Michael Schirber

Michael Schirber is a freelance science writer in Lyon, France.

Michael Schirber Published November 18, 2011

Nonlinear Dynamics

A new, secure way to send messages camouflages them inside the same kind of self-organizing patterns that appear in vegetation patterns and the stripes on animal coats.

Michael Schirber Published December 2, 2011

Quantum Physics

A new thought experiment makes it clearer than ever that photons aren’t simply particles or waves.

Michael Schirber Published December 30, 2011

Atomic and Molecular Physics | Optics

Infrared spectroscopy can detect trace gases and potentially provide an alternative carbon dating technique.

Michael Schirber Published January 13, 2012

Soft Matter

A proposed device improves on past designs and would sort small particles from large ones to a purity of over 99 percent, without any moving parts.

Michael Schirber Published January 20, 2012

Particles and Fields

The Millikan oil drop experiment, published in final form in 1913, demonstrated that charge comes in discrete chunks and was a bridge between classical electromagnetism and modern quantum physics.

Michael Schirber Published February 3, 2012

Fluid Dynamics | Interdisciplinary Physics | Physical Chemistry

Salt crystallizing on walls or old artifacts forms in discrete bunches, rather than coating the surface, because of an unexpected feedback effect, according to experiments and simulations.

Michael Schirber Published February 24, 2012


Sheets of single-layer carbon with a variety of bonding patterns may have properties similar to the wonder material graphene, according to new computer simulations.

Michael Schirber Published March 9, 2012

Nuclear Physics

A neutron-rich nucleus can emit a neutron pair as a single unit as a product of nuclear decay.

Michael Schirber Published March 23, 2012

Mesoscopics | Nanophysics

Incoherent light from the sun or from an LED could cool a small object, according to two theory papers.

Michael Schirber Published April 27, 2012

Nonlinear Dynamics

Experiments and simulations lead to a new model for the curling of a thin strip, which could be useful for plant growth and micromechanics.

Michael Schirber Published May 18, 2012

Quantum Information | Nanophysics

The oscillations of a carbon nanotube can strongly affect the spin of an electron trapped on the tube, and the tube can also be affected by the spin, according to theory.

Michael Schirber Published June 15, 2012

Fluid Dynamics | Industrial Physics | Mechanics

Gaskets and other seals can stop leaks even if the leak-preventing surfaces have just 42 percent of their area in contact at the microscopic scale, according to computer simulations.

Michael Schirber Published September 10, 2012

Fluid Dynamics

Researchers used a nanoscale tunnel in a silicon chip to measure a flow rate of a few picoliters per minute, which is smaller than any previous observation.

Michael Schirber Published September 28, 2012

Atomic and Molecular Physics

In a step toward 3D movies, researchers have combined short laser pulses with electron diffraction methods to rapidly map the structure of a simple molecule in three dimensions.

Michael Schirber Published October 12, 2012

Atomic and Molecular Physics | Quantum Information | Quantum Physics

David Wineland and Serge Haroche, who studied photons and atoms in new ways, have won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics.

Michael Schirber Published November 2, 2012

Fluid Dynamics | Soft Matter

Two-dimensional simulations provide the first element-by-element accounting of the fluid and grain flow in an underwater avalanche.

Michael Schirber Published November 16, 2012


Calculations show that the weight of large support structures can be dramatically reduced if their design consists of patterns that are the same at large scales as at the tiniest scales.

Michael Schirber Published December 7, 2012

Soft Matter | Acoustics

A projectile striking granular material generates a series of acoustic pulses that propagate down from the impact site.

Michael Schirber Published February 1, 2013

Fluid Dynamics

An electric field applied to a soap film induces fluid flow through the film and causes its thickness to increase—a phenomenon that could be useful in microfluidic systems.

Michael Schirber Published March 15, 2013

Atomic and Molecular Physics | Optics

A theoretical model finds that atoms can organize themselves into a regularly spaced row when trapped between a pair of nanosized optical fibers.

Michael Schirber Published April 5, 2013


A model for analyzing materials using ultrasound shows that the seemingly random fluctuations in the data may contain information about the microscopic structure.

Michael Schirber Published April 26, 2013

Materials Science

Firing projectiles at plates of glass or plastic shows that the number of resulting cracks is an indicator of the impact velocity and of material properties.

Michael Schirber Published May 24, 2013

Soft Matter | Materials Science

Internal stress in a glass material is an important source of strength. Theory and experiments provide a new molecular-scale understanding of the process by which such stress develops.

Michael Schirber Published June 10, 2013

Materials Science | Electronics | Industrial Physics

Researchers designed and synthesized an organic molecule whose electronic structure helps funnel energy into fluorescent emission.

Michael Schirber Published June 21, 2013

Interdisciplinary Physics | Statistical Physics

Simulations show that you can learn the meaning of words rapidly if you assume that every object has only one word associated with it.

Michael Schirber Published July 8, 2013

Nonlinear Dynamics | Biological Physics | Medical Physics

Mimicking the stable but not perfectly periodic beating of the heart and similar biological systems requires a new kind of mathematical model.

Michael Schirber Published September 13, 2013

Energy Research | Industrial Physics

A theoretical analysis explores the efficiency limits of a method for storing electrical energy from a power plant by heating up a tank of fluid.

Michael Schirber Published October 11, 2013

Particles and Fields

The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to two of the theorists who formulated the Higgs mechanism, which gives mass to fundamental particles.

Michael Schirber Published October 25, 2013

Fluid Dynamics

A new technique for controlling gas flow through microchannels involves adjusting the surface roughness of a thin film coating the walls.

Michael Schirber Published December 2, 2013

Mesoscopics | Nanophysics | Materials Science

Experiments demonstrate the breakdown of one of the basic laws of friction at the atomic scale, where more slippery conditions prevail.

Michael Schirber Published January 10, 2014

Biological Physics | Acoustics | Medical Physics

The resolution in a biomedical imaging method can be improved by over-exposing, or “photobleaching,” some of the signal-producing molecules.

Michael Schirber Published January 31, 2014

Fluid Dynamics | Biological Physics

Turbulence causes certain swimming microorganisms to segregate into clusters, rather than spreading out evenly, according to experiments and simulations.

Michael Schirber Published March 7, 2014

Particles and Fields

The solar neutrino signal from a Japanese detector is slightly stronger at night because neutrinos traveling through the Earth behave differently than those that reach us directly from the Sun.

Michael Schirber Published March 28, 2014

Biological Physics | Mechanics

Precision measurements of plant microstructures provide new insights into how they prevent gas bubbles from disrupting water flow.

Michael Schirber Published April 25, 2014

Optics | Plasmonics

Calculations show how to excite extremely slow-moving light pulses in a nanosized waveguide.

Michael Schirber Published May 16, 2014


Light sent along metal surfaces—inside a future optical computer, for instance—may undergo reduced losses if the emitter is a thin slit or hole, experiments show.

Michael Schirber Published May 30, 2014

Soft Matter

Experiments show that the buildup of charge in a collection of grains is not due to the transfer of electrons.

Michael Schirber Published July 7, 2014

Plasma Physics

Sound-stimulated gas bubbles in liquid become tiny plasmas and may provide a test bed for plasma physics theories.

Michael Schirber Published July 25, 2014

Nuclear Physics | Energy Research

A system to monitor a nuclear reactor for possible diversion of weapons material would use an antineutrino detector parked close to the facility.

Michael Schirber Published September 19, 2014

Quantum Physics

Quantum mechanics permits particles to follow bizarre, looping and curving trajectories, usually with very low probability. But a calculation shows that in some cases, these paths can have significant and possibly measurable effects.

Michael Schirber Published October 13, 2014

Optics | Nanophysics | Biological Physics

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry recognizes the development of super-resolved fluorescence microscopy. Much of this field can be traced back to the first detection of single molecules in solids.

Michael Schirber Published November 7, 2014

Fluid Dynamics

A high-speed jet of certain fluids will form multiple wings, or archlike structures, when hitting a solid surface.

Michael Schirber Published December 8, 2014


Powerful stellar explosions may have caused mass extinctions on Earth and could also have prevented life from appearing on other planets until 5 billion years ago—and then only in the outskirts of galaxies.

Michael Schirber Published January 9, 2015

Interdisciplinary Physics

Interaction among speakers of a language may explain why frequently used verbs tend to remain irregular even as language evolves over generations.

Michael Schirber Published February 13, 2015


A powerful laser beam separates into many smaller filaments that undergo a phase transition similar to fluid percolating through a porous material.

Michael Schirber Published March 6, 2015


A mirror made with metamaterials reflects at a selected angle and only responds to radiation of a specific frequency, while being transparent to other radiation.

Michael Schirber Published March 27, 2015

Optics | Quantum Physics | Mechanics

Combining two trapping techniques reduces the motion of a levitated bead close to the point where quantum effects should become observable.