Hierarchical networks

March issue

This month we see how the renormalisation group can be applied to complex networks, consider topological pumping of solitons and charge, and celebrate playfulness in physics.


  • Complex optics insight

    Disorder and mode interactions are often treated as sources of noise, but can shape the flow of light in interesting and useful ways. This Insight reviews the fundamental physics and broad applications of optics in disordered and multimodal media.

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  • Layering quantum materials can produce interesting phenomena by combining the different behaviour of electronic states in each layer. A layer-sensitive measurement technique provides insights into the physics of a magnetic topological insulator.

    • Woojoo Lee
    • Sebastian Fernandez-Mulligan
    • Shuolong Yang
  • The realization of ultracold molecules in higher bands of an optical lattice sets the stage for the study of the interplay between orbital physics and the Bose–Einstein condensation and Bardeen–Cooper–Schrieffer superfluidity crossover.

    • Yann Kiefer
    • Max Hachmann
    • Andreas Hemmerich
    Article Open Access
  • Measurements on a single artificial atom—a quantum dot—coupled to an optical cavity show scattering dynamics that depend on the number of photons involved in the light–matter interaction, which is a signature of stimulated emission.

    • Natasha Tomm
    • Sahand Mahmoodian
    • Richard J. Warburton
    Article Open Access
    • The strong interaction is modified in the presence of nuclear matter. An experiment has now quantified with high precision and accuracy the reduction of the order parameter of the system’s chiral symmetry, which is partially restored.

      • Sean Freeman
      News & Views
    • Photon bound states are quantum states of light that emerge in systems with ultrahigh optical non-linearities. A single artificial atom was used to study the dynamics of these states, revealing that the number of photons within the pulse determines the time delay after the pulse scatters off the atom.

      Research Briefing
    • Controlling the spatial distribution of optically active spin defects in solids is a long-standing goal in the quantum sensing and simulation communities. Measurements of the many-body noise generated by the spins were used to verify that a highly coherent and strongly interacting quantum spin system was confined to two dimensions within a diamond substrate.

      Research Briefing
  • The nautical mile and knot were acknowledged by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures. Bart Verberck wonders why this is not the case anymore.

    • Bart Verberck
    Measure for Measure
  • Driven by curiosity and creativity, materials that are diverted from their intended use may lead to surprising insights. We take a moment to celebrate the playful side of physics.

  • Bibliometric evaluation causes competition and stalls scientific progress. We need to abandon it and encourage collaboration.

    • Jakub Železný
    World View
  • Standards recommended by the International Organization for Standardization are often hidden in plain sight. Angelique Botha, Chair of ISO/TC 334 for Reference Materials, tells us where to look.

    • Angelique Botha
    Measure for Measure
Feynman diagrams that contribute to the production of the Higgs boson form the number ten.

The Higgs boson discovery turns ten

The discovery of the Higgs boson was announced ten years ago on the 4th of July 2012 — an event that substantially advanced our understanding of the origin of elementary particles’ masses.


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