The Kavli Foundation
NewsletterVol. 5, Issue 3  2012
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:
The Kavli Prize
 2012 Kavli Prize Laureates Announced


In May, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced the recipients of the 2012 Kavli Prizes, which recognize scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.




"For discovering and characterizing the Kuiper Belt and its largest members, work that led to a major advance in the understanding of the history of our planetary system."


David C. Jewitt, University of California, Los Angeles, USA; Jane X. Luu, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA; and Michael E. Brown, California Institute of Technology, USA.



"For her pioneering contributions to the study of phonons, electron-phonon interactions, and thermal transport in nanostructures."


Mildred S. Dresselhaus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.



"For elucidating basic neuronal mechanisms underlying perception and decision."


Cornelia Isabella Bargmann, Rockefeller University, USA; Winfried Denk, Max Planck Institute for Medical Research, Germany; and Ann M. Graybiel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.

More about 2012 Kavli Prizes



Kavli Prize Ceremony Sept. 4


On September 4, Norway's King Harald will present the Kavli Prize medals to this year's laureates during a ceremony at the Oslo Concert Hall, Norway. Hosted by Norway's former Minister of Culture Āse Kleveland and actor/writer/director Alan Alda, this event will be webcast live.


The ceremony is part of Kavli Prize Week, which features lectures, the Kavli Prize Science Forum (webcast live) and other special events celebrating and advancing science.




 Phoenix Cluster Sets Record Pace
At Forming Stars

Phoenix Cluster
Microwave (orange), optical (red, green, blue) and ultraviolet (blue) image of Phoenix Cluster.

At a NASA press conference this week, researchers announced they had found a massive galaxy cluster with astounding and unexpected properties -- producing stars at a prodigious rate astronomers have not seen in other galaxy clusters. The discovery of the "Phoenix Cluster," and its central galaxy producing 740 stars per year, is prompting astronomers to re-think how galaxy clusters, among the largest structures in the universe, form and evolve over cosmic time.


On the eve of the announcement, two scientists key to the discovery -- Michael McDonald, Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MIT), and Bradford Benson, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (University of Chicago) -- discussed the Phoenix Cluster and a discovery that, according to McDonald, "suggests a whole new twist to that idea about how massive galaxies at the center of galaxy clusters grow."  Interview and news story   


 The Fantastic, Plastic Brain

Fantastic Plastic Brain Image
Image of a neuron within a living animal, revealing its numerous thread-like branches where it receives connections from other neurons. (Credit: Bruno Lab, Columbia University)


What changes in our brains as we get older and how do those changes affect our ability to learn, develop new skills and abilities, and recover from brain injury?


Recently, three experts in brain plasticity discussed new research that's shedding light on the adult brain's ability to readily be shaped by experience, and what that may mean for the treatment of brain disorders, brain injuries, and learning as an adult:
  • Randy Bruno, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and member of the Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University;
  • Michael Merzenich, Emeritus Professor at the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California, San Francisco, co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science;
  • Randy Nudo, Director of the Landon Center on Aging and Professor in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Kansas.

"[T]he older brain is plastic and remains plastic to the end of life," notes Merzenich, "...[but] marvelously, the older brain only permits change when it judges that change to be important, rewarding or good for it." Full story 


How Atomic Scale Devices Are Transforming Electronics


A memristor, the first fundamentally new electronic circuit device in more than 100 years. Although memory resistance is fundamental to all matter, such devices are not practical except when fabricated on the nanoscale. (Courtesy: S. Williams)

After more than a decade of research advances, we are learning to measure and manipulate matter to create fundamentally different electronic devices.

But what makes these devices unique, how is nanotechnology likely to affect computing, and do we have the research infrastructure necessary to commercialize today's latest nanoelectronic findings? Joining a special discussion to answer these questions are:

  • Michelle Simmons, Scientia Professor and Director of the Australian Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology, University of New South Wales;
  • Paul Weiss, Kavli Professor at UCLA and Director of the California NanoSystems Institute;
  • Stan Williams, Hewlett-Packard Senior Fellow and director of the company's Cognitive Systems Laboratory.

Said Simmons, who made news this year when her lab announced it had created 4-atom-wide nanowires and then later showed a working transistor made from a single atom, "In every field, there is a time to accelerate your commitment. In quantum computing, that time is now." Full story 




Orientation of a Multiplanet System is Very Similar to Our Own
In this artist interpretation, the planet Kepler-30c is transiting one of the large starspots that frequently appear on the surface of its host star. The authors used these spot-crossing events to show that the orbits of the three planets (color lines) are aligned with the rotation of the star (curly white arrow). Graphic: Cristina Sanchis Ojeda

Our solar system exhibits a remarkably orderly configuration: the eight planets orbit the sun much like runners on a track, circling in their respective lanes and always keeping within the same sprawling plane. In contrast, most exoplanets discovered in recent years - particularly the giants known as "hot Jupiters" - inhabit far more eccentric orbits.  


Now researchers at MIT, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions have detected the first exoplanetary system, 10,000 light years away, with regularly aligned orbits similar to those in our solar system. At the center of this faraway system is Kepler-30, a star as bright and massive as the sun. Full story 


More Astrophysics News

Researchers Create Highly Transparent Solar Cells For Windows That Generate Electricity
Transparent Solar Cell
Visibly Transparent Polymer Solar Cells Produced by Solution Processing (Credit: UCLA)


Researchers have developed a new transparent solar cell that is an advance toward giving windows in homes and other buildings the ability to generate electricity while still allowing people to see outside.



The UCLA research team describes a new kind of polymer solar cell that produces energy by absorbing mainly infrared light, not visible light, making the cells nearly 70% transparent to the human eye. They made the device from a photoactive plastic that converts infrared light into an electrical current. "We are excited by this new invention on transparent solar cells, which applied our recent advances in transparent conducting windows to fabricate these devices," said Paul S.Weiss, CNSI director and Fred Kavli Chair in NanoSystems Sciences. Full story  


More Nanoscience News  

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2012 Kavli Prize Laureates Announced
Spotlight: Galaxy Cluster Breaks Cosmic Records
Spotlight: The Fantastic, Plastic Brain
Spotlight: How Atomic Scale Devices Are Transforming Electronics
Astrophysics News
Nanoscience News
Lars Bildsten Named KITP Director
Live Interview with Phoenix Cluster Researchers
PBS Turns Camera on KIPAC's 3-D Simulations
Neuroscience News
Former KITP director David Gross, left, and the Institute's current director, Lars Bildsten (Credit: UCSB)
Former KITP director David Gross, left, and the Institute's current director, Lars Bildsten (Credit: UCSB)

  Lars Bildsten Named Director of Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics  


After an international search for a new director for the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics (KITP) at UC Santa Barbara, the search committee found the best person for the position was already in Santa Barbara: Lars Bildsten, professor of physics and a KITP permanent member. The baton was passed on July 1 from Professor David Gross, a 2004 Nobel laureate, who will remain at KITP as a permanent member.


"I am honored to have been selected," said Bildsten, who joined KITP and UCSB in 1999. "It is also a deep responsibility to maintain the tradition of excellent leadership at the KITP. David Gross very successfully expanded our activities and funding, increased our international prominence, and placed us in a very strong position." Full story 

Michael McDonald, Bradford Benson
MKI's Michael McDonald and KICP's Bradford Benson
 Live Webchat with Phoenix Cluster Researchers


On August 28, 12:00 pm EDT, Michael McDonald, Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research (MIT), and Bradford Benson, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics (University of Chicago) will join a live webchat to discuss the discovery of the Phoenix Galaxy Cluster (see Spotlight: Phoenix Cluster Sets Record Pace at Forming Stars). Led by science writer Bruce Lieberman, the two researchers will answer questions submitted by viewers. More information


Science Bytes
 PBS Video Highlights KIPAC's "Incredible" 3-D Simulations


Recently in a PBS video produced for Science Bytes, scientists at the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University revealed how they are pioneering new visualization methods, based on massive computer simulations, that allow them to see and study dark matter in ways that have never before been possible. Science Bytes is a collaboration between Kikim Media, the Public Library of Science and the Public Broadcasting Service. See video  



A Flash of Light Changes Cell Activity - and Understanding of Disease

This figure shows lipid formation (in orange) in a cell. When subjected to blue light, the formation is instantly catalyzed as the enzyme is recruited to the periphery of the cell (middle panel) and restored (right panel) when the blue light is turned off. (Courtesy: Yale University)

One of the most exciting new research approaches of recent years is called optogenetics or the use of genetically encoded probes to make cell functions sensitive to light.


In a new study, with a milliseconds-long flash of blue light, Yale University researchers have regulated a critical type of signaling molecule within cell membranes -- another illustration of the power of light-based techniques to manipulate cell functions and thus to study mechanisms of disease.


"This is a powerful tool to acutely manipulate the metabolism of membrane lipids and to study the resulting changes of cell behavior in real time,' said Pietro De Camilli, the Eugene Higgins Professor of Cell Biology, investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University. "Abnormal metabolism of lipids in cell membranes has been implicated in many diseases, such cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration, including Alzheimer's Disease." Full story  



California Institute of Technology and Kavli IPMU.  Hirosi Ooguri, Caltech's Fred Kavli Chair in Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, and a Principal Investigator of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (Kavli IPMU), University of Tokyo, was selected to receive the Simons Investigator Award in the inaugural year of the award. Ooguri will receive more than $1.3 million over the next ten years for his research.


Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.  The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation awarded KITP $1.6 million for its ongoing interdisciplinary biology initiatives, including workshops, postdoctoral fellowships, and plans for a new summer program -- the Santa Barbara Advanced School for Quantitative Biology (SBASQB) -- aimed squarely at the interface of physics and biology. KITP also received a $400,000 grant from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to go exclusively toward the latter endeavor.       


Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology (KIND).  Teun Klapwijk received in Washington DC the 2012 Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. The prize is awarded every three years for outstanding experiments that illuminate the nature of superconductivity.

Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago (KICP).  Stephan Meyer received a share of his second Gruber Cosmology Prize for his work as a member of the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe. Meyer previously had received a share of the 2006 Gruber Cosmology Prize with fellow members of the Cosmic Background Explorer collaboration.


Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford (KIPAC) and Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT (MKI).  KIPAC's Andrei Linde and MKI's Alan Guth were two of nine recipients of the Milner Foundation's Fundamental Physics Prize. The new prize recognizes physicists for their "transformative advances in the field." Guth was recognized for the invention of inflationary cosmology and Linde for its development.


Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge (KICC).  Marco Aprili, National Center for Scientific Research, Laboratoire de Physique des Solides, Université Paris-Sud, has been named KICC's first Kavli Visiting Faculty Fellow. The Institute also announced the appointment of Mustafa Amin as a Kavli Fellow.       


Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics China at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KITPC).  KITPC held its first outreach program, attracting 70 students and teachers from 13 high schools in Beijing and Jiangsu Province. During two weeks of activities, the students worked with master teachers from the United States where they participated in activities such as building a cosmic ray detector and joining an international collaboration of high school teachers and students who share data through the e-Lab in a global cosmic ray research community.


Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).  Lisa Giocomo was selected to receive the highly competitive "Starting Grant" from the European Research Council for her research project, "Cellular Mechanisms Underlying the Topographical Organization of Entorhinal Cortical Circuits."