Posts by: Hamish Johnston

NASA showcases its latest tech investments

Cutting edge: NASA's latest X-Plane (Courtesy: Lucina Melesio)

Cutting edge: NASA’s latest X-Plane (Courtesy: Lucina Melesio)

By Lucina Melesio in Washington DC

Yesterday in Washington DC NASA showcased its latest technology investments.  The event took place just few steps away from Capitol Hill, where the US Congress will decide on the current administration’s proposed budget cuts for the agency.

“The technologies displayed here today illustrate how sustained investments made by NASA, industry and academia directly benefit our nation’s innovation economy,” reads the event’s brochure. “These technologies help America maintain its global leadership in aerospace and enable NASA’s current and future missions of exploration and discovery,” it continues.

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Send a birthday card to Fermilab, a huge periodic table, art meets quantum computing

Best wishes: a birthday card for Fermilab (Courtesy: Corinne Mucha/ Symmetry)

Best wishes: a birthday card for Fermilab (Courtesy: Corinne Mucha/ Symmetry)

By Hamish Johnston and Sarah Tesh

50 years ago this month, the particle physics facility that was to become Fermilab opened its doors for the first time. To celebrate a half a century of physics on the Illinois prairie, the folks at Symmetry have produced a set of themed birthday cards that you can print-out and send to your friends and family. Indeed, there is still time to send a card to Fermilab itself, because the big day isn’t until next Thursday (15th of June). My favourite card (above) uses colliding piñatas to illustrate the plethora of particles that were produced in Fermilab’s Tevatron  – which smashed together protons and antiprotons between 1983-2011.

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Monuments to peer review and Canada, Marie Curie as superhero, a 3D book about Einstein

Chirikov's cube: a monument to peer review (Courtesy: Igor Chirikov)

Cubist sculpture: a monument to peer review. (Courtesy: Igor Chirikov)

By Michael Banks and Hamish Johnston

You may remember a campaign to create a monument dedicated to those hard-working people who peer-review research papers. Last year, sociologist Igor Chirikov, from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, raised $2521 on Kickstarter to turn an “ugly” block of concrete outside the university’s Institute of Education into a monument that reads “accept”, “minor changes”, “major changes”, “revise and resubmit” and “reject” on its five visible sides. Well, after months of toil that monument has now been unveiled by Chirikov in a ceremony at the institution that was attended by over 100 supporters. Most understand the sarcastic nature of the monument and love it,” says Chirikov. “Many also wonder what’s on the bottom side of the monument.” Chirikov is thinking of hanging a small mirror on a nearby tree so that everyone can see “Accept” on the top of the cube.

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Identifying fingerprints, attractive scientists, what physics students should know

Easily recognized: could you be a fingerprint analyser? (Courtesy: CC BY 3.0/ Frettie)

Easily recognized: could you do fingerprint analysis? (CC BY 3.0 / Frettie)

 

By Hamish Johnston

Do you have the pattern-matching skills needed for identifying fingerprints? If so, researchers at National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US want to hear from you. They have put together a visual quiz that tests your ability to “focus on minute visual details that would leave most people cross-eyed”. You can try the test here.

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Einstein, Hawking and Rees set to music, singing about virtual particles, tiny satellite will soon blast off

Singing the multiverse: the Salisbury Chamber Chorus (Courtesy: Salisbury Chamber Chorus )

Singing multiverse: the Salisbury Chamber Chorus. (Courtesy: Salisbury Chamber Chorus)

By Hamish Johnston

“What I wanted to write was something about the universe and our place in it: from the Big Bang, through our insignificance in the vastness of it all, our need for exploration and where space travel will take us, to the nature of light or the make-up of electrons, and finally ideas about multiverses and infinity.”

That is the motivation behind the “secular oratorio” Space Time Matter Energy by Simon McEnery, which premieres at St Mary le Strand Church in London on 10 June. The piece melds the words of famous physicists such as Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees and Albert Einstein with music and song from the Salisbury Chamber Chorus, the percussion ensemble Beaten Track and the pianist Peter Toye.  If you can’t be in London on the 10th, there is also a performance in Salisbury on 17 June.

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Physics graduate is just 14, high drama at the LHC, the physics of number two

 

By Hamish Johnston and Michael Banks

Carson Huey-You was just 11 years old when he arrived at Texas Christian University to study physics. Now, at the ripe old age of 14, he is about to graduate, according to an article in the Huffington Post. “I knew I wanted to do physics when I was in high school, but then quantum physics was the one that stood out to me, because it was abstract,” says Huey-You. Most American children start high school at age 14, but Huey-You was learning calculus by the time he was three – a subject usually reserved for high school seniors. And precociousness runs in the family because his younger brother Cannan is starting university in September aged 11. The siblings are delightful and interviewed in the above video.

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How will Brexit affect science in the rest of the EU?

Brexit panel: left to right are Rolf Tarrach, Ole Petersen, Mark Ferguson and Gail Cardew

Brexit panel: left to right are Rolf Tarrach, Ole Petersen, Mark Ferguson and Gail Cardew.

By Hamish Johnston

Here in the UK it’s easy to forget that our exit from the EU could have significant unintended consequences for scientists in the remaining 27 member nations.

Yesterday, I was at a public forum called “Brexit: the scientific impact”, which was held at the Royal Institution in London. While there was much discussion about domestic challenges, the second session – “Brexit: the scientific impact on the EU-27” – provided a fascinating insight into the challenges facing the UK’s neighbours.

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LEGO acoustics, potato cannons go to war, personal politics and popular science

By Hamish Johnston

In the above video Brian Anderson of Brigham Young University shows how the acoustic concept of “time reversal” can be used to knock over a series of LEGO figures using sound. The idea is that sound waves are broadcast into an environment and captured by a sensor at a specific location. The signal is then used to work-out how the sound waves bounced about before reaching the location and this information is then used to target that specific location with subsequent sound waves. In the demonstration, sound knocks over 29 LEGO figures one-by-one. It’s very impressive and entertaining as well.

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John Ellis on physics after the Higgs boson, calculating the loudness of the Big Bang, the chemistry of ironing

Looking ahead: John Ellis on the future of particle physics (Courtesy: IAI TV)

Looking ahead: John Ellis on the future of particle physics. (Courtesy: IAI TV)

By Hamish Johnston

In 2012 particle physicists gave themselves a giant pat on the back when the Higgs boson was discovered at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN – nearly 50 years after it was first predicted to exist. But what have particle physicists done since, and what does the future hold for the field? In a video called “After the Higgs boson: what’s next for 21st century physics?” from the Institute of Art and Ideas, the theoretical physicist John Ellis charts the future course of particle physics. Pay attention for a joke about the UK’s foreign secretary Boris Johnson.

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Hidden Figures behind NASA’s success, LEGO’s famous five women of space, seismic goal in Barcelona

Flight planner: NASA's Katherine Johnson now has a NASA computational facility named after her (Courtesy: NASA)

Flight planner: NASA’s Katherine Johnson now has a NASA computational facility named after her. (Courtesy: NASA)

By Hamish Johnston

International Women’s Day was this week and to celebrate, we have published K Renee Horton’s review of the film Hidden Figures and the book by Margot Lee Shetterly that the film is based on. The book and film tell the true stories of African-American female mathematicians who worked at NASA and played a crucial role in America’s race into space during the Cold War. Indeed, they calculated the flight paths that would send Neil Armstrong to the Moon.

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