Posts by: Matin Durrani

Celebrating 25 years of Physics World

By Matin Durrani

Physics World October 2013

Physics World October 2013.

Today marks the 25th anniversary of Physics World – the member magazine of the Institute of Physics (IOP) – which launched in October 1988. And to celebrate that fact, we’ve created a fantastic special issue of Physics World in which we look back at some of the highlights in physics of the last 25 years and also forward to where the subject is going next.

All members of the IOP can access the entire new issue right now via the digital version of the magazine or by downloading the free Physics World app onto your iPhone or iPad or Android device, available from the App Store and Google Play, respectively. The issue includes a stack of bonus audio and video content, including three short films we’ve specially made about some of the top spin-offs from physics.

We’ve split the bulk of the issue into five sections, each with five items (five times five being 25, of course):

• Find out our choice of the top five discoveries in fundamental physics over the last 25 years.

• See what five leading researchers have to say about Physics World‘s choice of the five biggest unanswered questions in physics right now.

• Enjoy our pick of the five top images from the last 25 years that have let us “see” a physical phenomenon or effect.

• Learn more about the five people who are changing the way physics is done.

• Gaze into the future as we disclose the five most promising spin-offs from physics.

We also have a set of fiendish physics-themed puzzles devised for you by staff at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – the first is revealed in the special issue and on our blog, with the rest to be unveiled on physicsworld.com throughout October.

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Institute of Physics launches fundraising campaign

Photo of Brian Cox

Manchester University physicist Brian Cox at the launch of the Institute of Physics’ fundraising campaign on 23 September 2013. (Courtesy: Richard Lewis)

By Matin Durrani

The Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World, launched its first-ever fundraising campaign at a dinner at the Institute’s headquarters in London last night. The aim of the campaign, called Opportunity Physics, is to raise £10m over five years to let the Institute “significantly scale up” its work over the coming decades. The evening was hosted by Manchester University particle physicist Brian Cox, who is on the fundraising campaign’s board and is a familiar face as presenter of TV shows such as the BBC’s Wonders of the Solar System.

The Institute says it has identified a number of existing IOP projects that can be enhanced if further funding were available. Those projects are all centred on inspiring young people into physics, showing them what careers physics can lead to, helping physicists to flourish – whether they work in teaching, research or industry – and underlining how physics is central to a healthy, technology-led economy. With 52,000 members, the Institute already does a lot of good work, but it believes it can do even more with additional cash.

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A Bohemian rhapsody on string theory

By Matin Durrani

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has had the seemingly bright idea of remaking a well-known song, altering the lyrics so they’re about some “cool” aspect of science, and then unleashing a cataclysmically awful video to the rest of the world, with the original song mangled to death.

So I braced myself before playing this new a capella version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”, entitled “Bohemian Gravity”. It is sung and performed by Tim Blais – a student in theoretical physics at McGill University in Canada, who recently completed his Master’s thesis under Alex Maloney.

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Physics World Special Report: Republic of Korea

By Matin Durrani

Physics World Special Report: Republic of Korea

Physics World Special Report: Republic of Korea.

The Republic of Korea – known colloquially as South Korea to outsiders – has transformed itself over the last 50 years from a nation based primarily on agriculture to a hi-tech industrial powerhouse.

No longer in the shadow of its neighbouring powerhouses in Asia – China and Japan – the country is fast becoming a hotbed of top-quality research, as you can find out by reading the new Physics World Special Report on the Republic of Korea.

We delve into some of the areas of science, including synchrotron science, graphene and fusion energy, where Korea is leading the way.

The report begins with an overview of the country’s research scene, including interviews with Kookrin Char (head of physics at Seoul National University), Hawoong Jeong (head of physics at the Korean Advanced Institute of Science and Technology) and Cheol Eui Lee, a nanophysicist at Korea University in Seoul, who is also president of the Korean Physical Society.

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‘Death ray’ reflections from skyscrapers modelled by scientists

by Michael Bishop, who is the IOP’s press officer

Model mirror segments

(Courtesy: EJP)

The designer of London’s Walkie Talkie skyscraper has come under scrutiny this week as reports of flaming bicycle seats and melting cars have resulted in a temporary scaffold being erected at street level to block the intense reflection of the Sun’s rays as they beat off the curved building.

One thing you can’t say is that nobody saw this coming.

In a study published last summer in the European Journal of Physics (EJP), two researchers from Germany performed a number of experiments that gave an in-depth explanation of why some skyscrapers have these undesired effects.

In addition to a number of computer simulations that investigated the reflecting effects of a building’s height, width and curvature, as well as the angle and position of the Sun, the researchers also performed experiments on a scale model (right) of the Vdara hotel in Las Vegas.

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The September 2013 issue of Physics World is out now

By Matin Durrani

Physics World September 2013

Physics World September 2013.

If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), it’s time to get stuck into the September 2013 issue of Physics World, which has a great range of articles that are sure to pique your interest.

Remember that all members of the IOP 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.

This month we catch up with the latest developments in what seems almost like science fiction: creating artificial organs with a 3D printer that uses a patient’s own cells as ink. We also look at the life of Laura Bassi, who in 18th-century Italy became possibly the first ever female professional physicist. Our final feature this month examines the interplay between chaos in art and science, which has included everyone from Jackson Pollock to Edward Lorenz.

Don’t miss either a great Lateral Thought about the link between physics and bringing up babies, while this month’s careers article has some top tips for anyone wanting to get a job in industry.

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Boom boom! CERN hosts first ever comedy night

By Matin Durrani

Flyer of CERN Comeday Show event

Laugh out loud – CERN’s first ever stand-up comedy show. (Click to view details)

Being funny is hard.

(“I’ve just been on a once-in-a-lifetime holiday. I’ll tell you what, never again.”)

Being funny about physics is even harder.

(“So what’s new?”
“Oh you know: E over h.”)

And being funny about physics at CERN’s first ever official stand-up comedy night is likely to be trickier still.

So good luck is what I say to those involved in the LHComedy event, which takes place on Friday 30 August from 7.30 to 11.30 p.m. (Central European Time) at CERN’s Globe of Science and Innovation in Geneva.

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Paul Frampton: the movie

By Matin Durrani

Photograph of Paul Frampton

The strange story of physicist Paul Frampton could be made into a film.

The story of Paul Frampton is so incredible that it’s hard to believe it really happened. How could anyone have been so foolish and left his family, colleagues and students in the lurch?

In case you don’t remember, Frampton is the 69-year-old British-born US-based theoretical physicist who in early 2012 travelled to Bolivia expecting to meet a 32-year-old woman he’d struck up a correspondence with on the Internet, who claimed to be the Czech-born lingerie model Denise Milani.

But when he arrived in Bolivia, Milani was nowhere to be seen and Frampton was instead met by a man who asked him to take what was supposedly Milani’s suitcase to Buenos Aires, where she would then meet him.

When Milani didn’t show up at Buenos Aires Airport either – and there has been no suggestion that she knew that her identity was being used – Frampton tried to board a plane back to the US but was arrested after airport-security officials discovered 2 kg of cocaine in his checked luggage. Although he insisted the drugs were not his, Frampton was sentenced in November 2012 to 56 months in jail, despite a campaign by physicists to clear his name.

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Why are school pupils flocking to physics?

Graph showing rise in A-level physics entries

This graph shows that the proportion of all A-level entries accounted for by physics, maths and other sciences has been growing steadily in recent years. (Courtesy: CaSE)

By Matin Durrani

Getting more people interested in physics is something we hear about all the time here at Physics World.

When I was in India last year, for example, I lost count of the number of times physicists said there weren’t enough people going into the subject. Engineering and medicine seemed to be the top choices for technically minded Indian students going to university.

A worrying decline in interest in physics was a message I also heard while in Korea earlier this year.

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Australian science communicator Peter Pockley dies

Peter Pockley (right) in Sydney in 2011 with Matin Durrani

Peter Pockley (right) at his his home in Sydney in 2011 with Matin Durrani.

By Matin Durrani

Physics World was saddened to learn today – via a Tweet from the Australian Nobel-prize-winning astronomer Brian Schmidt – of the death of veteran Australian science journalist Peter Pockley.

Peter, who was 78, had contributed numerous articles to Physics World over the years, focusing mainly on the ups and downs of science policy in Australia, of which he had an in-depth knowledge. He died peacefully at his home in Sydney on 11 August 2013.

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