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Identifying fingerprints, attractive scientists, what physics students should know

Easily recognized: could you be a fingerprint analyser? (Courtesy: CC BY 3.0/ Frettie)

Easily recognized: could you do fingerprint analysis? (CC BY 3.0 / Frettie)

 

By Hamish Johnston

Do you have the pattern-matching skills needed for identifying fingerprints? If so, researchers at National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US want to hear from you. They have put together a visual quiz that tests your ability to “focus on minute visual details that would leave most people cross-eyed”. You can try the test here.

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Einstein, Hawking and Rees set to music, singing about virtual particles, tiny satellite will soon blast off

Singing the multiverse: the Salisbury Chamber Chorus (Courtesy: Salisbury Chamber Chorus )

Singing multiverse: the Salisbury Chamber Chorus. (Courtesy: Salisbury Chamber Chorus)

By Hamish Johnston

“What I wanted to write was something about the universe and our place in it: from the Big Bang, through our insignificance in the vastness of it all, our need for exploration and where space travel will take us, to the nature of light or the make-up of electrons, and finally ideas about multiverses and infinity.”

That is the motivation behind the “secular oratorio” Space Time Matter Energy by Simon McEnery, which premieres at St Mary le Strand Church in London on 10 June. The piece melds the words of famous physicists such as Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees and Albert Einstein with music and song from the Salisbury Chamber Chorus, the percussion ensemble Beaten Track and the pianist Peter Toye.  If you can’t be in London on the 10th, there is also a performance in Salisbury on 17 June.

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A spotlight on accelerators in industry – sort of

Robert Kephart of Fermilab speaking about the "beam business" at IPAC17.

Robert Kephart of Fermilab speaking about the “beam business” at IPAC17.

By Margaret Harris at the International Particle Accelerator Conference in Copenhagen

Normally, you’d expect a particle-accelerator conference to focus on research – either the fundamental research done at accelerator facilities around the world, or the applied research required to get such facilities up and running in the first place. And for the most part, that has been absolutely true of the 8th International Particle Accelerator Conference (IPAC), which is taking place this week on the outskirts of Copenhagen, Denmark.

On Tuesday, however, the conference organizers dedicated a session to the ways that accelerator science engages with industry. In a two-hour series of talks, audience members heard from speakers as varied as Bjerne Clausen, CEO of the Danish chemical technologies firm Haldor Topsoe; Bob Kephart, director of the Fermilab-affiliated Illinois Accelerator Research Center (IARC); and Giovanni Anelli, who leads the Knowledge Transfer group at CERN.

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Sculpture inspired by neutrino lab unveiled

SNO sculpture

Putting it all together. (Courtesy: Garrett Elliott)

By Michael Banks

A sculpture inspired by the geometry of the neutrino detector at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) has been unveiled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada.

SNO, which operated from 1999 to 2006, was located 2.1 km underground in Sudbury, Ontario, and designed to detect neutrinos from the Sun through their interactions with a large tank of heavy water.

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Visiting the most powerful laser in the world

 

By James Dacey

You might find this surprising, but Romania is one of the main reasons I became a journalist. Back in 2006, having recently graduated with a degree in natural sciences, I spent the summer in the Transylvanian city of Brasov, teaching English to school kids. While there, I was talked into writing a few articles about my experiences for the local tourism magazine, Brasov Visitor. To cut a rambling story short, I had a memorable summer and caught the writing bug. Eventually, I landed a job at Physics World, which enabled me to combine my journalistic leanings with my scientific background.

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Physics graduate is just 14, high drama at the LHC, the physics of number two

 

By Hamish Johnston and Michael Banks

Carson Huey-You was just 11 years old when he arrived at Texas Christian University to study physics. Now, at the ripe old age of 14, he is about to graduate, according to an article in the Huffington Post. “I knew I wanted to do physics when I was in high school, but then quantum physics was the one that stood out to me, because it was abstract,” says Huey-You. Most American children start high school at age 14, but Huey-You was learning calculus by the time he was three – a subject usually reserved for high school seniors. And precociousness runs in the family because his younger brother Cannan is starting university in September aged 11. The siblings are delightful and interviewed in the above video.

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How will Brexit affect science in the rest of the EU?

Brexit panel: left to right are Rolf Tarrach, Ole Petersen, Mark Ferguson and Gail Cardew

Brexit panel: left to right are Rolf Tarrach, Ole Petersen, Mark Ferguson and Gail Cardew.

By Hamish Johnston

Here in the UK it’s easy to forget that our exit from the EU could have significant unintended consequences for scientists in the remaining 27 member nations.

Yesterday, I was at a public forum called “Brexit: the scientific impact”, which was held at the Royal Institution in London. While there was much discussion about domestic challenges, the second session – “Brexit: the scientific impact on the EU-27” – provided a fascinating insight into the challenges facing the UK’s neighbours.

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Cat-chy quantum song, science TV resurrected, $800,000 textbook, desk traffic lights

 

By Sarah Tesh 

I never realized it until now, but my life was missing a song about Schrödinger’s cat. Well, theoretical physicist, science writer and now singer/song writer Sabine Hossenfelder  has come to the rescue with a song about quantum states. This is her second music video done in collaboration artists Apostolos Vasilidis and Timo Alho. The rather cat-chy tune not only includes lyrics about quantum entanglement, Boltzmann brains and the multiverse, but also fits in references to Star Trek and The Matrix. In her BackReaction blog, Hossenfelder says, “If you think this one’s heavy on the nerdism, wait for the next.” We’re looking forward to it!

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New cosmic messengers, and what they can tell us

Bartos-multimessenger-astronomyBy Margaret Harris

Immediately after last year’s announcement that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) had seen its first gravitational waves, a lot of the discussion centred on what the discovery meant for general relativity.  This was understandable: getting further confirmation of Einstein’s century-old theory was (and is) a big deal.  But in the longer term, and as the LIGO detectors notch up a few more observations (they’re currently crunching data on six new candidates), the emphasis will shift away from the waves themselves, and towards what they can tell us about the universe.

The key thing to realize here is that gravitational waves are fundamentally different from other, better-studied cosmic “messengers” that travel to Earth from distant reaches of the universe.  Unlike photons, gravitational waves are not impeded by clouds of gas or dust; unlike cosmic rays, they are not deflected by electromagnetic fields. In addition, some of the most dramatic astrophysical events, such as the merger of two black holes in empty space, are “dark” or “silent” to other messengers: these events produce gravitational waves in copious quantities, but not, as far as we know, anything else.

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The May 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

PWMay17cover-200By Matin Durrani

Einstein’s equations of general relativity might fit on a physicist’s coffee mug, but solving them is no mean feat. Now, however, the equations have been solved in a cosmological setting for the first time, as Tom Giblin, James Mertens and Glenn Starkman explain in the May 2017 issue of Physics World magazine, which is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop

Elsewhere in the issue, you can enjoy an interview with John Holdren, who spent eight years as Barack Obama’s presidential science adviser. Find out too about the good and bad of nanoparticles and explore the potential that skyrmions – magnetic quasiparticles – could hold as a new form of memory storage.

Don’t miss either this month’s Lateral Thoughts, in which physicist Roger Todd describes how his invention of a system for automatically watering his house plants almost led to a commercial device.

Remember that if you are a member of the Institute of Physics, you can read Physics World magazine every month via our digital apps for iOS, Android and Web browsers.

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