Flash Physics: Deborah Jin dies at 47, NASA extends IRIS satellite mission, new UK high-temperature lab

Deborah Jin dies at 47

Deborah Jin (1968-2016)
Atomic pioneer: Deborah Jin (1968–2016)

US physicist Deborah Jin, who was renowned for her groundbreaking work on ultracold atomic gases, died on 15 September at the age of 47. The physicist, who won the 2014 Isaac Newton medal of the Institute of Physics (which also publishes physicsworld.com), lost her battle with cancer, and has been described by colleagues as “one of the great atomic physicists of our day.” Jin joined JILA in 1995 – where she has been a fellow since 2005 – following a degree in physics from Princeton and a PhD from the University of Chicago. Nearly two decades ago, Jin and her then PhD student Brian DeMarco were the first researchers to observe quantum degeneracy in a sufficiently cooled gas of fermionic atoms. They were the first to demonstrate the creation and control of such an ultracold “Fermi gas”, which has since provided us with new insights into superconductivity and other electronic effects in materials. You can read this 2002 feature written by Jin on “A Fermi gas of atoms” and watch her entire 2014 Newton lecture in the video below.

NASA extends its Sun-watching IRIS satellite mission

NASA’s Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph (IRIS) satellite mission has been granted a $19m extension. The small satellite – which makes detailed observations of the Sun in ultraviolet – is built and operated by Lockheed Martin, and the extension has allowed the firm to extend the mission to September 2018, with a possible further extension to 2019. The satellite was launched in 2013 and was initially designed for a two-year mission. This extension will also increase IRIS’s collaboration with other observatories in California and Europe and Chile. “IRIS has taken more than 24 million images or spectral measurements of the Sun since its launch three years ago, and it has led to more than 115 scientific papers,” says Bart De Pontieu, IRIS science lead at Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center. The satellite will now be studying the tail end of the solar activity cycle, which just peaked – some of the largest flares and most powerful coronal mass ejections occur during this phase of the solar cycle.

Physicist Qi-Kun Xue bags inaugural Chinese science prize

The first winners of the privately sponsored Future Science prize, for discoveries made in China, were announced yesterday in Beijing, and include a physicist. Qi-Kun Xue of Tsinghua University won the physical-science prize for his groundbreaking discoveries “of novel quantum phenomena using molecular beam epitaxy, including quantum anomalous Hall effect and monolayer FeSe superconductivity”. Each prize is worth US$1m, and Xue told Nature News that he will share the money with colleagues who contributed towards both discoveries. Xue completed his PhD in condensed-matter physics from the Institute of Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1994. His research is important for the development of topological insulators – find out more about their potential applications in this video. To discover more about the rise of physics in China today, take a look at our new Physics World Special Report: China.

New high-temperature lab opens in the UK

Photograph taken inside the High Temperature Facility
Hot stuff: Lee Waterhouse (left) of Amec Foster Wheeler and Neil Irvine from the University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute

A new facility to develop energy-generation systems based on nuclear fusion, nuclear fission and other high-temperature technologies has opened in the UK. The High Temperature Facility (HTF) is located in Warrington in north-east England and is managed by the British company Amec Foster Wheeler. The HTF is open to the research community and is equipped to test materials at temperatures up to 1000 °C and recreate environments containing pressurized gas and liquid metal. The facility will be run in co-operation with the High Temperature Facility Alliance, which comprises the UK’s National Nuclear Laboratory, EDF Energy, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, the nuclear fuel supplier URENCO and four UK universities.

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