By Tushna Commissariat
Each week, all of us here at Physics World comb the Internet for all things physics – we look at national and local newspapers, university news outlets, a variety of magazines, science websites and blogs, and, of course, all the latest scientific papers. We then pool our research and pick the cream of our crop to report on. But we can’t always cover all the interesting bits of physics news that we have chanced upon and a lot of good stuff is left behind in a red folder. So, starting from today, at the end of each week we’ve decided to point all of you, our eager readers, to the stories that have caught our fancy but not made it to the site yet and leave you with some extra weekend reading from The Red Folder.
This week, the Royal Observatory Greenwich announced the winners of its Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2013 competition. The competition saw some incredible entries, including stunning images ranging from within our solar system to far into deep space – the transit of Venus, comets, nebulae, aurorae have all been imaged. The overall “Earth and Space” category winner is Mark Gee; his stunning image of the Milky Way galaxy with a beam of light shining from a lighthouse in the foreground (pictured above) is truly spectacular.
We also came across a story in The Scotsman that will excite all you future particle physicists out there – the University of Edinburgh is offering a free seven-week online course on the Higgs boson and it will feature interviews with the estimable Peter Higgs as well as a bevy of other first-class physicists. The course is the first of the university’s Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) and you can sign up for it here.
Another fascinating story we saw was on the nanotechnology website Nanowerk – it is about a group of PhD students from University College London, Tsinghua University and Peking University who have built the world’s first low-cost atomic force microscope (AFM) using LEGO! While most research-grade AFMs cost about £362,000 or more, their device – aptly called LEGO2NANO – could cost less than £350 to produce.
A bright, colourful and complex shape also caught our attention, when Quanta Magazine wrote an article about a newly discovered mathematical object that represents multiple dimensions. It is dubbed the “amplituhedron” and, somehow, it depicts the probabilities of outcomes of particle interactions. Physicist and blogger Peter Woit has a short blog about the significance of the shape, while the Quanta story goes into detail about the mathematics. I would encourage you to go and look at the wonderful image in the Quanta story at the very least.
Meanwhile, we spotted an intriguing and in-depth feature in Aeon magazine about searching for extraterrestrial life within “big data”. In the story, science writer Paul Gilster outlines the possibility that the evidence for the remnants of an ancient extraterrestrial civilization might be languishing in earthly archives.