We derive criteria for whether two cosmological events can have a shared causal past or a shared causal future, assuming a Friedmann-Lemaitre-Robertson-Walker (FLRW) universe with best-fit cosmological parameters from the Planck satellite. We further derive criteria for whether either cosmic event could have been in past causal contact with our own worldline since the time of the hot “big bang,” which we take to be the end of early-universe inflation. We find that pairs of objects such as quasars on opposite sides of the sky with redshifts \( z \ge 3.65 \) have no shared causal past with each other or with our past worldline. More complicated constraints apply if the objects are at different redshifts from each other or appear at some relative angle less than 180°, as seen from Earth. We present examples of observed quasar pairs that satisfy all, some, or none of the criteria for past causal independence. Given dark energy and the recent accelerated expansion, our observable Universe has a finite conformal lifetime, and hence a cosmic event horizon at current redshift \( z = 1.87 \). We thus constrain whether pairs of cosmic events can signal each other’s worldlines before the end of time. Lastly, we generalize the criteria for shared past and future causal domains for FLRW universes with nonzero spatial curvature.


We experimentally study the ghost critical field (GCF), a magnetic field scale for the suppression of superconducting fluctuations, using Hall effect and magnetoresistance measurements on a disordered superconducting thin film near its transition temperature \( T_c \). We observe an increase in the Hall effect with a maximum in field that tracks the upper critical field below \( T_c \), vanishes near \( T_c \), and returns to higher fields above \( T_c \). Such a maximum has been observed in studies of the Nernst effect and identified as the GCF. Magnetoresistance measurements near Tc indicate quenching of superconducting fluctuations, agree with established theoretical descriptions, and allow us to extract the GCF and other parameters. Above \( T_c \), the Hall peak field is quantitatively distinct from the GCF, and we contrast this finding with ongoing studies of the Nernst effect and superconducting fluctuations in unconventional and thin-film superconductors.


Recent advances in quantum information processing with trapped ions have demonstrated the need for new ion trap architectures capable of holding and manipulating chains of many (>10) ions. Here we present the design and detailed characterization of a new linear trap, microfabricated with scalable complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) techniques, that is well-suited to this challenge. Forty-four individually controlled dc electrodes provide the many degrees of freedom required to construct anharmonic potential wells, shuttle ions, merge and split ion chains, precisely tune secular mode frequencies, and adjust the orientation of trap axes. Microfabricated capacitors on dc electrodes suppress radio-frequency pickup and excess micromotion, while a top-level ground layer simplifies modeling of electric fields and protects trap structures underneath. A localized aperture in the substrate provides access to the trapping region from an oven below, permitting deterministic loading of particular isotopic/elemental sequences via species-selective photoionization. The shapes of the aperture and radio-frequency electrodes are optimized to minimize perturbation of the trapping pseudopotential. Laboratory experiments verify simulated potentials and characterize trapping lifetimes, stray electric fields, and ion heating rates, while measurement and cancellation of spatially-varying stray electric fields permits the formation of nearly-equally spaced ion chains


We have studied the Hall effect in superconducting tantalum nitride films. We find a large contribution to the Hall conductivity near the superconducting transition, which we can track to temperatures well above \( T_c \) and magnetic fields well above the upper critical field, \( \mathrm{H}_{c2}(0) \). This contribution arises from Aslamazov-Larkin superconducting fluctuations, and we find quantitative agreement between our data and recent theoretical analysis based on time dependent Ginzburg-Landau theory.


The helical coiling of plant tendrils has fascinated scientists for centuries, yet the underlying mechanism remains elusive. Moreover, despite Darwin’s widely accepted interpretation of coiled tendrils as soft springs, their mechanical behavior remains unknown. Our experiments on cucumber tendrils demonstrate that tendril coiling occurs via asymmetric contraction of an internal fiber ribbon of specialized cells. Under tension, both extracted fiber ribbons and old tendrils exhibit twistless overwinding rather than unwinding, with an initially soft response followed by strong strain-stiffening at large extensions. We explain this behavior using physical models of prestrained rubber strips, geometric arguments, and mathematical models of elastic filaments. Collectively, our study illuminates the origin of tendril coiling, quantifies Darwin’s original proposal, and suggests designs for biomimetic twistless springs with tunable mechanical responses.

From the Cover…

.. epigraph:: “Townsend is the best book I know for advanced undergraduate quantum mechanics. It is clear, contemporary, and compact. My students used it as a wonderful springboard to graduate school.” -- Ralph D. Amado, University of Pennsylvania .. epigraph:: “With this second edition, Townsend has succeeded in making a clear and pedagogical textbook on undergraduate quantum mechanics even better.” -- Charles Gale, McGill University


When matter falls past the horizon of a large black hole, the expectation from string theory is that the configuration thermalizes and the information in the probe is rather quickly scrambled away. The traditional view of a classical unique spacetime near a black hole horizon conflicts with this picture. The question then arises as to what spacetime does the probe actually see as it crosses a horizon, and how does the background geometry imprint its signature onto the thermal properties of the probe. In this work, we explore these questions through an extensive series of numerical simulations of D0 branes. We determine that the D0 branes quickly settle into an incompressible symmetric state—thermalized within a few oscillations through a process driven entirely by internal nonlinear dynamics. Surprisingly, thermal background fluctuations play no role in this mechanism. Signatures of the background fields in this thermal state arise either through fluxes, i.e. black hole hair; or if the probe expands to the size of the horizon—which we see evidence of. We determine simple scaling relations for the D0 branes’ equilibrium size, time to thermalize, lifetime, and temperature in terms of their number, initial energy, and the background fields. Our results are consistent with the conjecture that black holes are the fastest scramblers as seen by matrix theory.


We study the primary root growth of wild-type Medicago truncatula plants in heterogeneous environments using 3D time-lapse imaging. The growth medium is a transparent hydrogel consisting of a stiff lower layer and a compliant upper layer. We find that the roots deform into a helical shape just above the gel layer interface before penetrating into the lower layer. This geometry is interpreted as a combination of growth-induced mechanical buckling modulated by the growth medium and a simultaneous twisting near the root tip. We study the helical morphology as the modulus of the upper gel layer is varied and demonstrate that the size of the deformation varies with gel stiffness as expected by a mathematical model based on the theory of buckled rods. Moreover, we show that plant-to-plant variations can be accounted for by biomechanically plausible values of the model parameters.


Being able to distinguish light-quark jets from gluon jets on an event-by-event basis could significantly enhance the reach for many new physics searches at the Large Hadron Collider. Through an exhaustive search of existing and novel jet substructure observables, we find that a multivariate approach can filter out over 95% of the gluon jets while keeping more than half of the light-quark jets. Moreover, a combination of two simple variables, the charge track multiplicity and the \( p_T \)-weighted linear radial moment (girth), can achieve similar results. Our study is only Monte Carlo based, so other observables constructed using different jet sizes and parameters are used to highlight areas that deserve further theoretical and experimental scrutiny. Additional information, including distributions of around 10 000 variables, can be found at http://jets.physics.harvard.edu/qvg/.

Recent Publications

Student authorFaculty author


Andrew S Friedman, David I Kaiser, and Jason Gallicchio

The shared causal pasts and futures of cosmological events

Physical Review D 88 (2013) .
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Nicholas P. Breznay and Aharon Kapitulnik

Observation of the ghost critical field for superconducting fluctuations in a disordered TaN thin film

Physical Review B 88 (2013) 223.
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Charlie Doret, J. M. Amini, K. Wright, C. Volin, T. Killian, A. Ozakin, D. Denison, H. Hayden, C. -S. Pai, R. E. Slusher, and A. W. Harter

Controlling trapping potentials and stray electric fields in a microfabricated ion trap through design and compensation

New Journal of Physics 14 (2012) 073012.
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Nicholas P. Breznay, Karen Michaeli, Konstantin S Tikhonov, Alexander M Finkel'stein, Mihir Tendulkar, and Aharon Kapitulnik

Hall conductivity dominated by fluctuations near the superconducting transition in disordered thin films

Physical Review B 86 (2012) 014514.

Sharon Gerbode, Joshua R. Puzey, A. G. McCormick, and L. Mahadevan

How the cucumber tendril coils and overwinds

Science 337 (2012) 1087.
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John S. Townsend

A Modern Approach to Quantum Mechanics, Second Edition

University Science Books, Sausalito, 2012.

Paul L. Riggins and Vatche Sahakian

Black hole thermalization, D0 brane dynamics, and emergent spacetime

Physical Review D 86 (2012) 046005.
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J. L. Silverberg, R. N. Noar, M. Packer, M. Harrison, I. Cohen, C. Henley, and Sharon Gerbode

3D Imaging and mechanical modeling of helical buckling in Medicago truncatula plant roots

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109 (2012) 16794.
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Jason Gallicchio and Matthew D Schwartz

Pure samples of quark and gluon jets at the LHC

Journal of High Energy Physics 2011 (2011) .

Jason Gallicchio and Matthew D Schwartz

Quark and Gluon Tagging at the LHC

Physical Review Letters 107 (2011) 172001.
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