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Blog

The devil wears pulsars, Leó’s lost love and a terrifying polonium plot

Out of this world: a Hubble T-shirt from Couth Clothing (Courtesy: Etsy)

Out of this world: a Hubble T-shirt from Couth Clothing. (Courtesy: Etsy/Couth Clothing)

By Hamish Johnston

Fancy a Hubble Space Telescope T-shirt or perhaps a pair of leggings printed with glow-in-the-dark stars and planets? For pictures and links to these and other stellar fashions, check out the STARtorialist blog, which is run by two astronomers based in New York City and described as “Where science meets fashion and scientists get fabulous!”.

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Royal approval for the International Year of Light

Duke of York tries on NPL glasses at UK launch of the International Year of Light 28 January 2015

Seeing the future: HRH The Duke of York at the UK launch of the International Year of Light at St James’s Palace. (Courtesy: Paul Burns)

By Matin Durrani

And so last night to St James’s Palace in London and the official UK launch of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). The building, which belongs to the British monarchy and has a long history as a royal residence, might sound a rather grand venue for the event – but when HRH The Duke of York is the patron for IYL 2015 in the UK, then who wouldn’t take up his invitation to host the opening reception for the year?

The evening began with a short speech from the Duke of York, who said that he had always had an interest in physics despite not having taken it as a single subject at school – and that he was “right behind” all the activities taking place in the IYL 2015. “The International Year of Light is about how we have used light over the centuries,” he told the 200 or so guests. “It is how we are applying light, photonics and various other aspects in order to make the world a better place, not only for ourselves, but for future generations.”

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Oppenheimer and the Bomb

Photograph of the panel members from "Oppenheimer and the Bomb"

Backstage at the Swan Theatre with the panel members from “Oppenheimer and the Bomb”. From left to right: Oppenheimer director Angus Jackson, former literary editor of The Times Erica Wagner, playwright Tom Morton-Smith, physicist Frank Close and ITV science correspondent Alok Jha.

By Margaret Harris

It’s pretty easy to see why the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) wanted to stage a play about J Robert Oppenheimer. There is definitely a bit of Macbeth in the way this ambitious, aloof theoretical physicist rose to become the scientific leader of the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. Equally, there’s a hint of Caesar or Lear in Oppenheimer’s eventual downfall, which came thanks to a toxic combination of political intrigue and his own arrogance.

The parallels between “Oppie” and Shakespeare’s tragic heroes were highlighted on Saturday, when a group of physicists and artists gathered on stage at the RSC’s Swan Theatre for a panel discussion on “Oppenheimer and the Bomb”. The discussion was part of a programme of events related to the RSC’s production of Oppenheimer, a new play written by Tom Morton-Smith and based on Oppenheimer’s life in the 1930s and 40s. During the discussion, one of the panel members, director Angus Jackson, called Oppenheimer “a play about leadership” as much as science, noting that the leadership conflicts that Oppenheimer experienced were “comparable” to those of the heroes in the RSC’s traditional repertoire.

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Deflategate, DIY particle detection and an ode to Beagle 2

By Hamish Johnston

Loyal sports fans often need a reason for losing beyond “their team was better than ours”, and the latest blame-game in American football comes with a twist of physics to it. The run-up to this year’s Superbowl is no exception. Some disgruntled Indianapolis Colts fans claim that the New England Patriots had taken advantage of deflated footballs to make their decisive 45-7 victory on 18 January, which sends them to the championship game.

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Personal views on the International Year of Light

 

By James Dacey

“In the beginning there was light – the Big Bang,” said Steve Chu, talking on Monday at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris during the opening ceremony of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). Chu – a Nobel-prize winner and former US energy secretary – was among a smorgasbord of speakers at the two-day event, which brought together scientists, artists, politicians and many others with a particular interest in light and its applications.

Being a journalist, I was at the event with my own light-based technology, the humble SLR camera. I was recording a series of interviews with people at the event, including Chu, to get their thoughts on what the year of light means to them. As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, the fact that “light” is such an all-encompassing theme can also make it difficult to get a handle on what IYL 2015 is all about. I hope that the resulting video – to be published on physicsworld.com next week – will bring clarity to some of the initiatives and projects in the spotlight this year.

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Paris ushers in the International Year of Light

Photograph of the art installation "Light is Here" by Finnish artist Kari Kola projected onto UNESCO's Paris headquarters

The art installation “Light is Here” by Finnish artist Kari Kola projected onto UNESCO’s Paris headquarters. (Courtesy: UNESCO/Nora Houguenade)

By Matin Durrani in Paris

It was a grey and dank morning yesterday in the French capital, with even the top of the Eiffel Tower shrouded in clouds – perhaps not the most auspicious weather for the official opening ceremony of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) here at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Inside the conference hall, however, all was brightly lit. The stage was bathed in beams of light in all the colours of the rainbow as the 1500 or so delegates first watched an official IYL 2015 video and then listened as a series of dignitaries voiced their backing for the initiative.

These included a message of support from UN director-general Ban Ki-moon read out by an official and a video recording from Irina Bokova, UNESCO director-general. There were also speakers from Ghana, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia and Saudi Arabia – the five nations that took a key role in getting IYL 2015 approved by the UN in late 2013.

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Enjoy 10 of the best Physics World articles on light

PW-2015-01-19-blog-select-isotope

Celebrating IYL 2015 with a special free-to-read digital edition of Physics World.

By Matin Durrani

The International Year of Light (IYL 2015), which officially launches today at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, is a brilliant initiative, but if you’re wondering how to find out more about the science and applications of light, then I’ve got the perfect place for you to start.

That’s because Physics World magazine is launching today a great, free-to-read digital edition containing 10 of our very best feature articles on the science and applications of light.

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Let the International Year of Light begin

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By Luisa Cifarelli

Today sees the official launch of the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) with an opening ceremony at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris. The idea for IYL 2015 was initiated by the European Physical Society (EPS), of which I was president for two years from 2011 to 2013. The EPS proposal was first officially welcomed – and then endorsed – by UNESCO, with full UN backing coming in December 2013.

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Entangled and stringy videos, a new chat show about the heavens, Hawking and Newton hit the Oregon Trail and more

By Hamish Johnston

This week’s Red Folder begins with a pair of videos that attempt to explain some of the most difficult concepts in physics. First up is a video featuring physicist and filmmaker Derek Muller, who does a lovely job of explaining quantum entanglement with the help of a few cardboard cut-outs and a couple of spinning avatars (see above).

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Debating UK science

Making your mark. (Courtesy: iStockphoto.stocksnshares)

Science and the ballot box. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/stocksnshares)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday evening I went to the Royal Society in London to hear what the three main political parties in the UK have to say about science. The event was held because in May voters in the UK will be heading to the polls to choose their next government. The three parties had therefore sent their main science representatives to the Royal Society to spell out their intentions.

Chairing the debate was space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock of University College, London. She had the unenviable task of keeping science minister Greg Clarke (Conservative), Liberal Democrat science spokesperson Julian Huppert, and shadow universities, science and skills minister Liam Byrne (Labour) in check. For non-UK readers, it’s worth pointing out that the Conservatives have been in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010.

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