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The Lower Ionosphere of Mars: Modeling and Effect of Dust  

Varun Sheel

The study of planetary ionospheres helps us to understand the composition, losses, and electrical properties of the atmosphere. The structure of the ionosphere depends on the neutral gas composition as well. Models based on fundamental equations have been able to simulate the neutral and ion structure of the Martian atmosphere. These models couple chemical, physical, radiative, and dynamical processes at various levels of complexities. The lower ionosphere (below 80 km) and its composition have not been observed and studied as comprehensively as the upper ionosphere. Most of our current understanding of the plasma environment in the lower atmosphere is based on theoretical models. Models indicate that Mars contains a D region, similar to that in the Earth’s ionosphere, produced primarily due to high-energy galactic cosmic rays that can penetrate to the lower altitudes. The D layer has been simulated to lie in the altitude range of ~25 to 35 km on the dayside ionosphere of Mars. A one-dimensional model, used to calculate the densities of 35 positive and negative ions, predicts hydrated ions to be dominant in the troposphere of Mars. Due to the variability of water vapor, these cluster ions show seasonal variability and can be measured by future experiments on Mars landers. Dust is an important component of the climate of Mars, wherein dust storms are known to affect the temperatures and winds of the lower atmosphere. The inclusion of ion–dust interactions in the model for the Martian ionosphere has yielded important effects of dust storms on the ionosphere. It has been found that during dust storms, the ion densities can significantly diminish, reducing the total ion conductivity in the troposphere by an order of magnitude. Also, large electric fields could be generated due to the charging of dust in the ionosphere, leading to electric discharges and, possibly, lightning.

Article

Planetary Spectroscopy  

Alian Wang

Planetary spectroscopy uses physical methods to study the chemical properties of the geological materials on the planetary bodies in our solar system. This article will present twelve types of spectroscopy frequently used in planetary explorations. Their energy (or wavelength) varies from γ-ray (keV) to far-infrared (μm), which involves the transitions of nuclei, atoms, ions, and molecules in planetary materials. The article will cover the basic concept of the transition for each of the twelve types of spectroscopy, along with their legendary science discoveries made during the past planetary exploration missions by the international planetary science and engineering community. The broad application of spectroscopy in planetary exploration is built upon the fact that only limited extraterrestrial materials were collected (meteorites, cosmic dust, and the returned samples by missions) that enabled the detailed investigations of their properties in laboratories, while spectroscopic measurements can be made on the objects of our solar system remotely and robotically, such as during the flyby, orbiting, lander, and rover missions. In this sense, the knowledge obtained by planetary spectroscopy has contributed to a major portion of planetary sciences. In the coming era of space explorations, more powerful spacecraft will be sent out by mankind, go to deep space, and explore exotic places. Generations of new planetary science payloads, including planetary spectrometers, will be created and will fly. New sciences will be revealed.

Article

Ultimate Colliders  

Vladimir D. Shiltsev

Understanding the universe critically depends on the fundamental knowledge of particles and fields, which represents a central endeavor of modern high-energy physics. Energy frontier particle colliders—arguably, among the largest, most complex, and advanced scientific instruments of modern times—for many decades have been at the forefront of scientific discoveries in high-energy physics. Because of advances in technology and breakthroughs in beam physics, the colliding beam facilities have progressed immensely and now operate at energies and luminosities many orders of magnitude greater than the pioneering instruments of the early 1960s. While the Large Hadron Collider and the Super-KEKB factory represent the frontier hadron and lepton colliders of today, respectively, future colliders are an essential component of a strategic vision for particle physics. Conceptual studies and technical developments for several exciting near- and medium-term future collider options are underway internationally. Analysis of numerous proposals and studies for far-future colliders indicate the limits of the collider beam technology due to machine size, cost, and power consumption, and call for a paradigm shift of particle physics research at ultrahigh energy but low luminosity colliders approaching or exceeding 1 PeV center-of-mass energy scale.

Article

Quantum Simulation With Trapped Ions  

D. Luo and N. M. Linke

Simulating quantum systems using classical computers encounters inherent challenges due to the exponential scaling with system size. To overcome this challenge, quantum simulation uses a well-controlled quantum system to simulate another less controllable system. Over the last 20 years, many physical platforms have emerged as quantum simulators, such as ultracold atoms, Rydberg atom arrays, trapped ions, nuclear spin, superconducting circuits, and integrated photonics. Trapped ions, with induced spin interactions and universal quantum gates, have demonstrated remarkable versatility, capable of both analog and digital quantum simulation. Recent experimental results, covering a range of research areas including condensed matter physics, quantum thermodynamics, high-energy physics, and quantum chemistry, guide this introductory review to the growing field of quantum simulation.

Article

Ions for the Treatment of Tumors  

Sandro Rossi

Physics and medicine are distinct fields with different objectives, standards, and practices, but with many common points and mutually enriching activities. Hadron therapy, a technique that uses charged particles that also feel the strong interaction, is an area in which scientific insight and technological advancement work hand in hand in an inspirational fashion to leverage their benefits on behalf of patients. The oncological treatment of patients has become a multidisciplinary effort, in which the contribution of specialists from manifold backgrounds is essential, and success can only be achieved by means of a transdisciplinary “fusion,” an integration and overlap across relevant disciplines.

Article

Astrocytes  

Alexei Verkhratsky

Astrocytes belong to an extended class of astroglia, a class of neural cells of ectodermal, neuroepithelial origin that sustain homeostasis and provide for defense of the brain and the spinal cord. Astroglial cells support homeostasis of the central nervous system at all levels of organization from molecular to organ-wide. Astrocytes cannot generate action potentials, being thus electrically nonexcitable cells. Astrocytic excitability is intracellular, being mediated by associations with spatiotemporal fluctuations of cytoplasmic ions and second messengers in response to chemical or mechanical stimulation. Astrocytes express an extended complement of receptors to neurotransmitters and neurohormones that allow them to coordinate their homeostatic function with neuronal activity. Astrocytic homeostatic responses are primarily mediated by plasmalemmal transporters, which in turn are regulated by cytoplasmic concentration of Na+ ions. Peripheral astrocytic processes, known as leaflets, establish intimate contacts with synapses forming an astroglial synaptic cradle. Astrocytes regulate synaptogenesis, synaptic isolation, synaptic maintenance, and synaptic extinction, thus being fundamental for neuronal plasticity. Loss of astrocytic homeostatic function leads to neuronal damage and is a universal part of pathogenesis of many neurological diseases.

Article

Electrophysiology and Behavior of Cnidarian Nervous Systems  

Robert W. Meech

Although the Cnidaria have evolved a wide range of body forms matched with an equally varied neural anatomy, individual species exhibit common patterns of behavior. For example, in all species a key challenge for the nervous system is to transfer food from the peripherally mounted tentacles to the centrally located stomach. Foraging movements, necessary to maintain the food supply, must be accomplished in such a way as to avoid interference with the primary objective of getting prey into the mouth. Furthermore, the hunt for prey must be balanced by a measured response to “threat.” Different species respond to threat in markedly different ways, but in each case foraging is inhibited, just as it is during transmission of food. One hundred years ago, G. H. Parker questioned whether a centralized or a locally organized nervous system could best account for sea anemone behavior. Anatomical and electrophysiological studies now suggest that in most Cnidaria there is a degree of hierarchical control, with local reflexes coordinated by more condensed systems of neurons. This organization is highly developed in the nerve rings of hydrozoan medusae and takes the form of ganglion-like rhopalia in the Cubozoa. Even in hydrozoan polyps such as Hydra there are at least four separate neuronal systems. It is likely that the underlying mechanisms (containing both homologous and analogous elements) will be best revealed by a comparative approach that directly relates behavior with its molecular basis. Useful examples include comparisons between sea anemones with and without through-conducting systems; between hydra with and without oral rings; between medusae with and without coordinated escape swimming. Recent advances in transgenomic labeling have shown the way forward.