Posts by: James Dacey

Watch the Physics World Hangout about the physics of cancer

By James Dacey

A little earlier today we hosted a Google+ Hangout about the July issue of Physics World – a special issue about an emerging new research field called the “physics of cancer”. In case you were unable to join us for the live event (or would like to enjoy it all over again), you can watch it again via this YouTube recording.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , | Leave a comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Hang out with Physics World as we discuss the physics of cancer

By James Dacey

Cover of Physics World July 2013 special issue on "physics of cancer"

Physics World July 2013 special issue on the physics of cancer.

Tomorrow we will be hosting a Google Hangout about the July issue of Physics World – a special issue on an emergent field known as the “physics of cancer”.  If you have not read the issue already, it is available as a free PDF download.

I will be joined in the Hangout by Matin Durrani, the editor of Physics World, and Louise Mayor, the magazine’s features editor, and the three of us will be discussing the themes and issues raised by the magazine. We would also like to hear from you on this topic. So please send us your questions about the issue by posting a comment below this article.

You will be able to watch the Hangout live, on both the Physics World Google+ page and the Physics World YouTube channel. The Hangout will be taking place this Friday at 12.15 p.m. local time, which corresponds to the following times:

UTC 11:15

London (BST) 12.15 p.m.

New York (EDT) 7.15 a.m.

Mumbai (IST) 4.45 p.m.

Sydney (EST) 9.15 p.m.

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

CERN teams up with EUROVISION to inspire the next Peter Higgs

By James Dacey

Illustration of children learning about science

CERN is seeking to inspire tweens in science. (Courtesy: iStockphoto)

I must confess that I was not aware of this partnership, and I must admit it’s not a partnership I would have seen coming. CERN has teamed up with the organization behind the Eurovision Song Contest, in awarding grants to two multimedia companies to develop content that can spark the scientific curiosity of “tweens”.

Okay, let’s back up a second and define a few terms in this equation. Tweens are described by CERN as children aged 8 to 12; not quite teenagers but no longer big babies either. My teacher friends will shoot me down in flames for this cod-pedology but I guess this age group is old enough to be excited by science but not yet old enough to start truly engaging with scientific concepts.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Should governments provide funds for the search for extraterrestrial intelligence?

Photo of the Lovell Telescope

The Lovell Telescope was used during the SETI Institute’s Project Phoenix.
(Courtesy: Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, University of Manchester)

By James Dacey

Are we alone in the universe? It’s the age-old question that took on a whole new significance once we had built the tools to transmit and receive radio waves across interstellar distances. With the advent of radio telescopes, we had finally acquired the faculties to listen for the signs of an alien race trying to make contact. The search for extraterrestrial intelligence – better known as SETI – took a giant leap forwards in 1984, when the SETI Institute was founded in California. This institute is the nerve centre of SETI activities and it is funded almost entirely from private sources.

But while SETI activities have been strongly associated with the US, the movement has been international since its outset. Here in the UK, perhaps the most significant contribution has probably been the country’s involvement in Project Phoenix, which between 1998 and 2003 used the 76 m Lovell Telescope (pictured above) at Jodrell Bank Observatory near Manchester.

It seems that the desire among British scientists to search for aliens is still alive and well, as a bunch of academics has recently set up the UK SETI Research Network. The group held its first formal activity last Friday (5 July), during three SETI sessions at this year’s National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2013) at the University of St Andrews in Scotland.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Launch your own personalized lunar mission

By James Dacey

Photo of thin spacecraft

Photograph of a prototype Pocket Spacecraft: Thin-Film Scout

If you’re looking for a gift idea for a budding Buzz Aldrin then you might want to read on. A new crowd-funding initiative is offering the general public the chance to launch and control our own miniature missions to the Moon. Apparently, we are being given the chance to personalize our own “pocket spacecraft” that will hitch a ride on a commercial rocket before breaking free and spiralling down onto the lunar surface.

The project is the brainchild of some of the people behind the first space mission funded on KickStarter – a website that allows creative ventures to raise funds from the public. That initial project, called KickSat, offered people the chance to launch miniature satellites into the Earth’s atmosphere. It was a success and the mini satellites will be launched via a NASA mission later this year. This latest project is also being run through KickStarter and this time round we can send our space machines to the Moon.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged | Leave a comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

What is the greatest asset a physicist could bring to our understanding of cancer?

By James Dacey

 

Image of metastatic cancer cell

Confocal microscope image of a metastatic breast cancer cell. (Courtesy: Shawn Carey/Cynthia Reinhart-King)

When you think about the types of scientist involved in the study of cancer you probably wouldn’t immediately think of physicists. But a burgeoning field of research referred to as the “physics of cancer” is seeing physical scientists bring new tools and fresh perspectives to this most complicated of diseases. The July issue of Physics World – which can be downloaded for free – is a special issue that looks at some of the most fascinating experimental and theoretical work in this field.

After taking a look at the issue you might want to take part in this week’s Facebook poll:

What is the greatest asset a physicist could bring to our understanding of cancer?

Fresh pair of eyes on a longstanding problem

Ability to identify key variables within a complex system

Focus on physical properties such as forces and fields

Other (please suggest as a comment here or on our Facebook page)

To take part please visit our Facebook page.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , | 3 Comments | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Has Voyager 1 left the solar system yet?

By James Dacey

Artist's impression of Voyager spacecraft

Artist’s concept of NASA’s Voyager spacecraft. (Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“It is the consensus of the Voyager science team that Voyager 1 has not yet left the solar system or reached interstellar space.”

That is what Voyager scientist Edward Stone had to say on the matter back in March following reports that NASA’s most intrepid explorer had finally passed beyond the edge of our solar system. Today, three new papers published in Science back up this statement, asserting that the Voyager 1 had instead entered a distinct section at the edge of the solar system.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged | 5 Comments | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

View from the beamlines

By James Dacey

Photo of film shoot at ILL

This photo looks a little bit like we were filming the moment that I got down on my knee and popped the big question to Andrew Harrison, the Director General of the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL). While that would certainly make for an intriguing story worthy of a blog entry, the truth is that earlier this week we were interviewing Harrison for a short film about his international research facility. In case you are still wondering, the reason I am kneeling is so that we could frame our shot to include the dome that houses the ILL’s nuclear reactor, where neutrons are generated.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Is creativity as important in science as it is in art?

By James Dacey

Science-inspired art

“Parity Series, Far Infrared”. (Courtesy: Mehri Imani, Central Saint Martins)

The worlds of art and science came together yesterday in central London in a celebration of creativity across disciplines. A symposium at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design was held to recognize the first group of students to complete the Art and Science MA course – the first course of its kind in the UK. Students taking this course are given the chance to explore the “creative relationships between art and science and how to communicate them”.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Which Nobel-prize-winning physics invention has had the most profound impact on society?

By James Dacey

Lightbulb and fibre optics

Physics has brought transformative inventions. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/Péter Mács)

Earlier this week my colleague reported the death of Heinrich Rohrer, the Swiss condensed-matter physicist who shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics for the invention of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) at IBM’s Zürich Research Laboratory. Rohrer shared one half of the prize with his IBM colleague Gerd Binnig, while the other half went to the West German Ernst Ruska for his invention of the electron microscope (EM).

By bringing into view the atomic world, EMs and STMs have undoubtedly had a huge impact on science. Before their invention, optical microscopy had been a truly transformative technology. But it had been fundamentally limited to seeing things that are (roughly speaking) larger than the wavelength of the light used to produce the image. And since the wavelength of visible light is some 10,000 times larger than the typical distance between two atoms, we could not see individual atoms.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile