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WHAT'S HOT IN... PHYSICS - 2009

The Top Ten lists in Physics feature papers published during the last two years (excluding review articles) that were most cited in current journal articles indexed by Clarivate Analytics during a recent two-month period. Papers are ranked according to the latest bimonthly citation count. The articles below are accompanied by expert discussion and analysis (including comments from the papers’ authors) written by one of four veteran scientist-journalists and longtime ScienceWatch.com contributors.


November/December 2009

Strung-Out Theorists Put Their M2-Branes Together
by Simon Mitton

After an absence of a few months, recent papers on M2-branes return to the Physics Top Ten. M2-branes (the designation “brane” is derived from the word “membrane”) are part of the framework of string theory, an attempt to combine general relativity and quantum mechanics in an effort to find a quantum theory of gravity. Among other matters, the papers on M2 branes provide an algebraic framework by which theorists can test and advance these larger constructs.
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September/October 2009

Five Years of WMAP: Still Answering Cosmic Questions
by Simon Mitton

The latest release of data from the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), marking the fifth such annual publication of findings, continues to add to the spacecraft’s impressive yield of knowledge pertaining to cold dark matter, dark energy, and other fundamental apects of cosmology. In particular, WMAP has contributed to the examination of how the universe inflated after the Big Bang, and whether or not the universe displays curvature.
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July/August 2009

For Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Acclaim Across the Universe
by Simon Mitton

An assessment of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) reviews the project’s many contributions to astronomy. The SDSS telescope and its imaging equipment have added immeasurably to knowledge of celestial objects and the development of the universe. As of now, more than 12,000 square degrees of the sky have been imaged, and untold numbers of galaxies and quasars fixed in the creation of three-dimensional maps. The project is expecting to continue yielding data until 2014.
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May/June 2009

The Good Samarium Hots Up Superconductivity
by Simon Mitton

Research on iron-based superconductors continues to occupy the higher rungs among the most-cited papers in physics. One 2008 report examines the use of samarium in place of lanthanum in a superconducting compound, while other reports look at F doping and its effects. Transition temperatures in iron-based superconductors continue to edge up, moving toward the ultimate goal of achieving superconductivity at room temperature.
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March/April 2009

Is This the Third Revolution for String Theory?
by Simon Mitton

String theory, the framework for understanding the fundamental forces in the universe, has resurged in recent years, particularly with refinements to so-called M-theory. A group of recent papers examine M2-branes, which are entities that fit into the multidimensional scheme of current string theory. The work has required the invention of a new algebra to help explain the dynamics of the system. In all, this new wave of papers appears to constitute a third revolution in string theory.
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January/February 2009

Precision Cosmology Soars to New Heights
by Simon Mitton

Space science currently accounts for half of the most-cited papers in physics published over the last two years. These reports, in particular, reflect the progression of cosmology—the effort to understand the basic nature of the universe—from theory to a precise science grounded in solid numerical models. Current Hot Papers highlight recent findings on the makeup and characteristics of the universe based on the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.
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