By Matin Durrani
If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics, it’s time to get stuck into the August 2013 issue of Physics World, which has a great range of articles that are sure to pique your interest.
Michael de Podesta from the UK’s National Physical Laboratory describes attempts to redefine the SI unit of temperature in terms of the Boltzmann constant. We also examine how ambitious plans to pipe energy to Europe from massive solar-power plants in north Africa and the Middle East appear to have bitten the dust.
This month’s Critical Point column by Robert Crease examines a fascinating institution in the US that seeks to teach physics and engineering through project-based work based on the intriguing principle of “just-in-time” – rather than “just-in-case” – education. Finally, a feature by our own Michael Banks tackles the move to open-access publishing, which is fast becoming a reality.
Members of the Institute of Physics can access the entire new issue free via the digital version of the magazine or by downloading the Physics World app onto your iPhone or iPad or Android device, available from the App Store and Google Play, respectively.
For the record, here’s a rundown of highlights of the issue:
- · Sun sets on Desertec – Environmentalists and industrialists part company over proposals to export electricity from the desert, as Edwin Cartlidge reports.
- · Korea targets graphene research – Researchers in Korea are used to doing top quality work, but it is often in fields pioneered by scientists from other nations. Graphene, however, is one area where Koreans are leading the way, as Matin Durrani finds out.
- · Just-in-time physics – Can advanced physics be taught in a project-based curriculum? Robert P Crease drops in at an innovative new US engineering college to find out.
- · Is physics the hardest of them all? – New research suggests that the sciences can be ranked based on how “hard” they are. But Philip Ball argues that such a hierarchy is deeply misguided.
- · The reality of open access – Designed to make research freely available online for anyone to read, open-access publishing is now being enshrined in formal government policy. But there is still much confusion over how it should best be implemented, as Michael Banks explains.
- · Redefining temperature – Michael de Podesta recounts the six-year experiment that has yielded the most accurate temperature measurement ever made – a result that is expected to help redefine the kelvin.
- · Towers of strength – Daniel Rayneau-Kirkhope, Yong Mao and Robert Farr describe how efficient fractal structures in the natural world are inspiring scientists to develop new materials.
- · Explaining the second quantum revolution – Jonathan Jones reviews The Quantum Divide: Why Schrödinger’s Cat is Either Alive or Dead by Christopher Gerry and Kimberley Bruno.
- · Too hot to handle – Robert Hayes reviews Too Hot to Touch: the Problem of High-Level Nuclear Waste by William and Rosemarie Alley.
- · Powders, powders everywhere – Nishil Malde describes how the ubiquity of powders in industrial processes led him from academic research to an international role at a firm that makes powder-testing equipment.
- · Once a physicist – George R Lucas Jr describes how he switched from physics to ethics.
- · Funky numbers in physics – In this month’s Lateral Thoughts column, David Appell takes a tour through some weird and wonderful numbers.
If you’re not yet a member, you can join the Institute as an IOPimember for just £15, €20 or $25 a year. Being an IOPimember gives you a full year’s access to Physics World both online and through the apps.