De meningen ge-uit door medewerkers en studenten van de TU Delft en de commentaren die zijn gegeven reflecteren niet perse de mening(en) van de TU Delft. De TU Delft is dan ook niet verantwoordelijk voor de inhoud van hetgeen op de TU Delft weblogs zichtbaar is. Wel vindt de TU Delft het belangrijk - en ook waarde toevoegend - dat medewerkers en studenten op deze, door de TU Delft gefaciliteerde, omgeving hun mening kunnen geven.

Posted in September 2011

Fluctuations in Mallorca

Second half of the last week I have spent in Palma de Mallorca, participating in the workshop “Nonequilibrium Fluctuation Relations In Quantum Systems”. The workshop has been organized by Rosa Lopez and her colleagues in IFISC, The workshop idea was both interesting and practical: to bring representatives of two communities, (classical) statistical physics and (noisy) quantum transport together to understand the recent developments in the field.

This has worked, we did have an intensive mutual exchange, learn to understand and appreciate each other. We had lovely discussions, especially about entropy production, and did produce lots of entropy in this way. I met Miguel Rubi, Chirstopher Jarzynski, Juan Parrondo.

And learned quite a bit about Palma de Mallorca. In particular, the fact that large cities in California are named in memory of the chapels of a parish curch in a remote Mallorcian village…

Bas Hensen

graduated today. He did it in the group of Ronald Hanson, quantum physics of diamonds, today and I was a member of graduation commission.

In course of the event, Bas Hensen has surpised me a number of times, perhaps more than any other graduating student I recall

  • He is a sucsessful example of “taking graduation in his/her hands”. He came to experimental group, and said he would do “theory”: actually, a design of a new experiment. He never took a screwdriver. Nevertheless, the group was very pleased with his work.
  • His thesis contained, among other things, a fairly complete outline of group theory typed by him personally (not just cut-and-past from a source)
  • The topic concerned producing entanglement by measurement
  • He knew that I always ask the students about rainbow. My impression was that nobody has noticed that.

Professors wanted in Delft

Our small department seeks to expand, and, for a change, a sucsessful candidate may be a theorist. The advertisment of the job openings is now official. I’ve spent quite some time today propagating the announcement via my network, before I understood that I can just blog it

Here it goes:

The Department of Quantum Nanoscience, part of the Kavli Institute of
Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology opens 2 positions of


(assistant, associate or full)
in Quantum Nanoscience

The department

The department of Quantum Nanoscience, part of the Kavli Insitute of Nanoscience at the Delft
University of Technology seeks to advance the understanding of physical processes at the nanoscale,
with a focus on research for fundamental scientific and technological breakthroughs. Our approach is
based on quantum engineering, in which we develop innovative nanofabrication, innovative
measurement techniques and advanced theoretical models. Our ambition is to create an
interdisciplinary research environment, in which scientific staff and students explore, learn and teach.
With the Kavli Nanolab Delft the department is equipped with an excellent, state-of-the art

Job description

The department invites applications for two professors in Quantum Nanoscience. The candidates are
expected to be, or on their way to become, authorities in their own field of research, which preferably
complements and/or enriches the existing research programs in the department. Hiring is on the
basis of the excellence. The new faculty members are expected to establish and execute an
externally funded, research program. Teaching is primarily at the undergraduate and graduate level
in the Applied Physics curriculum. For the PhD level teaching is carried out in collaboration with the
University of Leiden through the Casimir Research School. External funding should be sought on the
(inter)national level and professors are encouraged and assisted to apply for competitive personal
research grants. Candidates are expected to have the organisational and managerial skills to interact
and cooperate effectively with other research institutes and organisations.


Candidates have an excellent track record in scientific research, as evident from papers in
international and peer-reviewed journals. Applicants are inspiring teachers with good communication
skills and interdisciplinary interests. Applicants hold a PhD degree in physics or a related discipline.
The Delft University of Technology is a bilingual organisation; an excellent command of English
(written and spoken) is essential. Learning the Dutch language upon arrival is encouraged.

Conditions of employment

Assistant candidates will be appointed on a tenure track with the prospect of a tenured position based
on a successful evaluation after 5 years. The Delft University of Technology strives to increase the
number of women in higher academic positions; women are therefore especially encouraged to apply.

Information and application

For more information about these positions, please contact the head of the Quantum Nanoscience
department, Professor H.S.J. van der Zant, To apply, please send a
detailed Curriculum Vitae along with a letter of application and an one-page research statement to
drs. M.P. Swarte, More information about the department can be found on

We will continue our search until the positions have been filled and no strict application deadline has
been set. The starting date is flexible but is expected to be in 2012.
Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

Graphene flagship

The ways to finance scientific research in Europe become increasingly creative. The creativity increases certainly faster than that of scientific research. We will have Future and Emerging Technologies Flagships. Six of them have been preselected, two of them will go to high see, four will have to sink directly in dockyard: free competition is free competition. Ships, that is, collections of research groups with common interests and goals, are huge: perhaps only Soviet cold-war-era military research corporations could compete with those.

From the six, the graphene flagship looks most reasonable to me: not from the point of view of a physisist, rather, from that of middle-aged taxpayer. Perhaps I’m too old to believe that science will create Guardian Angels with zero-energy consumption, perform a full computer simulation of human brain and fill the world with helping robots that as soft as teddy bears (I’m not mocking here, I’m citing). Perhaps too young to channel my money into “a revolution in healthcare”. Perhaps too cinical to finance creation of “platform to support decision-making of policy-makers, business people and citizens”. I believe that yellow (web) press does provide such a platform already, and does it without my money.

Jari Kinaret, a Chalmers theorist with recent interests mostly in nanomechanics, will lead the vessel: brave and responsible of him. He came today to Delft to meet Dutch scientists interested in graphene, tell about the ship and listen to us. I’d certainly like this concorcium and wouldn’t be against the boarding the ship.

The only thing is that “boarding the ship” in current circumstances of financial and societal uncertainces remainds me movies of my childhood about events taking place in Crimea in 1920. No I won’t tell (now) about Crimea of that time, since it is not in tone with optimistic meeting of today.

Let her set sails!

Topology and physics: a new conjecture

When I was a student, we were all fascinated by first steps the topological approach made into physics. It took a while to understand that the winding of phase around a vortex is always whatever you do; and that had a sweet taste of intellectual victory. We all read review of Mermin : it was so enlighting to learn that even  π in topology has a different, much more profound meaning of homotopy group.

Topology has progressed in years gone, and overwhelms in recent years. There are no more insulators: we’ve topological insulators. They insulate as wet towels, yet are much more profound. The advent of topological superconductors has revolted the field of superconductivity that seemed so stable. And no quantum computing scheme would ever work if topology does not give its protective blessing.

In a kind of conservative rebellition I suggested on Saturday in my talk that perhaps there may be some interesting things in physics that are not based on topology of coordinate space. O boy, how wrong I was. My only consolation is that my wrongness let the truth prevail.

Today Charles Marcus, a Harward professor and most intellectual experimentalist I know, has responded to my talk with a seminal conjecture that I have a great honour to publish.

Marcus’s conjecture

Any result involving integers, including 1 + 1 = 2, can be represented geometrically as a statement of topology, since 1 + 1 = 2 cannot be continuously deformed into any other relation between integers.

Breathtaking. I could have suspected so, why was I so blind…

A note for non-specialist: physics originates from, and is based on counting fingers. For all practical purposes, the result of such counting can be approximated by an integer non-negative number. The conjecture therefore puts physics into the true context: it appears to be a practical exercise in homotopy theory.

A technical note: Charles insisted on presenting his conribution as a conjecture, while the proposition clearly has the status of a theorem. He said he would not present the proof yet. I wonder how he has actually done the proof yet concealed. Being a physist, he could use the traditional medium of this profession, the backside of an envelope. Having understood the importance of topology, he could turn to a margin of a Greek manuscript, the only proper medium for seminal mathematical discoveries since Fermat. Being a conservative rebel, I’m just exploring the consequences of occasional and absolutely unintended dissapearence of this envelop/manuscript. What a wonderful lost for science could it be!

Citation vanity

tears me. Today I’ve recognized that my citation score according to Web of Science has reached 7006. Nice number, isn’t it? Yet nobody has congratulated me…

Col Vert

yesterday there was a free afternoon at the conference. People get to the mountains, so did I. My traversal speed was quite low and I did not feel well. Yet after two difficult hours I reached the goal: pass Le Col Vert in Vercors.

It was magnificient. The pass is very steep and narrow. When after a hard walk I was able to see the next valley, I was overwhelmed with pure joy of detachment. Me or my soul or both have been freely flying over the unbelievably beautiful sunny landscape.

This is the second time I’ve reached this pass. First time it was more than 11 years ago, and the path was significantly less steep:) By that time I could also enjoy this detachment feeling, yet I could not inteprete it. Now I know: there are some places on Earth that directly and evidently put us above the earthy events. Glory to God.

From conventional to exotic

this is, fortunately or unfortunately, the main direction of scientific research nowadays. This is also the name of a conference organized by Manuel Houzet and Julia Meyer that attempts to summarize recent developments in the field of superconducting hybrid structures, Majorana including.

The conference takes place in magnificient Vercor mountains. Alias no time to go there nor even look around: the talks are too interesting

Tomohiro Yokoyama

from Keio university has arrived today. He will spend three months with us working on spin-orbit interaction in superconducting junctions. Since I’ll depart to a conference tomorrow, he will also go for a vacation, to start with:)

© 2011 TU Delft