# Recent Publications

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Photons from distant astronomical sources can be used as a classical source of randomness to improve fundamental tests of quantum nonlocality, wave-particle duality, and local realism through Bell’s inequality and delayed-choice quantum eraser tests inspired by Wheeler’s cosmic-scale Mach-Zehnder interferometer gedanken experiment. Such sources of random numbers may also be useful for information-theoretic applications such as key distribution for quantum cryptography. Building on the design of an astronomical random number generator developed for the recent cosmic Bell experiment [Handsteiner *et al. *Phys. Rev. Lett. **118**, 060401 (2017)], in this paper we report on the design and characterization of a device that, with 20-nanosecond latency, outputs a bit based on whether the wavelength of an incoming photon is greater than or less than ≈700 nm. Using the one-meter telescope at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory Table Mountain Observatory, we generated random bits from astronomical photons in both color channels from 50 stars of varying color and magnitude, and from 12 quasars with redshifts up to \( z = 3.9 \). With stars, we achieved bit rates of \( \sim1 \times 10^6\,\mathrm{Hz/m^2} \), limited by saturation of our single-photon detectors, and with quasars of magnitudes between 12.9 and 16, we achieved rates between \( \sim 10^2 \) and \( 2 \times 10^3 \,\mathrm{Hz/m^2} \). For bright quasars, the resulting bitstreams exhibit sufficiently low amounts of statistical predictability as quantified by the mutual information. In addition, a sufficiently high fraction of bits generated are of true astronomical origin in order to address both the locality and freedom-of-choice loopholes when used to set the measurement settings in a test of the Bell-CHSH inequality.

Two methods of quantifying the spatial resolution of a camera are described, performed, and compared, with the objective of designing an imaging-system experiment for students in an undergraduate optics laboratory. With the goal of characterizing the resolution of a typical digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera, we motivate, introduce, and show agreement between traditional test-target contrast measurements and the technique of using Fourier analysis to obtain the modulation transfer function (MTF). The advantages and drawbacks of each method are compared. Finally, we explore the rich optical physics at work in the camera system by calculating the MTF as a function of wavelength and f-number. For example, we find that the Canon 40D demonstrates better spatial resolution at short wavelengths, in accordance with scalar diffraction theory, but is not diffraction-limited, being significantly affected by spherical aberration. The experiment and data analysis routines described here can be built and written in an undergraduate optics lab setting.

We study the two-dimensional superconductor-insulator transition (SIT) in thin films of tantalum nitride. At zero magnetic field, films can be disorder-tuned across the SIT by adjusting thickness and film stoichiometry; insulating films exhibit classical hopping transport. Superconducting films exhibit a magnetic-field-tuned SIT, whose insulating ground state at high field appears to be a quantum-corrected metal. Scaling behavior at the field-tuned SIT shows classical percolation critical exponents \( z ν \approx 1.3 \), with a corresponding critical field \( H_c \ll H_{c2} \), the upper critical field. The Hall effect exhibits a crossing point near \( H_c \), but with a nonuniversal critical value \( ρ_{xy}^{c} \) comparable to the normal-state Hall resistivity. We propose that high-carrier-density metals will always exhibit this pattern of behavior at the boundary between superconducting and (trivially) insulating ground states.

Electrons confined to two dimensions display an unexpected diversity of behaviors as they are cooled to absolute zero. Noninteracting electrons are predicted to eventually “localize” into an insulating ground state, and it has long been supposed that electron correlations stabilize only one other phase: superconductivity. However, many two-dimensional (2D) superconducting materials have shown surprising evidence for metallic behavior, where the electrical resistivity saturates in the zero-temperature limit; the nature of this unexpected metallic state remains under intense scrutiny. We report electrical transport properties for two disordered 2D superconductors, indium oxide and tantalum nitride, and observe a magnetic field–tuned transition from a true superconductor to a metallic phase with saturated resistivity. This metallic phase is characterized by a vanishing Hall resistivity, suggesting that it retains particle-hole symmetry from the disrupted superconducting state.

Direct experimental investigations of the low-energy electronic structure of the \( \mathrm{Na_2 IrO_3} \) iridate insulator are sparse and draw two conflicting pictures. One relies on flat bands and a clear gap, the other involves dispersive states approaching the Fermi level, pointing to surface metallicity. Here, by a combination of angle-resolved photoemission, photoemission electron microscopy, and x-ray absorption, we show that the correct picture is more complex and involves an anomalous band, arising from charge transfer from Na atoms to Ir-derived states. Bulk quasiparticles do exist, but in one of the two possible surface terminations the charge transfer is smaller and they remain elusive.

The complex antiferromagnetic orders observed in the honeycomb iridates are a double-edged sword in the search for a quantum spin-liquid: both attesting that the magnetic interactions provide many of the necessary ingredients, while simultaneously impeding access. Focus has naturally been drawn to the unusual magnetic orders that hint at the underlying spin correlations. However, the study of any particular broken symmetry state generally provides little clue about the possibility of other nearby ground states. Here we use magnetic fields approaching 100 tesla to reveal the extent of the spin correlations in \( \gamma \)-lithium iridate. We find that a small component of field along the magnetic easy-axis melts long-range order, revealing a bistable, strongly correlated spin state. Far from the usual destruction of antiferromagnetism via spin polarization, the high-field state possesses only a small fraction of the total iridium moment, without evidence for long-range order up to the highest attainable magnetic fields.

Honeycomb iridates such as $\gamma$-Li2IrO3 are argued to realize Kitaev spin-anisotropic magnetic exchange, along with Heisenberg and possibly other couplings. While systems with pure Kitaev interactions are candidates to realize a quantum spin-liquid ground state, in $\gamma$-Li2IrO3 it has been shown that the presence of competing magnetic interactions leads to an incommensurate spiral spin order at ambient pressure below 38 K. We study the pressure sensitivity of this magnetically ordered state in single crystals of $\gamma$-Li2IrO3 using resonant x-ray scattering (RXS) under applied hydrostatic pressures of up to 3 GPa. RXS is a direct probe of electronic order, and we observe the abrupt disappearance of the q sp=(0.57, 0, 0) spiral order at a critical pressure Pc= 1.4 GPa with no accompanying change in the symmetry of the lattice.

Magnetic honeycomb iridates are thought to show strongly spin-anisotropic exchange interactions which, when highly frustrated, lead to an exotic state of matter known as the Kitaev quantum spin liquid. However, in all known examples these materials magnetically order at finite temperatures, the scale of which may imply weak frustration. Here we show that the application of a relatively small magnetic field drives the three-dimensional magnet \( \beta-\mathrm{Li}_2\mathrm{IrO}_3 \) from its incommensurate ground state into a quantum correlated paramagnet. Interestingly, this paramagnetic state admixes a zig-zag spin mode analogous to the zig-zag order seen in other Mott-Kitaev compounds. The rapid onset of the field-induced correlated state implies the exchange interactions are delicately balanced, leading to strong frustration and a near degeneracy of different ground states.

In the context of the Bank-Fishler-Shenker-Susskind Matrix theory, we analyze a spherical membrane in light-cone M theory along with two asymptotically distant probes. In the appropriate energy regime, we find that the membrane behaves like a smeared Matrix black hole; and the spacetime geometry seen by the probes can become non-commutative even far away from regions of Planckian curvature. This arises from nonlinear Matrix interactions where fast matrix modes lift a flat direction in the potential — akin to the Paul trap phenomenon in atomic physics. In the regime where we do have a notion of emergent spacetime, we show that there is non-zero entanglement entropy between supergravity modes on the membrane and the probes. The computation can easily be generalized to other settings, and this can help develop a dictionary between entanglement entropy and local geometry — similar to Ryu-Takayanagi but instead for asymptotically flat backgrounds.

We report on the capillary-driven leveling of a topographical perturbation at the surface of a freestanding liquid nanofilm. The width of a stepped surface profile is found to evolve as the square root of time. The hydrodynamic model is in excellent agreement with the experimental data. In addition to exhibiting an analogy with diffusive processes, this novel system serves as a precise nanoprobe for the rheology of liquids at interfaces in a configuration that avoids substrate effects.

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