Inspired thinking – Robert P Crease in front of an exhibit at Manila’s Mind Museum that was inspired by Physics World readers.
By Robert P Crease in Singapore
It’s not often that you come across a museum exhibit based on a Physics World article. But I did on Saturday at the Mind Museum – an extraordinarily beautiful and original science museum in Taguig, on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines.
Not only that, the exhibit is right at the entrance. You may recall that I once askedPhysics World readers for their thoughts on the 10 most beautiful experiments and wrote up the results in an article in September 2002. The project turned into a book, The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science, which came out the following year and which Physics World reviewed.
Maria Isabel Garcia, who was planning exhibits for the then-future Mind Museum, saw the article and book, and created an exhibit based on it, consisting of videos and explanations of each of the 10 experiments, along with a sculpture designed by the Philippine artist Daniel de la Cruz.
Just as my Physics World colleague James Dacey mentioned earlier, neither of us felt super-wonderful yesterday visiting the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), which sits at a height of 4600 metres above sea level. Spectacular though the facility is, the air pressure is roughly 60% of that at sea level and there is so little oxygen that even walking up a flight of stairs made me feeling pretty light-headed.
So, James and I were both quite glad to descend with LMT director David H Hughes to a height of 4100 metres, where it was time to visit another leading Mexican astronomy facility – the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gamma-ray observatory.
Gravitational gardening: the Dark Matter Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. (Courtesy: National Schools’ Observatory)
By Hamish Johnston
Gardening is something that the British take very seriously and this week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of that obsession. Indeed, it is so popular that it is covered live on television by the BBC. One highlight of the show is the garden competition, in which designers transform an empty plot into a dazzling garden in just 10 days. This year’s entries include the Dark Matter Garden, which “brings the mysteries of the universe to Chelsea”. That’s the claim of the designers of the garden (including several astronomers), who built it for the UK’s National Schools’ Observatory. The team says that its gold-medal-winning design includes “innovative structures and planting, and represents the effect of dark matter on light”.
From pre-Hispanic archaeological treasures to the Modernist paintings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexico is brimming with cultural artefacts. Yesterday I visited a centre at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) that has developed techniques for investigating precious objects without damaging them.
Yesterday was day three of the Physics World Mexican adventure and it turned out to be a really exciting 24 hours. Matin Durrani and I visited Teotihuacan – the “City of the Gods”– located 30 miles north-east of Mexico City. We were there to witness some of the closing moments of a 15-year particle physics experiment designed to “see” inside the Sun Pyramid, the world’s third biggest pyramid by volume.
Layered look: iron (brown) and arsenic (green) atoms in the conducting layer of a pnictide.
By Hamish Johnston
High-temperature (high-Tc) superconductivity has given hope and heartbreak in equal measure to physicists since the phenomenon was first discovered in 1986.
The hope is two-fold: that we will soon understand why superconductivity arises in this complex group of materials; and that this knowledge will lead us to a material that is a superconductor at room temperature. The former would be a triumph of the physics of highly correlated systems and the latter would spark a technological revolution.
It’s one of the biggest universities in the world with several hundred thousand students, but the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México (UNAM) is certainly not the oldest. In fact, the first person to get a degree and PhD in physics at UNAM – Fernando Alba – is still alive. Aged 95, he studied at UNAM’s Institute of Physics shortly after it opened its doors in 1939.
When you visit an unfamiliar city, you can often discover some hidden gems by just wandering the streets with your eyes wide open. This is what happened to Physics World editor Matin Durrani and me yesterday here in Mexico City when we stumbled across the Museo de la Luz (Museum of Light) in the backstreets of the historic city centre.
Located in an old Jesuit college with a beautiful courtyard, the exhibits are spread over three floors covering a wide spectrum of themes, from human vision to the history of the theories of light. What I loved about the place is that it really did offer something for everyone. Too often I find that museums can be great for kids or great for the type of serious adult who loves to leaf through tea-stained archives. El Museo de la Luz manages to hit a sweet spot, being informative and interactive but not too whizz-bang – that is certainly not what I needed yesterday with this jetlag!