University of British Columbia scientists put a new spin on spintronics and Scientists protest the Canadian federal budget

Researchers at the University of British Columbia (UBC) have found a way to control an electron’s spin naturally, that is, without the use of external fields. They control the spin by bouncing the electron through a microscopic channel. Joshua Folk, Canada Research Chair in the Physics of Nanostructures and principal investigators, says (from the article at

“We show that the spin of electrons can be controlled without external fields, simply by designing the right circuit geometry and letting electrons move freely through it.”

The new technique uses the natural interactions of the electrons within the semiconductor micro-channel to control their spin–a technique that is a major step, but not yet flexible enough for industrial applications, notes Folk, an Assistant Professor with Physics and Astronomy who came to UBC via the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

It looks promising and, if successful, could lead to exponentially faster processing. Go here for more details.

I’ve been waiting for a protest and it’s finally here. Researchers have written a letter, Don’t Leave Canada Behind, protesting the 2009 federal budget cuts to science announced in January. More that 2000 signed the letter which was written on March 16, 2009. From the letter, which (as you might expect) makes reference to the stark contrast between the current Canadian and the US budgets,

“When U.S. researchers are being actively approached for ideas to use the stimulus money to think big and to hire and retain their researchers, their Canadian counterparts are now scrambling to identify budget cuts for their labs, while worrying about the future of their graduating students,”  …

There’s more here. The federal Minister for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, created a kerfuffle earlier this year after the budget was announced, when it seemed that he didn’t understand the concept of evolution all that well. I mention it because Goodyear is quoted, in response to this letter, as saying that the government is “… committed to innovation and discovery.” Two things, I’d like to know more about Goodyear’s understanding of science and how he expects to influence the kinds of discoveries and innovations that are made and I’m glad they are committed but I’m not sure how that will work if there aren’t enough funds to support innovation and discovery.

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