Posts by: James Dacey

Documentary explores the history of astronomy in China

 

By James Dacey

A new documentary explores the development of astronomy in China, taking viewers from the protoscience of ancient China through to the nation’s ambitious space exploration programmes of today. Directed by Beijing-based filmmaker René Seegers, the film has recently been broadcast on Shanghai Television along with screenings at a range of academic institutions, cultural and scholarly societies and embassies throughout China. Now, you can watch the film on the Physics World YouTube channel (with English subtitles).

“The Ancient Chinese believed that Heaven was a power, or a deity, which judged humans. Heaven was responsible for weather and for natural disasters. It was not a realm accessible to humans,” explains Ying Da, the documentary’s presenter. Ying is a media personality who shot to fame in China for directing the family sitcom I Love My Family (1993–1994).

Of course, in recent times Chinese scientists and engineers have taken a much more proactive approach to understanding the cosmos. Since the People’s Republic of China launched its first satellite in 1970 (Dong Fang Hong I), the nation has been ramping up its space programmes. The documentary takes viewers to observatories and the final construction phase of the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), the largest single-dish radio telescope on Earth. It also joins Chinese scientists in Antarctica and explores the leading role China is playing in the construction and operation of the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii.

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Exploring Bristol’s physics heritage

Sir John Enderby and Felix James

Meeting of minds: Sir John Enderby (right) was Felix James’ perfect physics tour guide.  (Courtesy: Felix James)

By Felix James, a student on a work-experience placement with IOP Publishing

If you live in the UK, you are probably aware that at this time of year many school students are asked to do some kind of work experience. Teenagers like me find a placement we are interested in and then go there for a week – rather than school – to get a taste for what work is really like. For me this meant a week at IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World, but it included an excellent tour of the physics department at the nearby University of Bristol.

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Creating human organs on chips

Organ on a chip research

I’ll have a kidney and chips please. (Courtesy: James Dacey)

 

By James Dacey reporting from Boston, Massachusetts

Having left a rain-soaked Bristol on Monday, I was greeted by an even more rain-soaked Boston on Tuesday. Fortunately, I spent my first day in the US under a roof at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. I was there to learn about an intriguing technology that reproduces the functionality of human organs on polymer chips about the size of a little finger.

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Visiting the most powerful laser in the world

 

By James Dacey

You might find this surprising, but Romania is one of the main reasons I became a journalist. Back in 2006, having recently graduated with a degree in natural sciences, I spent the summer in the Transylvanian city of Brasov, teaching English to school kids. While there, I was talked into writing a few articles about my experiences for the local tourism magazine, Brasov Visitor. To cut a rambling story short, I had a memorable summer and caught the writing bug. Eventually, I landed a job at Physics World, which enabled me to combine my journalistic leanings with my scientific background.

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Eye-catching signs from March for Science Bristol

Courtesy: James Dacey

Courtesy: James Dacey

By James Dacey

On Saturday, there were almost 600 sister events across the globe in support of the March for Science gathering in Washington, DC. One such event occurred in Bristol, UK, where Physics World magazine is produced, which featured a march and speeches from science communicators. I popped along to the event with my camera and here are some of the most eye-catching signs from the day.

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Guest presenter shakes up the Physics World podcast

By James Dacey

 

Physics World podcast: Neutrino tour
See below for details of how to download this programme and how to subscribe to future podcasts
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Regular listeners of the Physics World podcast will have noticed that things have been a little different for the past couple of months. That’s because we’ve handed over the presenter mic to science communicator Andrew Glester, who has brought his own unique style to proceedings. Based in Bristol, UK, just a few kilometres from the Physics World HQ, Glester is a presenter and co-founder of Cosmic Shed – a podcast about science and storytelling, recorded in Andrew’s garden shed.

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LGBT engineers share their inspiring experiences

 

By James Dacey

February in the UK is LGBT History Month, an annual event to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. This year, three engineering organizations have got involved by producing a series of online videos profiling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, InterEngineering and the engineering firm Mott MacDonald, the ‘What’s it Like?’ video series is designed to “inspire prospective engineers who are LGBT, as well as existing engineers who may wish to come out or transition at work”.

The video above features a medley of quotes from people profiled in the films, including Mark McBride-Wright, who is the chair and co-founder of InterEngineering and a gay man. A not-for-profit outfit, InterEngineering seeks a more inclusive profession by running panel discussions and providing career development opportunities for LGBT engineers. “As a profession, we are at the beginning of a journey creating an inclusive industry for everyone and I hope these videos will play a part in attracting LGBT+ students to the engineering industry,” says McBride-Wright.

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Create films with the sounds of space

 

By James Dacey

Last weekend I went to a Davie Bowie tribute night at a local pub in Bath. It was a fun evening – roughly a year since the artist passed away – where local musicians played classic tracks by Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and several of Bowie’s other alter egos. One of the more surreal moments of the night was when a man in a pink suit took to the stage to play what the band called his “spaceship” – producing a whirring, repetitive electronic sound that built up to a crescendo. For a few minutes we were transported into space, just as Bowie intended with many of his memorable songs.

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Physics in Beijing – a photo tour

By James Dacey

Late last year, I visited the fast-growing physics powerhouse of Beijing, China. Along the way I took snapshots of the people, events and labs I visited – a selection of which I’ve put together here to share my highlights.

Photo of a colourful pagoda ceiling

ATLAS lookalike: Colourful pavilion ceiling resembles particle detector.

During a break from the serious business of science journalism, I visited Beihei Park, a 1000-year-old former imperial park close to the Forbidden City in central Beijing. While looking up at this ornate pavilion ceiling, I couldn’t help being reminded of the ATLAS detector at CERN.

 

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Probing the quantum nature of water

 

By James Dacey in Beijing on Friday 4 November

After enjoying clear blue skies for the first couple of days of my visit to Beijing, the breeze has disappeared and the smog has taken its hold. One local scientist told me this latest wave is due to pollution from factories south-west of the city, but others have told me it is difficult to pinpoint a particular source. Facemasks are being worn by every other person in the streets, but fortunately I’ve been sheltered by the walls and ceilings of Peking University (PKU).

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