

    “Our method is purely empirical, it’s not reliant on models. That’s why it’s so strong,” Pasham explained. “We don’t know what causes these oscillations, but they appear to be reliable, at least in stellar mass black holes.”

    NASA plans to launch a new X-ray telescope, the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), in 2016.

    NASA NICER
    NASA/NICER

    Pasham has already identified several potential intermediate-mass black hole candidates that he hopes to explore with NICER.

    “Observing time is at a premium, so you need to build a case with an established method and a list of candidates the method can apply to,” Pasham explained. “With this result, we are in a good position to move forward and make more exciting discoveries.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

     
  • richardmitnick 4:15 pm on September 11, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , U Maryland   

    From Goddard: “Underground Magma Ocean Could Explain Io’s ‘Misplaced’ Volcanoes” 

    NASA Goddard Banner
    Goddard Space Flight Center

    Sep. 10, 2015
    William Steigerwald
    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

    1
    This five-frame sequence of images from the New Horizons spacecraft captures the giant plume from Io’s Tvashtar volcano. Credits: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

    “This is the first time the amount and distribution of heat produced by fluid tides in a subterranean magma ocean on Io has been studied in detail,” said Robert Tyler of the University of Maryland, College Park and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We found that the pattern of tidal heating predicted by our fluid-tide model is able to produce the surface heat patterns that are actually observed on Io.” Tyler is lead author of a paper on this research published June 2015 in the Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series.

    Io is the most volcanically active world in the solar system, with hundreds of erupting volcanoes blasting fountains of lava up to 250 miles (about 400 kilometers) high. The intense geological activity is the result of heat produced by a gravitational tug-of-war between Jupiter’s massive gravity and other smaller but precisely timed pulls from Europa, a neighboring moon to Io that orbits further from Jupiter. Io orbits faster, completing two orbits every time Europa finishes one. This regular timing means that Io feels the strongest gravitational pull from its neighbor in the same orbital location, which distorts Io’s orbit into an oval shape. This modified orbit causes Io to flex as it moves around Jupiter, causing material within Io to shift position and generate heat by friction, just as rubbing your hands together briskly makes them warmer.

    2
    This is a composite image of Io and Europa taken March 2, 2007 with the New Horizons spacecraft. Here Io is at the top with three volcanic plumes visible. The 300-kilometer (190-mile) high plume from the Tvashtar volcano is at the 11 o’clock position on Io’s disk, with a smaller plume from the volcano Prometheus at the 9 o’clock position on the edge of Io’s disk, and the volcano Amirani between them along the line dividing day and night. Credits: NASA/JHU Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

    Previous theories of how this heat is generated within Io treated the moon as a solid but deformable object, somewhat like clay. However, when scientists compared computer models using this assumption to a map of the actual volcano locations on Io, they discovered that most of the volcanoes were offset 30 to 60 degrees to the East of where the models predicted the most intense heat should be produced.

    The pattern was too consistent to write it off as a simple anomaly, such as magma flowing diagonally through cracks and erupting nearby. “It’s hard to explain the regular pattern we see in so many volcanoes, all shifting in the same direction, using just our classical solid-body tidal heating models,” said Wade Henning of the University of Maryland and NASA Goddard, a co-author of the paper.

    The mystery of Io’s misplaced volcanoes called for a different explanation—one that had to do with the interaction between heat produced by fluid flow and heat from solid-body tides.

    “Fluids – particularly ‘sticky’ (or viscous) fluids – can generate heat through frictional dissipation of energy as they move,” said co-author Christopher Hamilton of the University of Arizona, Tucson. The team thinks much of the ocean layer is likely a partially molten slurry or matrix with a mix of molten and solid rock. As the molten rock flows under the influence of gravity, it may swirl and rub against the surrounding solid rock, generating heat. “This process can be extremely effective for certain combinations of layer thickness and viscosity which can generate resonances that enhance heat production,” said Hamilton.

    The team thinks a combination of fluid and solid tidal heating effects may best explain all the volcanic activity observed on Io. “The fluid tidal heating component of a hybrid model best explains the equatorial preference of volcanic activity and the eastward shift in volcano concentrations, while simultaneous solid-body tidal heating in the deep-mantle could explain the existence of volcanoes at high latitudes,” said Henning. “Both solid and fluid tidal activity generate conditions that favor each other’s existence, such that previous studies might have been only half the story for Io.”

    The new work also has implications for the search for extraterrestrial life. Certain tidally stressed moons in the outer solar system, such as Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus, harbor oceans of liquid water beneath their icy crusts. Scientists think life might originate in such oceans if they have other key ingredients thought to be necessary, such as chemically available energy sources and raw materials, and they have existed long enough for life to form. The new work suggests that such subsurface oceans, whether composed of water or of any other liquid, will be more common and last longer than expected, both within our solar system and beyond.

    Just as a precisely timed push on a swing will make it go higher, oceans can fall into a resonance state and sometimes produce significant heat through tidal flow. “Long-term changes in heating or cooling rates within a subsurface ocean are likely to produce a combination of ocean layer thickness and viscosity that generates a resonance and produces considerable heat,” said Hamilton. “Therefore the mystery may be not how such subsurface oceans could survive, but how they could perish. Consequently, subsurface oceans within Io and other satellites could be even more common than what we’ve been able to observe so far.”

    The research was funded by a grant from the NASA Outer Planets Research program.

    For earlier related Io volcano research, visit:

    http://www.nasa.gov/topics/solarsystem/features/io-volcanoes-displaced.html

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center is home to the nation’s largest organization of combined scientists, engineers and technologists that build spacecraft, instruments and new technology to study the Earth, the sun, our solar system, and the universe.

    Named for American rocketry pioneer Dr. Robert H. Goddard, the center was established in 1959 as NASA’s first space flight complex. Goddard and its several facilities are critical in carrying out NASA’s missions of space exploration and scientific discovery.

    NASA Goddard Campus
    NASA/Goddard Campus
    NASA

     
  • richardmitnick 11:53 am on August 27, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , U Maryland   

    From U Maryland: “Evidence Suggests Subatomic Particles Could Defy the Standard Model” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    August 26, 2015
    Matthew Wright
    301-405-9267
    mewright@umd.edu

    Large Hadron Collider team finds hints of leptons acting out against time-tested predictions

    The Standard Model of particle physics, which explains most of the known behaviors and interactions of fundamental subatomic particles, has held up remarkably well over several decades.

    2
    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    This far-reaching theory does have a few shortcomings, however—most notably that it doesn’t account for gravity. In hopes of revealing new, non-standard particles and forces, physicists have been on the hunt for conditions and behaviors that directly violate the Standard Model.

    Now, a team of physicists working at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has found new hints of particles—leptons, to be more precise—being treated in strange ways not predicted by the Standard Model. The discovery, scheduled for publication in the September 4, 2015 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters, could prove to be a significant lead in the search for non-standard phenomena.

    CERN LHC Map
    CERN LHC Grand Tunnel
    CERN LHC particles
    LHC at CERN

    1
    In this event display from the LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, proton-proton collisions at the interaction point (far left) result in a shower of leptons and other charged particles. The yellow and green lines are computer-generated reconstructions of the particles’ trajectories through the layers of the LHCb detector. Image credit: CERN/LHCb Collaboration

    3
    LHCb Detector

    The team, which includes physicists from the University of Maryland who made key contributions to the study, analyzed data collected by the LHCb detector during the first run of the LHC in 2011-12. The researchers looked at B meson decays, processes that produce lighter particles, including two types of leptons: the tau lepton and the muon. Unlike their stable lepton cousin, the electron, tau leptons and muons are highly unstable and quickly decay within a fraction of a second.

    According to a Standard Model concept called “lepton universality,” which assumes that leptons are treated equally by all fundamental forces, the decay to the tau lepton and the muon should both happen at the same rate, once corrected for their mass difference. However, the team found a small, but notable, difference in the predicted rates of decay, suggesting that as-yet undiscovered forces or particles could be interfering in the process.

    “The Standard Model says the world interacts with all leptons in the same way. There is a democracy there. But there is no guarantee that this will hold true if we discover new particles or new forces,” said study co-author and UMD team lead Hassan Jawahery, Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Gus T. Zorn Professor at UMD. “Lepton universality is truly enshrined in the Standard Model. If this universality is broken, we can say that we’ve found evidence for non-standard physics.”

    The LHCb result adds to a previous lepton decay finding, from the BaBar experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, which suggested a similar deviation from Standard Model predictions.

    SLAC Babar
    SLAC/BaBaR

    (The UMD team has participated in the BaBar experiment since its inception in 1990’s.) While both experiments involved the decay of B mesons, electron collisions drove the BaBar experiment and higher-energy proton collisions drove the LHC experiment.

    “The experiments were done in totally different environments, but they reflect the same physical model. This replication provides an important independent check on the observations,” explained study co-author Brian Hamilton, a physics research associate at UMD. “The added weight of two experiments is the key here. This suggests that it’s not just an instrumental effect—it’s pointing to real physics.”

    “While these two results taken together are very promising, the observed phenomena won’t be considered a true violation of the Standard Model without further experiments to verify our observations,” said co-author Gregory Ciezarek, a physicist at the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics (NIKHEF).

    “We are planning a range of other measurements. The LHCb experiment is taking more data during the second run right now. We are working on upgrades to the LHCb detector within the next few years,” Jawahery said. “If this phenomenon is corroborated, we will have decades of work ahead. It could point theoretical physicists toward new ways to look at standard and non-standard physics.”

    With the discovery of the Higgs boson—the last major missing piece of the Standard Model—during the first LHC run, physicists are now looking for phenomena that do not conform to Standard Model predictions.

    Higgs Boson Event
    Higgs Boson event at CMS

    CERN CMS Detector
    CMS Detector in the LHC at CERN

    Jawahery and his colleagues are excited for the future, as the field moves into unknown territory.

    “Any knowledge from here on helps us learn more about how the universe evolved to this point. For example, we know that dark matter and dark energy exist, but we don’t yet know what they are or how to explain them. Our result could be a part of that puzzle,” Jawahery said. “If we can demonstrate that there are missing particles and interactions beyond the Standard Model, it could help complete the picture.”

    ###

    In addition to Jawahery and Hamilton, UMD Graduate Assistants Jason Andrews and Jack Wimberley are co-authors on the paper. The UMD LHCb team also includes Research Associate William Parker and Engineer Thomas O’Bannon, who are not coauthors on the paper.

    The research paper, “Measurement of the ratio of branching fractions…,” The LHCb Collaboration, is scheduled to appear online August 31, 2015 and to be published September 4, 2015 in the journal Physical Review Letters.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:12 am on April 9, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Maryland   

    From U Maryland: “A New View of the Moon’s Formation” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    April 8, 2015
    Media Relations Contact: Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu

    1
    This artist’s rendering shows the collision of two planetary bodies. A collision like this is believed to have created the moon within the first 150 million years after our solar system formed. Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

    Within the first 150 million years after our solar system formed, a giant body roughly the size of Mars struck and merged with Earth, blasting a huge cloud of rock and debris into space. This cloud would eventually coalesce and form the moon.

    For almost 30 years, planetary scientists have been quite happy with this explanation—with one major exception. Although this scenario makes sense when you look at the size of the moon and the physics of its orbit around Earth, things start to break down a little when you compare their isotopic compositions—the geological equivalent of a DNA “fingerprint.” Specifically, Earth and the moon are too much alike.

    The expectation has long been that the moon should carry the isotopic “fingerprint” of the foreign body, which scientists have named Theia. Because Theia came from elsewhere in the solar system, it probably had a much different isotopic fingerprint than early Earth.

    Now, a team of scientists at the University of Maryland has generated a new isotopic fingerprint of the moon that could provide the missing piece of the puzzle. By zeroing in on an isotope of Tungsten present in both the moon and Earth, the UMD team is the first to reconcile the accepted model of the moon’s formation with the unexpectedly similar isotopic fingerprints of both bodies. The results suggest that the impact of Theia into early Earth was so violent, the resulting debris cloud mixed thoroughly before settling down and forming the moon. The findings appear in the April 8, 2015 advance online edition of the journal Nature.

    “The problem is that Earth and the moon are very similar with respect to their isotopic fingerprints, suggesting that they are both ultimately formed from the same material that gathered early in the solar system’s history,” said Richard Walker, a professor of geology at UMD and co-author of the study. “This is surprising, because the Mars-sized body that created the moon is expected to have been very different. So the conundrum is that Earth and the moon shouldn’t be as similar as they are.”

    Several different theories have emerged over the years to explain the similar fingerprints of Earth and the moon. Perhaps the impact created a huge cloud of debris that mixed thoroughly with the Earth and then later condensed to form the moon. Or Theia could have, coincidentally, been isotopically similar to young Earth. A third possibility is that the moon formed from Earthen materials, rather than from Theia, although this would have been a very unusual type of impact.

    2
    The UMD team examined the tungsten isotopic composition of two moon rocks collected by the Apollo 16 mission, including sample 68815, seen here. When corrected for meteoritic additions to Earth and the moon after formation of the moon, the two bodies were found to have identical Tungsten isotopic compositions. Photo: NASA/JSC

    To tease out an explanation, Walker and his team looked to another well-documented phenomenon in the early history of the solar system. Evidence suggests that both Earth and the moon gathered additional material after the main impact, and that Earth collected more of this debris and dust. This new material contained a lot of Tungsten, but relatively little of this was of a lighter isotope known as Tungsten-182. Taking these two observations together, one would expect that Earth would have less Tungsten-182 than the moon.

    Sure enough, when comparing rocks from the moon and Earth, Walker and his team found that the moon has a slightly higher proportion of Tungsten-182. The key, however, is how much.

    “The small, but significant, difference in the Tungsten isotopic composition between Earth and the moon perfectly corresponds to the different amounts of material gathered by Earth and the moon post-impact,” Walker said. “This means that, right after the moon formed, it had exactly the same isotopic composition as Earth’s mantle.”

    This finding supports the idea that the mass of material created by the impact, which later formed the moon, must have mixed together thoroughly before the moon coalesced and cooled. This would explain both the overall similarities in isotopic fingerprints and the slight differences in Tungsten-182.

    It also largely rules out the idea that the Mars-sized body was of similar composition, or that the moon formed from material contained in the pre-impact Earth. In both cases, it would be highly unlikely to see such a perfect correlation between Tungsten-182 and the amounts of material gathered by the moon and Earth post-impact.

    “This result brings us one step closer to understanding the close familial relationship between Earth and the moon,” Walker said. “We still need to work out the details, but it’s clear that our early solar system was a very violent place.”

    In addition to Walker, study authors include UMD geology senior research scientist Igor Puchtel and former UMD geology postdoctoral researcher Mathieu Touboul, now at Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon, France.

    This research was supported by NASA (Award No. NNX13AF83G). The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.

    The research paper, Tungsten isotopic evidence for disproportional late accretion to the earth and moon, Mathieu Touboul, Igor Puchtel and Richard Walker, was published on April 8, 2015, in the Advance Online edition of the journal Nature.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:18 pm on March 25, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , U Maryland   

    From U Maryland: “Supermassive Black Hole Clears Star-making Gas From Galaxy’s Core” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    March 24, 2015
    Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu

    1
    The galaxy IRAS F11119+3257 (background) has a central supermassive black hole (inset) that creates winds capable of sweeping away the galaxy’s reservoir of raw star-building material. This is the first solid proof that black-hole winds are depriving their host galaxies of molecular gas and might ultimately stop their star formation activity. Image: ESA/ATG medialab

    Many nearby galaxies blast huge, wide-angled outpourings of material from their center, ejecting enough gas and dust to build more than a thousand stars the size of our sun every year. Astronomers have sought the driving force behind these massive molecular outflows, and now a team led by University of Maryland scientists has found an answer.

    A new study in the journal Nature, published March 26, 2015, provides the first observational evidence that a supermassive black hole at the center of a large galaxy can power these huge molecular outflows from deep inside the galaxy’s core. These outflows remove massive quantities of star-making gas, thus influencing the size, shape and overall fate of the host galaxy.

    The galaxy highlighted in the study, known as IRAS F11119+3257, has an actively growing supermassive black hole at its center. This means that, unlike the large black hole at the center of our own Milky Way galaxy, this black hole is actively consuming large amounts of gas. As material enters the black hole, it creates friction, which in turn gives off electromagnetic radiation—including X-rays and visible light.

    Black holes that fit this description are called active galactic nuclei (AGN), and their intense radiation output also generates powerful winds that force material away from the galactic center. The study found that these AGN winds are powerful enough to drive the large molecular outflows that reach to the edges of the galaxy’s borders.

    Although theorists have suspected a connection between AGN winds and molecular outflows, the current study is the first to confirm the connection with observational evidence.

    “This is the first galaxy in which we can see both the wind from the active galactic nucleus and the large-scale outflow of molecular gas at the same time,” said lead author Francesco Tombesi, an assistant research scientist in UMD’s astronomy department who has a joint appointment at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center via the Center for Research and Exploration in Space Science and Technology.

    The team analyzed data collected in 2013 by Suzaku, an X-ray satellite operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and NASA, as well as data from the European Space Agency’s Herschel Space Observatory.

    JAXA Suzaku ISAS telescope
    Suzaku

    ESA Herschel
    ESA/Herschel

    While many previous studies independently described AGN winds and molecular outflows in separate galaxies, Tombesi and his colleagues needed to find a galaxy in which they could see both at the same time. IRAS F11119+3257 turned out to be a perfect candidate.

    2
    A red-filter image of IRAS F11119+3257 (inset) from the University of Hawaii’s 2.2-meter telescope shows faint features that may be tidal debris, a sign of a galaxy merger. Background: A wider view of the region from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey [SDSS]. Photo: NASA GSFC/SDSS/Sylvain Veilleux

    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope interior
    U Hawaii 2.2 meter telescope

    Sloan Digital Sky Survey Telescope
    SDSS telescope

    An alternate theory says that active star formation near the galactic center could drive molecular outflows. However, the brightness of IRAS F11119+3257’s active nucleus—which is responsible for about 80 percent of the galaxy’s overall radiation—suggested otherwise. Star formation alone cannot explain this intense concentration of energy, leading the researchers to conclude that the AGN winds must be the primary driver.

    “The temptation is to ignore the supermassive black hole when studying galactic dynamics and evolution, but our study shows that you can’t because it influences galaxies on the larger scale,” said Marcio Meléndez, a research associate in UMD’s astronomy department and a co-author of the study.

    Limited satellite time means that, at least for now, the team has only this one galaxy as a baseline for study. But now that they have a better idea what they are looking for, they will be able to find more candidate galaxies in the future. Within the next year, JAXA and NASA will launch ASTRO-H, a successor satellite to Suzaku. The instruments aboard ASTRO-H will make it possible to study more galaxies like IRAS F11119+3257 in greater detail.

    JAXA ASTRO-H telescope
    ASTRO-H

    “These are not like normal spiral or elliptical galaxies. They’re like train wrecks,” said Sylvain Veilleux, a professor of astronomy at UMD and a fellow at the Joint Space-Science Institute (JSI) who is also a co-author of the study. “Two galaxies collided with each other, and it’s now a single object. This train wreck provided all the material to feed the supermassive black hole that is now driving the huge galactic-scale outflow.”

    In addition to Tombesi, Meléndez and Veilleux, study authors included UMD astronomy professor and JSI fellow Chris Reynolds; James Reeves of Keele University in the United Kingdom; and Eduardo González-Alfonso of the Universidad de Alcalá in Spain.

    This research was supported by NASA (Award Nos. NNX12AH40G, NNX14AF86G, NHSC/JPL RSA grants 1427277 and 1454738), the U.S. National Science Foundation (Award Nos. AST1333514 and AST1009583), the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (Award Nos. AYA2010-21697-C05-0 and FIS2012-39162-C06-01) and the U.K. Science and Technology Facilities Council. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

    The research paper, Wind from the black hole accretion disk driving a molecular outflow in an active galaxy, Francesco Tombesi, Marcio Meléndez, Sylvain Veilleux, James Reeves, Eduardo González-Alfonso and Chris S. Reynolds, was published on March 26, 2015, in the journal Nature.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:25 am on February 3, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , U Maryland   

    From U Maryland: “New Mechanism of Epigenetic Inheritance Could Advance Study of Evolution and Disease Treatment” 

    U Maryland bloc

    University of Maryland

    February 2, 2015
    Matthew Wright, 301-405-9267, mewright@umd.edu

    Results show that gene silencing can last for 25+ generations

    For more than a century, scientists have understood the basics of inheritance: if good genes help parents survive and reproduce, the parents pass those genes along to their offspring. And yet, recent research has shown that reality is much more complex: genes can be switched off, or silenced, in response to the environment or other factors, and sometimes these changes can be passed from one generation to the next.

    1
    UMD scientists have discovered a mechanism for transgenerational gene silencing in the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans. Special fluorescent dyes help to visualize neurons (magenta) and germ cells (green) in the roundworm’s body. Photo: Sindhuja Devanapally

    The phenomenon has been called epigenetic inheritance, but it is not well understood. Now, UMD geneticist Antony Jose and two of his graduate students are the first to figure out a specific mechanism by which a parent can pass silenced genes to its offspring. Importantly, the team found that this silencing could persist for multiple generations—more than 25, in the case of this study.

    The research, which was published in the Feb. 2, 2015 online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could transform our understanding of animal evolution. Further, it might one day help in the design of treatments for a broad range of genetic diseases.

    “For a long time, biologists have wanted to know how information from the environment sometimes gets transmitted to the next generation,” said Jose, an assistant professor in the UMD Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics. “This is the first mechanistic demonstration of how this could happen. It’s a level of organization that we didn’t know existed in animals before.”

    Jose and graduate students Sindhuja Devanapally and Snusha Ravikumar worked with the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans, a species commonly used in lab experiments. They made the worms’ nerve cells produce molecules of double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that match a specific gene. (RNA is a close relative of DNA, and has many different varieties, including dsRNA.) Molecules of dsRNA are known to travel between body cells (any cell in the body except germ cells, which make egg or sperm cells) and can silence genes when their sequence matches up with the corresponding section of a cell’s DNA.

    2
    This schematic illustrates how the gene silencing mechanism works in C. elegans. Neurons (magenta) can export double-stranded RNA (orange arrow) that match a gene (green) in germ cells. Import of RNA into germ cells results in silencing of the gene (black) within germ cells. This silencing can persist for more than 25 generations. Photo: Antony Jose

    The team’s biggest finding was that dsRNA can travel from body cells into germ cells and silence genes within the germ cells. Even more surprising, the silencing can stick around for more than 25 generations. If this same mechanism exists in other animals—possibly including humans—it could mean that there is a completely different way for a species to evolve in response to its environment.

    “This mechanism gives an animal a tool to evolve much faster,” Jose said. “We still need to figure out whether this tool is actually used in this way, but it is at least possible. If animals use this RNA transport to adapt, it would mean a new understanding of how evolution happens.”

    The long-term stability of the silencing effect could prove critical in developing treatments for genetic diseases. The key is a process known as RNA interference, more commonly referred to as RNAi. This process is how dsRNA silences genes in a cell. The same process has been studied as a potential genetic therapy for more than a decade, because you can target any disease gene with matching dsRNA. But a main obstacle has been achieving stable silencing, so that the patient does not need to take repeated high doses of dsRNA.

    “RNAi is very promising as a therapy, but the efficacy of the treatment declines over time with each new cell division,” Jose said. “This particular dsRNA, from C. elegans nerve cells, might have some chemical modifications that allow stable silencing to persist for many generations. Further study of this molecule could help solve the efficacy problem in RNAi therapy.”

    Jose acknowledges the large gap between roundworms and humans. Unlike simpler animals, mammals have known mechanisms that reprogram silenced genes every generation. On the surface, it would seem as though this would prevent epigenetic inheritance from happening. And yet, previous evidence suggests that the environment may be able to cause some sort of transgenerational effect in mammals as well. Jose believes that his team’s work provides a promising lead in the search for how this happens.

    3
    The roundworm C. elegans, seen here, is commonly used in laboratory studies because it reproduces quickly and has a simple body. Photo: Hai Le

    “This is a fertile research field that will keep us busy for 10 years or more into the future,” Jose said. “The goal is to achieve a very clear understanding—in simple terms—of all the tools an animal can use to evolve.”

    This research was supported by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences of the National Institutes of Health. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this organization.

    The research paper, Double-stranded RNA made in C. elegans neurons can enter the germline and cause transgenerational gene silencing, Sindhuja Devanapally, Snusha Ravikumar and Antony M. Jose, was published online in the Feb. 2, 2015 early edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Maryland Campus

    Driven by the pursuit of excellence, the University of Maryland has enjoyed a remarkable rise in accomplishment and reputation over the past two decades. By any measure, Maryland is now one of the nation’s preeminent public research universities and on a path to become one of the world’s best. To fulfill this promise, we must capitalize on our momentum, fully exploit our competitive advantages, and pursue ambitious goals with great discipline and entrepreneurial spirit. This promise is within reach. This strategic plan is our working agenda.

    The plan is comprehensive, bold, and action oriented. It sets forth a vision of the University as an institution unmatched in its capacity to attract talent, address the most important issues of our time, and produce the leaders of tomorrow. The plan will guide the investment of our human and material resources as we strengthen our undergraduate and graduate programs and expand research, outreach and partnerships, become a truly international center, and enhance our surrounding community.

    Our success will benefit Maryland in the near and long term, strengthen the State’s competitive capacity in a challenging and changing environment and enrich the economic, social and cultural life of the region. We will be a catalyst for progress, the State’s most valuable asset, and an indispensable contributor to the nation’s well-being. Achieving the goals of Transforming Maryland requires broad-based and sustained support from our extended community. We ask our stakeholders to join with us to make the University an institution of world-class quality with world-wide reach and unparalleled impact as it serves the people and the state of Maryland.

     
c
Compose new post
j
Next post/Next comment
k
Previous post/Previous comment
r
Reply
e
Edit
o
Show/Hide comments
t
Go to top
l
Go to login
h
Show/Hide help
shift + esc
Cancel
%d bloggers like this: