Tiny bubbles: a laser-made mermaid (Courtesy: Kota Kumagai/ Utsunomiya University)
By Hamish Johnston
A popular way of melding science and art is to create an image of a mythical being in your lab. Yoshio Hayasaki and colleagues at Utsunomiya University in Japan have made a pretty good likeness of a mermaid using a laser that forms tiny bubbles inside a liquid. “In our display, the microbubble voxels are three-dimensionally generated in a liquid using focused femtosecond laser pulses,” explains team member Kota Kumagai.
I was keen to find out if they’d be interested in writing for the new Physics World Discovery series of ebooks and, while at Columbia, I had also hoped to put the same question to astrophysicist and author Janna Levin, who’s based in the physics department. Turns out, however, that Levin is on sabbatical, spending a year as “director of sciences” at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn’s Red Hook district. Curious to find out more about a centre that seeks to “make culture accessible to all”, I accepted her invitation to pay a visit.
To find out more about the aims and purpose of the rally, I hooked up with Geoffrey Supran (picutred below), who helped to organize the event. Having originally studied physics at the University of Cambridgein the UK, Supran obtained a PhD in materials science at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology and is now doing a postdoc in the history of science with Naomi Oreskes at nearby Harvard University.
Not for me – president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Rush Holt says there’s “no chance” of him becoming Donald Trump’s science adviser but admits it would be hard to turn down if offered.
By Matin Durrani in Boston, US
Rush Holt is that rarity: a physicist who’s also been a politician, having spent 16 years as Democratic Congressman for New Jersey’s 12th congressional district from 1999 to 2015. Those two attributes make him well placed in his current role as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), which is holding its annual meeting here in Boston.
So when I sat down with Holt yesterday, our conversation naturally focused on the impact on science of Donald Trump’s election as US president. The bouffant-haired, former businessman and reality-TV star may have so far said little about the subject, but Holt believes that “tough and uncertain times” lie ahead for scientific funding. “I think we will be on a very austere budget for all non-defence discretionary activity,” he warns.
Talent seekers – the panel of top TV producers wanting documentary ideas from delegates at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.
By Matin Durrani in Boston, US
Physics World has been involved in making online videos and what we call “mini documentaries” for more than seven years. But these are mostly low-budget affairs aimed at people who are, by and large, already interested in physics.
So what if you’re a physicist who wants to work with a big-shot producer to make a full-blown, hour-long TV documentary watched by millions? Shows such as Horizon on the BBC or Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on Discovery’s Science Channel get massive audiences, putting you in touch with far more people than most scientists could ever dream of.
A special session at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had some of the answers. It brought together a bevvy of top TV producers (see slide above) who shared their tips on how scientists should pitch ideas for documentaries to them. A further session will be held tomorrow to let scientists propose real ideas in a kind of TV-science speed-dating.
Trying to make sense of what life will be like for US scientists under the Trump administration were five people with extensive experience of working closely with recent US presidents.
Chairing the session was Neal Lane, who served as Bill Clinton’s presidential science adviser for two years in the 1990s. Also present was physicist John Holdren, who spent eight years until last month as Barack Obama’s science chief, for which the audience gave him a generous round of applause.
Last September, the Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore invited people to submit short films about quantum physics for their Quantum Shorts 2016 competition. Both scientists and filmmakers alike have made the short list, which has just been released. The films could be about the science, history, theories, technologies or philosophies of quantum mechanics – anything that sparked the imagination. The online competition has been going since 2012 and alternates between short films and flash fiction, and this year the films will be screened at a film festival as well. The shortlist comprises of 10 films, all available to watch and vote for online. There are supernovae, love triangles, muesli with bananas and cats – everything you could want to help explain quantum physics.
The award for most bizarre title for a scientific paper goes to psychologist Nick Neave and colleagues at the UK’s Northumbria University and University of Lincoln for “Optimal asymmetry and other motion parameters that characterise high-quality female dance”. The team says it used “a data-driven approach to pinpoint the movements that discriminate female dance quality”. Why, you might ask? “The form and significance of attractive dance, however, has been less well studied, and this limits our understanding of its role in human courtship and partner selection.” The above video is from a previous study by the team about what constitutes a good male dancer.
It’s time to check out the February issue of Physics World magazine, where our cover story looks at the physicists studying how dinosaurs moved. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.comhere.
There’s also a great feature about whether supersolids could be making a comeback, while science writer Brian Clegg explains why anticipating people’s questions is the secret to good science communication.
Elsewhere in the new issue, check out why Jules Verne was spot-on with the physics of drones and meet the man who’s been the driving force behind statistical physics meetings.
If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), you can now enjoy immediate access to the new issue with the digital edition of the magazine in your web browser or on any iOS or Android mobile device (just download the Physics World app from the App Store or Google Play). If you’re not yet in the IOP, you can join as an IOPimember for just £15, €20 or $25 a year to get full access to Physics World digital.