Posts by: Matin Durrani

Discover the secrets of science on TV

the panel of top TV producers seeking documentary ideas

Talent seekers – the panel of top TV producers wanting documentary ideas from delegates at the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

By Matin Durrani in Boston, US

Physics World has been involved in making online videos and what we call “mini documentaries” for more than seven years. But these are mostly low-budget affairs aimed at people who are, by and large, already interested in physics.

So what if you’re a physicist who wants to work with a big-shot producer to make a full-blown, hour-long  TV documentary watched by millions? Shows such as Horizon on the BBC or Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman on Discovery’s Science Channel get massive audiences, putting you in touch with far more people than most scientists could ever dream of.

A special session at this year’s annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science had some of the answers. It brought together a bevvy of top TV producers (see slide above) who shared their tips on how scientists should pitch ideas for documentaries to them. A further session will be held tomorrow to let scientists propose real ideas in a kind of TV-science speed-dating.

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US policy chiefs explain how to handle Trump

At the AAAS meeting in Boston, February 2017, Neal Lane introduces John Holdren (left), Kerri-Ann Jones (centre) and Rosina Bierbaum

Speaking out – Neal Lane introduces John Holdren (left), Kerri-Ann Jones (centre) and Rosina Bierbaum at the 2017 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

By Matin Durrani in Boston, US

I’m here at the 2017 meeting of the American Assocation for the Advancement of Science in Boston, where the theme is “Serving society through science policy”. The focus was picked last year, but it turned out to be an auspicious choice with the election of Donald Trump throwing the science community into uncharted policy waters.

Trying to make sense of what life will be like for US scientists under the Trump administration were five people with extensive experience of working closely with recent US presidents.

Chairing the session was Neal Lane, who served as Bill Clinton’s presidential science adviser for two years in the 1990s. Also present was physicist John Holdren, who spent eight years until last month as Barack Obama’s science chief, for which the audience gave him a generous round of applause.

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The February 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

PWFeb17cover-500-ruleBy Matin Durrani

It’s time to check out the February issue of Physics World magazine, where our cover story looks at the physicists studying how dinosaurs moved. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.com here.

There’s also a great feature about whether supersolids could be making a comeback, while science writer Brian Clegg explains why anticipating people’s questions is the secret to good science communication.

Elsewhere in the new issue, check out why Jules Verne was spot-on with the physics of drones and meet the man who’s been the driving force behind statistical physics meetings.

Remember that if you are a member of the Institute of Physics, you can read Physics World magazine every month via our digital apps for iOS, Android and desktop.

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Juan Morante: an energetic man

 

By Matin Durrani

Juan Morante, who’s boss of the Catalonian Institute for Energy Research (IREC), visited the headquarters of IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World, late last year. Morante has also just taken up the reins as the new editor-in-chief of the Journal of Physics D and was here to discuss everything about the journal, from commissioning and peer review to design and marketing.

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Physics in the US: no longer business as usual

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US (Courtesy: CBP)

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US. (Courtesy: CBP)

By Matin Durrani

Over the last couple of years here at Physics World, we’ve been publishing special reports examining the state of physics in different nations around the world, including Brazil, China, Japan, India, Korea and Mexico.

When we decided in September last year to publish our next special report in 2017 on the US, it seemed reasonable to expect that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president. For science, a Clinton presidency would pretty much have been “business as usual” and so, probably, would have been the tone of our special report.

But now that Donald Trump is in the White House, it looks as if we’re entering a period where the US is as far removed from “business as usual” as you could imagine.

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Happy New Year! The January 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

 pwjan17cover-500By Matin Durrani

Happy New Year from all the team at Physics World!

To get things off to a cracking start, check out the January issue of Physics World magazine, which has a wonderful feature by Patrick Hayden and Robert Myers about how the study of “qubits” – quantum bits of information – could be key to uniting quantum theory and general relativity. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.com from tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the new issue, you can discover how physicists have waded into the debate over whether magnetic fields can control neurons and enjoy a great feature on why some birds don’t kick out intruder cuckoo eggs.

You can also find out just why so many physicists are worried about Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration as US president.

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Diversity marks Institute of Physics awards dinner

Thumbs up - IOP president Roy Sambles at the IOP awards dinner in London on 29 November 2016

Thumbs up – Institute of Physics president Roy Sambles at the 2016 annual awards ceremony

By Matin Durrani

With the winter sun dipping over the horizon late on Tuesday afternoon, I caught the train from Bristol up to London to attend the annual awards dinner of the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World.

The event was held at the Lancaster London hotel a few minutes’ walk from Paddington station. Now, I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but I found myself seated at dinner next to Farideh Honary, a space physicist from Lancaster University.

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From penguins to photons – the December 2016 issue of Physics World is now out

pwdec16cover-200By Matin Durrani

Everyone loves physics. And everyone loves animals, right? In the December issue of Physics World magazine, which is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, University of Bristol physicist Peter Barham explains how he became an expert in penguins, studying the factors that that affect their survival and discovering how to use the spots on African penguins to identify them. You can also read the article here.

Elsewhere in the new issue, you can enjoy our selection of the best books for Christmas, discover how one physicist became a successful contemporary dancer, and find out how to spot single photons with your naked eye.

Don’t miss either the chance to win a copy of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 in our special prize puzzle.

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The beauty of gravitational waves

Painting by Penelope Cowley depicting gravitational waves is being unveiled at Cardiff University's school of physics and astronomy on 25 November 2016

Science meets art – this painting by Penelope Cowley will be unveiled at Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy on 25 November.

By Matin Durrani

A new painting by Welsh artist Penelope Cowley is the latest attempt to bring art and science together. Set to be unveiled on Friday 25 November at Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy, the 1.2 × 1.5 m picture was inspired by the recent detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO collaboration.

According to the university, the oil painting “combines a visualization of data taken from the equipment used to detect the first gravitational waves…with an imagination of some of the celestial bodies that are responsible for creating these waves, such as binary black holes and neutron stars”.

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American angst

Phot of Capital building in Wasington DC

Danger ahead – Donald Trump’s election as US president will not be business as usual for science policy. (Courtesy: iStock/uschools)

By Matin Durrani

Like many people, I’m fearful of the imminent Donald Trump presidency, given the many sexist, racist and otherwise unpleasant remarks he made during the US election campaign. However, his slogan – “Make America great again” – proved powerfully effective for many voters. Who, after all, could disagree with renewed domestic glory? Sadly, Trump’s plans for achieving that goal – what little we know of them – are based on such ill-informed and ignorant views that he could damage America’s long-standing leadership in many areas, including science.

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