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Slamming physics at Fermilab, dancing to Yuri Gagarin and lifting off from ‘Cape Kebaberal’


By Hamish Johnston

Giving a fired-up talk at a physics conference is a good way for aspiring researchers to make themselves known to the community, but unless you have a natural gift, lots of practice is required. That’s why many universities and labs host “slams” to encourage staff and students to talk about their research to a broader audience. Above is a video of the sold-out Fermilab Physics Slam 2014, which was held last week at the lab on the outskirts of Chicago.

The 800-strong audience enjoyed 10-minute talks from five physicists with a current or past connection with Fermilab. Topics included supernovas, neutrinos, data preservation and a Doctor Who-inspired talk about dark energy – complete with a TARDIS. The winner, as chosen by the audience, was Wes Ketchum of the MicroBooNE collaboration, who used claymation in has talk “How to take a picture of a neutrino”.


We really enjoyed the above video from the duo Public Service Broadcasting, which a colleague tells me is a popular indie group currently touring with the Kaiser Chiefs. The video accompanies their new single “Gagarin”, which is the first off their upcoming album “The Race for Space”. It combines astronomical dance moves with an indie beat and period voice clips describing the adventures of the first Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin. I hope it provides inspiration for your next physics talk!

Florida has Cape Canaveral, and now it seems that the UK city of Sheffield has a new spaceport dubbed “Cape Kebaberal”. The name was inspired by the favourite student food of Alex Baker and Chris Rose, who run the Sheffield-based company Sent Into Space. The firm sells high-altitude balloons and accessories; for just £134.83 you can get a balloon, GPS tracking device, payload box and parachute. More expensive packages include a “black box” and radar reflector to warn off aircraft.

The largest balloon on offer has an inflated radius of 1 m (helium not included), so I don’t think any people will be lifting off from Cape Kebaberal. The most popular payload seems to be a camera, which will bring back images of the curvature of the Earth’s atmosphere. Other cargos have included a £12,000 diamond that went up in August and came down somewhere in Lincolnshire. This was a promotion with a diamond company and apparently it is finders keepers.

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