Number 291, October 16, 1996 by Phillip F. Schewe and Ben Stein|
THE 1996 CHEMISTRY NOBEL PRIZE goes to Richard Smalley and Robert Curl
of Rice University and Harold Kroto of the University of Sussex (UK) for
their discovery in 1985 of fullerenes. Shaped like soccer balls, fullerenes
are closed molecules consisting of 60, 70, and certain other higher numbers
of carbon atoms. Because they resemble the geodesic domes pioneered by
the architect Buckminster Fuller, the molecules are also called buckyballs.
In the past half decade, Physics News Update has covered a variety of subjects
related to this versatile new form of carbon. For example, buckyballs can
be superconducting (Update 31); can be ordered by mail (Update 47); can
contain metal atoms (Update 189); can occur in nature (Update 89); can
be accelerated in beams (Update 95); can emit light (Update 110); and might
have a liquid phase (Update 140).
THE FIRST DIRECT MEASUREMENTS OF THE PROPER MOTION OF STARS at our galaxy's
core provides new evidence for the existence there of a black hole. Deducing
a star's radial velocity, its speed along our line of sight, is relatively
easy to do; just measure the Doppler shift in the star's spectrum. By contrast,
measuring a star's proper motion, its movement across our line of sight,
is difficult, especially for stars as far away (25,000 light years) as
the galactic center. And yet the proper motions of stars are what astronomers
need to formulate a full traffic report for the vicinity of Sagittarius
A*, the radio source at the very pivot of the Milky Way. Now Reinhard Genzel
and Andreas Eckart of the Max Planck Institute in Garching, Germany have
used the New Technology Telescope in Chile to make 5-year sightings of
39 stars near Sgr A*. The proper motions they find are as big as the radial
velocities for these stars. This swirl of activity in turn suggests the
presence of a 2.5-million-solar-mass dark object (perhaps many small or
one large black hole) packed within a 0.1-light-year volume at the galaxy's
nucleus. (Nature, 3 October 1996.)
PHYSICS GRADUATE STUDENTS IN THE U.S. : A new AIP report puts their numbers
(for the 1994/95 year) at 13,285. Of these, 43% were non-U.S. citizens,
16% were women, 2% were African-American, 3% were Hispanic-American, and
4% were East-Asian-American. Considering only the non-U.S. citizens, China
(28%), the Former Soviet Bloc (16%), and Western Europe (14%) sent the
highest fractions of students. 1461 PhDs were granted. The median time
between the BS and PhD degrees for U.S. citizens was 6.5 years. The favorite
subfields of study were condensed matter (23%) and particle physics (13%).
(For more information, contact Patrick Mulvey at AIP, firstname.lastname@example.org)
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