Volume 2 Issue 5, May 2006

Volume 2 Issue 5

Laser technology has advanced to a stage where we can generate pulses of light on timescales equivalent to those governing the dynamics of electrons within atoms and molecules. Two reports in this issue illustrate progress towards exploiting this capability to study and control the electronic properties and behaviour of such systems. The work by Inigo Sola and co–workers modulates the polarization of a train of ultrashort pulses to steer the return of an electron wavepacket to an atom from which it had been ionized. As a result, an isolated and much shorter secondary pulse emerges, towards the few–attosecond limit. Thomas Remetter and colleagues use a sequence of attosecond pulses to shear apart multiple electron wavepackets within an argon atom. By probing the subsequent interference between these wavepackets, valuable information about their phase is gained.

Letter by Sola et al | Letter by Remetter et al | News and Views by Thomas Pfeifer



  • Commentary |

    Although computers have dramatically improved productivity in many areas, their use for improving education has been slow and difficult. Online interactive simulations may soon change all that.

    • Carl E. Wieman
    •  & Katherine K. Perkins


Books and Arts

Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News & Views |

    The ability to generate intense attosecond pulses of light promises unprecedented opportunities to study the lightest and fastest of all chemically relevant particles — electrons. Two techniques demonstrate progress towards measuring and controlling their attosecond dynamics.

    • Thomas Pfeifer
  • News & Views |

    The ability to confine alpha particles within a burning deuterium–tritium plasma is likely to be crucial to the future of fusion power generation. Resonant interactions between alpha particles and magnetohydrodynamic vibrations could threaten their confinement.

    • Steven C Cowley
  • News & Views |

    The sensitivity and dynamic range of a network made of neuron-like elements is now shown to be maximized at the critical point of a phase transition. This raises the question of whether critical senses might improve survival in a critical world.

    • Dante R. Chialvo
  • News & Views |

    It's a twenty-year-old question: how much do the constituent quarks and gluons contribute to the spin of a nucleon? New results from the COMPASS experiment add to the picture.

    • Erwin Gabathuler
  • News & Views |

    As the duration of pulses generated by modern lasers approaches that of a single optical cycle, the absolute phase of the wave-packets in such pulses becomes important. A new method for measuring this phase could aid their use in both high-field physics and attosecond pulse generation.

    • Günter Steinmeyer
  • News & Views |

    The study of complex oxides using a local probe reveals exciting secrets — from magnetic domains arranged like bricks in a wall to the possible first visualization of a polaronic charge carrier.

    • Neil Mathur