Joerg Heber

71 posts · 112,155 views

I am Managing Editor for the physical sciences of the science magazine Nature Communications and freelance science writer. The views represented on my blog are my own.

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  • June 17, 2014
  • 10:54 AM

Power grid designs for the future

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Planning electrical grids in a steady environment is not overly difficult. A number of large power stations are connected to urban population centres, where much of the power is consumed. Typically, such power grids would look like meshes with  interconnected distribution points that make sure that if one power station fails, others can compensate . However, as electrical demand […]... Read more »

Menck, P., Heitzig, J., Kurths, J., & Joachim Schellnhuber, H. (2014) How dead ends undermine power grid stability. Nature Communications. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms4969  

  • June 10, 2013
  • 06:49 PM

Double-blind peer review at Nature Geoscience

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

The purpose of the editorial process at scientific journals is to select the papers that fit the editorial scope of the journal, and – within the limited means of the review scheme – try to make sure that published papers are technically correct and a fair representation of the scientific results presented. For most modern […]... Read more »

Editorial. (2013) Double-blind peer review. Nature Geoscience, 6(6), 413-413. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1853  

Editorial. (2012) Feedback received. Nature Geoscience, 5(9), 585-585. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1575  

  • June 9, 2013
  • 12:30 PM

Atomic identity checks

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

It become pretty much a routine, albeit an expensive one, to use transmission electron microscopes for imaging atoms in a crystal. But what has often been missing from those images is a crucial bit of information, the identity of the chemical element that has been looked at. Of course, the grey scales in the contrast […]... Read more »

  • April 1, 2013
  • 12:47 PM

X-ray crystallography made easy

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Sixty years ago this month Nature published the famous paper by Watson and Crick solving the structure of DNA. At the time many researchers pursued this goal, made difficult by the complexity of the DNA itself. A key contribution to the solution of the puzzle was the x-ray diffraction data provided by Rosalind Franklin. Indeed, without [...]... Read more »

FRANKLIN, R., & GOSLING, R. (1953) Molecular Configuration in Sodium Thymonucleate. Nature, 171(4356), 740-741. DOI: 10.1038/171740a0  

Inokuma, Y., Yoshioka, S., Ariyoshi, J., Arai, T., Hitora, Y., Takada, K., Matsunaga, S., Rissanen, K., & Fujita, M. (2013) X-ray analysis on the nanogram to microgram scale using porous complexes. Nature, 495(7442), 461-466. DOI: 10.1038/nature11990  

  • January 13, 2013
  • 07:44 AM

Measuring mass by telling the time

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

How do you measure mass with high precision? This is not an easy question, as it is very difficult to measure the weight of something with the same ultra-high precision with which atomic clocks measure time. To this day, the kilogram is defined by a piece of metal made of platinum and iridium that is stored in Paris. [...]... Read more »

Lan, S., Kuan, P., Estey, B., English, D., Brown, J., Hohensee, M., & Muller, H. (2013) A Clock Directly Linking Time to a Particle's Mass. Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.1230767  

  • January 3, 2013
  • 10:18 PM

Atoms at negative absolute temperatures

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Usually we tend to think about temperature as being related to the motion of atoms. At lower temperatures, atomic motions slow down. Absolute zero, defined as zero Kelvin or −273.15 degrees Celsius, then is the point where all atomic motion stops. But what comes beyond that, does something like a negative absolute temperature exist? Indeed, as Ulrich Schneider [...]... Read more »

Braun, S., Ronzheimer, J., Schreiber, M., Hodgman, S., Rom, T., Bloch, I., & Schneider, U. (2013) Negative Absolute Temperature for Motional Degrees of Freedom. Science, 339(6115), 52-55. DOI: 10.1126/science.1227831  

  • December 11, 2012
  • 07:53 PM

Samarium hexaboride

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

There is a lot of buzz in the physics community about a new topological insulator: samarium hexaboride, SmB6. The reason why any major discovery about topological insulators seems to be big news is that these materials have some unique electrical characteristics that make them not only very interesting from a fundamental point of view but [...]... Read more »

Steven Wolgast, Cagliyan Kurdak, Kai Sun, J. W. Allen, Dae-Jeong Kim, & Zachary Fisk. (2012) Discovery of the First Topological Kondo Insulator: Samarium Hexaboride. -. arXiv: 1211.5104v2

Xiaohang Zhang, N. P. Butch, P. Syers, S. Ziemak, Richard L. Greene, & J. Paglione. (2012) Hybridization, Correlation, and In-Gap States in the Kondo Insulator SmB6. -. arXiv: 1211.5532v1

J. Botimer, D. J. Kim, S. Thomas, T. Grant, Z. Fisk, & Jing Xia. (2012) Robust Surface Hall Effect and Nonlocal Transport in SmB6: Indication for an Ideal Topological Insulator. -. arXiv: 1211.6769v1

  • November 19, 2012
  • 12:15 PM

Graphene’s new look

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

It’s been only a week ago that I wrote about the increasing competition for graphene. But as I said then, there are still some exciting advances based on graphene. An example is photonics, which is an area where traditionally graphene perhaps has not been as strong as in electronics. A reason for this is that being only a [...]... Read more »

Nair, R., Blake, P., Grigorenko, A., Novoselov, K., Booth, T., Stauber, T., Peres, N., & Geim, A. (2008) Fine Structure Constant Defines Visual Transparency of Graphene. Science, 320(5881), 1308-1308. DOI: 10.1126/science.1156965  

Fei, Z., Rodin, A., Andreev, G., Bao, W., McLeod, A., Wagner, M., Zhang, L., Zhao, Z., Thiemens, M., Dominguez, G.... (2012) Gate-tuning of graphene plasmons revealed by infrared nano-imaging. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature11253  

Lee, S., Choi, M., Kim, T., Lee, S., Liu, M., Yin, X., Choi, H., Lee, S., Choi, C., Choi, S.... (2012) Switching terahertz waves with gate-controlled active graphene metamaterials. Nature Materials, 11(11), 936-941. DOI: 10.1038/nmat3433  

Grigorenko, A., Polini, M., & Novoselov, K. (2012) Graphene plasmonics. Nature Photonics, 6(11), 749-758. DOI: 10.1038/nphoton.2012.262  

  • November 12, 2012
  • 07:07 PM

Competition in flatland

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Move over graphene, there is competition in town. A new type of two-dimensional materials – with the far less appealing family name, transition metal dichalcogenides –  are increasingly gaining attention. Well, at least they’re giving it a shot. Graphene, a sheet of carbon atoms only one atomic layer thick, still has plenty going for itself [...]... Read more »

  • November 8, 2012
  • 08:22 AM

The ultimate optical surface devices

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Ocean waves are pretty relentless when hitting on a beach, and it is not always easy to protect beaches from erosion. For example, if you were to put pillars of a few centimetres in diameter into the water it won’t stop the waves or alter their behaviour. The waves will continue to hit the beach as ever. In optics, [...]... Read more »

  • May 3, 2012
  • 07:50 AM

High-risk research can’t be kept secret forever

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Should scientific journals publish high-risk scientific research that could in the wrong hands be disastrous for us all? Although it might be sensible to keep certain results secret for a while, I argue that eventually it does not make sense to withhold results in the long-term. What is this all about? Yesterday saw the publication [...]... Read more »

  • February 19, 2012
  • 01:45 PM

Transistors reach the single atom limit

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

When Gordon Moore made his observation in 1965 that the number of transistors integrated on a single silicon chip is doubling roughly every two years, the only logical end point for such a trend would be a transistor made from a single atom. This point has now been reached. Writing in Nature Nanotechnology, Michelle Simmons from the [...]... Read more »

Fuechsle, M., Miwa, J., Mahapatra, S., Ryu, H., Lee, S., Warschkow, O., Hollenberg, L., Klimeck, G., & Simmons, M. (2012) A single-atom transistor. Nature Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2012.21  

  • February 8, 2012
  • 01:01 PM

Coaxial ‘cables’ make great lasers, too

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

When Oliver Heaviside invented the coaxial cable in 1880 he could not have foreseen the implications of his idea on modern nanotechnology. His coaxial cables consist of three layers: an inner metallic core, surrounded by an insulator, surrounded by a metallic layer on the outside. The benefit of this design is that the outer metallic [...]... Read more »

Khajavikhan, M., Simic, A., Katz, M., Lee, J., Slutsky, B., Mizrahi, A., Lomakin, V., & Fainman, Y. (2012) Thresholdless nanoscale coaxial lasers. Nature, 482(7384), 204-207. DOI: 10.1038/nature10840  

  • February 6, 2012
  • 08:39 AM

A perfect couple for designing chemical reactions

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

We are all familiar with the basic ways in which light interacts with matter, when light absorption  causes atoms to move and creates heat, or when light gets absorbed by the outer electrons of atoms so that they move into energetically excited states, which is how electricity in solar cells is created. Common to both [...]... Read more »

Schwartz, T., Hutchison, J., Genet, C., & Ebbesen, T. (2011) Reversible Switching of Ultrastrong Light-Molecule Coupling. Physical Review Letters, 106(19). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.196405  

Hutchison, J., Schwartz, T., Genet, C., Devaux, E., & Ebbesen, T. (2012) Modifying Chemical Landscapes by Coupling to Vacuum Fields. Angewandte Chemie International Edition. DOI: 10.1002/anie.201107033  

  • January 15, 2012
  • 02:09 PM

Shrinking magnetic storage devices

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

I now finally got the time to follow-up on last week’s paper in Science by Andreas Heinrich‘s group at IBM on magnetic storage elements that are only a few atoms in size. There have been a few misconceptions in some of the news reports with some being plainly wrong (‘smallest storage device ever made’), and many didn’t [...]... Read more »

Loth, S., Baumann, S., Lutz, C., Eigler, D., & Heinrich, A. (2012) Bistability in Atomic-Scale Antiferromagnets. Science, 335(6065), 196-199. DOI: 10.1126/science.1214131  

  • January 4, 2012
  • 01:04 PM

The cloak that hides events in time

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Devices that conceal objects from an observer are called cloaks. Conceptually, the idea of cloaking devices has its roots in science fiction, but such devices have indeed been demonstrated in the past few years. These cloaks are based on tiny structures that are able to bend light on predetermined paths as it passes through the [...]... Read more »

Fridman, M., Farsi, A., Okawachi, Y., & Gaeta, A. (2012) Demonstration of temporal cloaking. Nature, 481(7379), 62-65. DOI: 10.1038/nature10695  

Boyd, R., & Shi, Z. (2012) Optical physics: How to hide in time. Nature, 481(7379), 35-36. DOI: 10.1038/481035a  

  • December 12, 2011
  • 10:09 AM

The Beethoven connection

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Symphonies are some of the most complex musical pieces. They involve different instruments, each with their own unique sound, and each instruments section playing their own tunes. Yet, what are symphonies in comparison to the complexity of life? Proteins for example, they are made of a limited number of building blocks, amino acids, but take [...]... Read more »

  • December 2, 2011
  • 07:22 AM

Whither organic solar cells?

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

This week I am attending the Materials Research Society Fall meeting in Boston, where there is a big focus on energy. Catalysis, fuel cells, batteries, solar cells, solar fuel, you name it. And I had a discussion with some researchers from the inorganic solar cell community, who asked me what is with the organic solar cells? [...]... Read more »

Green, M., Emery, K., Hishikawa, Y., Warta, W., & Dunlop, E. (2011) Solar cell efficiency tables (Version 38). Progress in Photovoltaics: Research and Applications, 19(5), 565-572. DOI: 10.1002/pip.1150  

  • November 27, 2011
  • 08:36 AM

Electrons out of balance

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

Apply an electric field to a material, and its positive and negative charges will separate, creating an electric polarization. This is the fundamental effect behind capacitors used in electronics as well as in ferroelectrics used in some computer memories. In the latter case, to achieve a permanent electric polarization, the positive and negative charges need [...]... Read more »

Li, W., Pohl, T., Rost, J., Rittenhouse, S., Sadeghpour, H., Nipper, J., Butscher, B., Balewski, J., Bendkowsky, V., Low, R.... (2011) A Homonuclear Molecule with a Permanent Electric Dipole Moment. Science, 334(6059), 1110-1114. DOI: 10.1126/science.1211255  

  • November 21, 2011
  • 06:00 AM

Science doesn’t shoot from the hip

by Joerg Heber in All That Matters

The young Max Planck, when completing his high school degree, asked a professor of physics at the University of Munich, Philipp von Jolly, whether he should study physics. He got the famous answer that this wouldn’t make much sense, because physics is an almost fully mature science with not much to discover. (If you happen [...]... Read more »

Matthew F. Pusey, Jonathan Barrett, & Terry Rudolph. (2011) The quantum state cannot be interpreted statistically. -. arXiv: 1111.3328v1

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