News FocusAMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY MEETING

Snapshots From the Meeting

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Science  08 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6026, pp. 171
DOI: 10.1126/science.332.6026.171-b

Snapshots from the American Physical Society meeting include lowering the energy of a vibrating widget enough to achieve the least motion allowed by quantum mechanics—the so-called ground state of motion—and a network model that demonstrates that if 10% of the members of a group hold an unshakable conviction, their view will eventually win out.

Bang the drum slowly. For the second time, physicists have lowered the energy of a vibrating widget enough to achieve the least motion allowed by quantum mechanics: the so-called ground state of motion. Researchers had previously cooled a tiny diving board–shaped gizmo to a few thousandths of a degree with a liquid helium refrigerator. This time, John Teufel of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colorado, and colleagues borrowed a technique from laser physics and used microwaves to draw energy out of a tiny drumhead. The new widget oscillates 1000 times more slowly than the first quantum machine and should remain in a quantum state of motion much longer.

CREDIT: J. D. TEUFEL ET AL., NATURE 471 (9 MARCH 2011) ©2011 MACMILLAN PUBLISHERS LTD.

The power of true believers. If 10% of the members of a group hold an unshakable conviction, their view will eventually win out, according to a network model. Theorist Sameet Sreenivasan and colleagues at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, find that the structure of the group's social connections does not greatly affect that threshold. Beyond the threshold, as the size of a group grows extremely large, only then do belief and disbelief coexist—assuming there are no unpersuadable disbelievers. Beate Schmittmann, a theorist at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, says the analysis underscores that “if you want to have a diverse society, it has to be a certain size.” The U.S. civil rights movement took off as the percentage of African Americans approached 10% of the population, Sreenivasan notes.

CREDIT: JACK THORNELL /AP

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