Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Relativistic bias

As it's summer, I find I have the time more often to just browse recent results in nuclear physics.  One way of doing this is to go to the Physics Review Letters (PRL) website, and look at all the recent papers in the Nuclear Physics section.

If I do this, I see many interesting papers;  Some recent Earth-based determinations of reaction rates for nuclear reactions that take place in stars and which are important in understanding stellar evolution;  Some neat calculations of how nuclei can stretch into rod shapes as they rotate very fast;  The observation of a new and really exotic nucleus -- an isotope of hyper-hydrogen;  a new "soft" excitation mode in Lithium-11, itself a really interesting nucleus which is as large as a nucleus of lead despite having around 200 fewer nucleons in it.

What struck me most immediately about the list is that there were three papers among the 25 on the list that were "Editors' Suggestions" and that they were all from the sub-field of relativistic heavy-ion collisions.  Editors' Suggestions are exactly what the name suggests, and they get promoted within the Physical Review Letters website, appearing in the Highlights section.   From looking at the papers involved, I find it hard to conclude anything but that the editors involved in the relativistic heavy-ion papers are more active and zealous in promoting papers in their area than editors involved in the rest of nuclear physics.  I realise PRL has a history of publishing quite a high proportion of relativistic heavy-ion collision papers compared with other nuclear physics journals, perhaps thanks to its geographical ties to Brookhaven Lab, but I had not quite realised the obvious editorial differences between the sub-fields.

Anyway, attached to this plot is a pretty picture of some stretched-out Carbon isotopes from the preprint version of the rod-shaped nucleus paper mentioned above.