Today was the first full day in South Korea for myself and Physics World news editor Michael Banks and it saw us head off by car from our hotel in downtown Daejeon to the massive science and technology zone in the north of the city. Home to more than 1000 research institutes, universities and start-ups, the zone is called Daedeok Innopolis; it’s a kind of putative Silicon Valley, if you like.
Physics has brought transformative inventions. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/Péter Mács)
Earlier this week my colleague reported the death of Heinrich Rohrer, the Swiss condensed-matter physicist who shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics for the invention of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) at IBM’s Zürich Research Laboratory. Rohrer shared one half of the prize with his IBM colleague Gerd Binnig, while the other half went to the West German Ernst Ruska for his invention of the electron microscope (EM).
By bringing into view the atomic world, EMs and STMs have undoubtedly had a huge impact on science. Before their invention, optical microscopy had been a truly transformative technology. But it had been fundamentally limited to seeing things that are (roughly speaking) larger than the wavelength of the light used to produce the image. And since the wavelength of visible light is some 10,000 times larger than the typical distance between two atoms, we could not see individual atoms.
This year Physics World is celebrating its 25th birthday. The first issue of the magazine was published in October 1988, so for October this year we are producing a special anniversary issue. It will celebrate the big physics stories from the first quarter of a century of our existence, but it will also have a strong focus on the exciting new physics that await us in the near future. To discuss our plans, I joined editor of Physics World Matin Durrani in this Google Hangout, recorded yesterday.
It was the first time we had attempted one of these fancy new hangouts; this was something of a pilot run. But with the likes of Barack Obama, CERN and the BBC all attempting this new, accessible way of video broadcasting, I reckon we’re in good company.
Hello from South Korea, where I’m on a week-long tour with Physics World news editor Michael Banks. We’re here to visit a series of top physics institutes and research organizations in a trip that’s taken several months of careful planning to arrange.
There are three main reasons for coming here. The first is to gather material for a Physics World special report on physics in South Korea, which will be published in September. This report will follow on from our previous special reports on India, Japan and China.
Cory Doctorow speaking at the Sense About Science Annual Lecture. (Courtesy: Sense About Science)
By Margaret Harris
I’ve never been a fan of the slogan “Information wants to be free”. As a journalist and former scientist, I know that the process of creating and disseminating information is definitely not free, and I’m sceptical about the economic alchemy that would supposedly make it that way. So when I saw that this year’s Sense About Science lecture was entitled “We Get to Choose: How to Demand an Internet That Sets Us Free”, I nearly stayed away.
As it turns out, a more accurate title for the London-based charity’s annual bash would have been “Why Digital Rights Management is Bad and Why You Should Care”, and by the end, the speaker – science-fiction author and blogger Cory Doctorow – had pretty much won me over.
To much general dismay, earlier this month NASA officials announced that their Kepler space telescope had gone into a self-imposed “safe mode”, something that the telescope is programmed to do if one of its primary systems is not fully functional. Although the telescope was then rebooted, it shut down again this week and it seems that all is definitely not well with our favourite exoplanet spotter: the mission collaboration announced that the instrument has suffered a critical failure and may never be fully operational again.
AMS is a modern version version of Hess’s balloon experiments. (Courtesy: NASA)
The BBC’s Melvyn Bragg has lots to talk about. Over the past few months he has chatted about the Icelandic sagas, water, Gnosticism, and much more on his Radio 4 programme In Our Time. So he can be forgiven for missing a centenary and celebrating cosmic rays 101 years after they were discovered by the Austrian physicist Victor Hess.
Last year when I was planning the Physics World special issue on quantum frontiers (which was out in March and is still available as a free PDF download), I had approached Jon to ask whether he’d like to tackle a quantum topic, and he let me know he was interested in covering the paper by Matthew Pusey, Jonathan Barrett and Terry Rudolph. Jon had seen the story reported elsewhere but had found these accounts were light on the details and didn’t get to the bottom of the science. I liked the idea and Jon went ahead. Once the story arrived in my inbox I was hooked! I found it to be one of those stories that covers some tricky concepts but if you let yourself become immersed in the story and think through what’s being explained, is very rewarding.
German words in the physicist’s lexicon. (Image by Mathew Ward)
Like many disciplines, physics incorporates words from a number of different languages – and this can often leave a physicist tongue-tied.
How should a native English speaker pronounce Einstein, for example? Should it be the Germanic “Ein-shtein” or the anglicized “Ein-stein”? How should one say De Broglie, Raman or Bernoulli? Should a native English speaker even attempt zitterbewegung, or translate it to “trembling motion”?
I’m sure that some physics terms of English origin are tricky for native speakers of other languages, and their pronunciations are sometimes adjusted accordingly.
Some believe that making an effort to use the original pronunciation shows respect and knowledge of the origin of a word. Others are happy to use the pronunciation they are most comfortable with.
D-Wave’s Geordie Rose with one of the firm’s quantum computers. (Courtesy: D-Wave)
By Hamish Johnston
Canada’s D-Wave Systems is installing one of its quantum computers at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. The new 512-qubit system – dubbed D-Wave Two – will be used by NASA, Google and the Universities Space Research Association (USRA) to investigate how quantum computers could be used to solve a range of different problems. According to Vancouver-based D-Wave, the computer will be available for use in the third quarter of this year.