By Matin Durrani
“The secret of the blue fog” might sound like a Tintin book, but it’s all about a strange form of liquid crystal that’s the cover story in the April 2017 issue of Physics World magazine, which is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop.
First observed in the late 1800s, only recently have we finally uncovered the structure of these materials, which turn blue when cooled. As Oliver Henrich and Davide Marenduzzo explain, blue liquid crystals could be used for new kinds of display devices.
Elsewhere in the issue, mathematical physicist Jason Lotay explains his work in seven extra dimensions, while science writer Benjamin Skuse examines the challenge for respected physicists with theories outside the mainstream.
Don’t miss either our latest look at Donald Trump’s scientific shenanigans, including an interview with Rush Holt – the physicist-turned-politician who’s now head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
For the record, here’s a run-down of what’s in the issue.
• US scientists battle with Trump – Immigration, funding and climate change are among the issues driving a wedge between the US scientific community and the new administration, as Peter Gwynne reports
• Science in the Trump era – US physicist Rush Holt, who spent 16 years as a Democrat in the US Congress and is now chief executive of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, talks to Matin Durrani about the prospects for science with Donald Trump as president
• Dealing with Brexit – The diversity of British physics is being threatened by Britain’s departure from the EU
• The value of global collaboration – With the UK set to leave the European Union, Brian Bowsher says it is vital that the country continues to attract the best researchers and work closely with other nations too
• The sound of trust – Synchrotrons can be used to study delicate historical artefacts, but what if it were your prized possession in the beamline? Robert P Crease finds out
• The secret of the blue fog – Why certain liquids turn blue when cooled was a mystery that stumped scientists for more than a century. As Oliver Henrich and Davide Marenduzzo explain, solving the secret of the “blue fog” proved to be an intellectual tour de force – and one that could lead to new types of display devices
• The geometry of our world – Jason Lotay explains how mathematicians studying special geometries are collaborating with physicists to explore M-theory, an 11-dimensional description of the world that unifies the various string theories
• Going against the grain – Ploughing your own furrow in fundamental physics is a lonely business, only fit for the most thick-skinned scientists, as Benjamin Skuse reports
• Space, time and spooky action – Andrew Robinson reviews Einstein’s Greatest Mistake: the Life of a Flawed Genius by David Bodanis
• The universe through a glass darkly – Tushna Commissariat reviews The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel
• Are you following the right to-do list? – For today’s academics, balancing personal and professional demands can be a difficult, often futile task. Roel Snieder and Jen Schneider, authors of the recent book The Joy of Science, reveal the seven principles that scientists should adhere to if they want to be happy and successful
• Once a physicist – Meet Z Aziza Baccouche, who is chief executive of Aziza Productions, a media company that specializes in producing science films
• Hail to the new, popular, units – John Powell on his favourite new units