This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Schrödinger’s Brexit, ‘The Elements’ remix, physics referees and American football


By Hamish Johnston

On Tuesday I was rushing to finish writing a news story about quantum superposition and got a phone call out of the blue from Roger Sawyer, who is deputy editor on BBC Radio 4’s afternoon news and current affairs programme PM. He had the brilliant idea that the meme of “having your Brexit cake and eating it too” had some sort of connection to quantum superposition – and wanted some advice from Physics World.

It turns out that this was something that I had been musing over since the UK voted to leave the European Union. Ever since that fateful day in June, the country has been in a magical superposition of being in the EU and out of the EU at the same time – in other words Schrödinger’s Brexit, rather than Schrödinger’s cat. And like the designers of quantum computers, who work very hard to stop quantum information leaking out of their circuits, the political architects of Brexit are desperate to prevent the rest of us from taking a measure of their plans lest we collapse its wavefunction into an unsatisfactory trajectory.

Silly, I know, but it actually got me onto national radio. You can listen to the interview here, I come on at around minute 35. Even more amazing, is that the idea of Schrödinger’s Brexit inspired a column in the Economist. I suppose it’s nice to know that people have enough interest in physics to smile at a bad joke about quantum superposition.

Earlier this week we reported that four new elements have been given official names. Now comedian and self-described geek Helen Arney has updated Tom Lehrer’s classic song “The Elements”, which she performs in the above video.

In this post-truth world do we really need a physicist to explain why an American football referee’s call was wrong? Of course we do, and here is a great explanation from Wayne State University’s Bill Llope about why a call made during a University of Michigan-Ohio State game was wrong about the position of the ball. Part of Llope’s day job is building time-of-flight instrumentation – perfect training for an armchair quarterback!

This entry was posted in The Red Folder and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Comments are closed.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text