Posts by: Louise Mayor

Sweet-talking physics

By Louise Mayor

We’re always up for trying new formats and approaches to journalism here at Physics World. You’ve probably seen our documentary-type films, podcasts and 100 Second Science video series, but the latest addition to our repertoire is a short monthly video in which one of our editorial team highlights something in the upcoming or current issue as a kind of taster.

So this month, I decided to take the plunge and get in front of the camera myself to present the third edition of what we have started jokingly referring to in the office as our “fireside chats”. (Here are the July and August versions.)

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle solutions

By Louise Mayor

Infographic designed to look like the dial for a safe, with a ring of colors around the edge showing information in the same way as a pie chart. Each sector is labelled with its category and number and they are: red, Puzzle 1, 5376; orange, Puzzle 2, 2593; yellow, Puzzle 3, 683; teal, Puzzle 4, 369; blue, Puzzle 5, 186; and dark blue, All five puzzles combined, 117.

Infographic showing the number of correct answers submitted to the online answer-checking tool for each of Physics World’s five anniversary puzzles.

(Warning: spoilers below for those who haven’t yet tried the Physics World at 25 puzzles.)

October 2013 was Physics World’s 25th birthday. It was also the month in which, unusually for me, I compulsively checked the comments being posted on this blog. That’s because we published a series of five physics-themed puzzles as part of the celebrations, which left me both (a) excited to see if people would enjoy them, and (b) nervous that some loose cannon might reveal an answer and spoil the fun! (It didn’t calm my worries that the very first comment made on the very first puzzle – now deleted – was indeed the answer to the puzzle.)

With more than 1000 comments posted in total, the response to the puzzles was staggering. Commenters posted where they’d come in the rankings (“Hallelujah! #121. That was a tough slog.”), encouraged others to persevere (“Ted, I think you’re nearly there. You’re right about the first word”) and recipients of help were very grateful (“Thanks uszkanni! I’ve been going a bit mental on that one.”)

The infographic above-right shows the number of correct answers submitted to the online answer-checking tool for each of the puzzles, as of early December. We were very impressed with those numbers: not everyone at Physics World HQ was so successful.

Some commenters also debated whether there were mistakes in the puzzles or even more than one possible answer. “Please do better next time Louise,” someone warned me.

Unfortunately, as I couldn’t debate this without giving the game away, my lips were sealed! Today, however, we can announce not only the single-word answers to the puzzles, but also how you can arrive at these answers. Thanks again to Colin, Nick and Pete at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who composed all the puzzles as well as the solutions below.

If you haven’t tried the puzzles yet, and would like to have a go before seeing the solutions, here are the links to each:

Puzzle 1
Puzzle 2
Puzzle 3
Puzzle 4
Puzzle 5
(Puzzle round-up)

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Anniversary issue inspires debate

Photo of John Preskill

John Preskill at Caltech comparing his group’s choices with ours for the top discoveries of the last 25 years and the biggest unanswered questions. (Courtesy: IQI, Caltech)

By Louise Mayor

Unless you’ve been living under a stone or aren’t a regular reader, you’ll know that this month marked the 25th anniversary of Physics World – the member magazine of the Institute of Physics (IOP).

We pushed the boat out by turning our October issue into a celebration of all things physics – past, present and future – by picking our top five discoveries in fundamental physics over the last 25 years, the top five images during that period, the five biggest unanswered questions, the top five people changing how physics is done, as well as the top five spin-offs from physics that will improve people’s lives over the next quarter century.

Apart from the special 25th-anniversary issue being the top story on the BBC website for a glorious few hours early in October, we were particularly pleased to see that our pick of the top breakthroughs in fundamental physics inspired a fascinating discussion at John Preskill’s group meeting over at Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter.

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle round-up

Physics World at 25 Puzzle

By Louise Mayor

Twenty-six days ago we launched the Physics World at 25 Puzzle with the first and easiest of the five puzzles in the series. Today we announced the fifth, final and most fiendish puzzle of all.

Did anyone out there manage to bag the whole set? See where you rank by entering all five answers, in sequential order and as a single string of text with no spaces, in the box below.

However you do, we sincerely hope you enjoy trying the puzzles.

For any frustrated puzzlers out there who are at the end of their tether and want to know the answers, do not fret: the solutions will be revealed in the January 2014 issue of Physics World.

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle 5

By Louise Mayor

It is time for the final and most fiendish challenge in the Physics World at 25 Puzzle. Have you got what it takes to figure it out? #PW25puzzle

Check out our round-up of the entire puzzle series where you can enter your answers to all five puzzles.

 

This question consists of a list of 55 words, plus one lone word. You have to work out where the lone word slots into the list. Each of the 56 words can be associated with another word and this second set of 56 words are in alphabetical order. The second set of 56 words divide up into seven sets of eight words, with the seven sets representing seven methods of pairing. The list reads from left to right, top to bottom.

Where does FLOW slot into the following list?

METEOR        POSITRON      PRINCIPLE     MARS

NUMBER        MODEL         COINCIDENCE   BORDA

DISH          NEUTRON       UNIVERSE      EFFECT

MOON          LANE          DAY           MAN

LINES         HOLOGRAPHY    KLEIN         NAMAKA

KING          SUN           GIBBS         INDUCTANCE

FREQUENCY     TIME          WATER         ENERGY

IO            MASS          CYCLOTRON     LANDAU

PHOBOS        WELL          LEVY          FERRIMAGNETISM

TRITON        TON           RESISTANCE    PRESSURE

ROSE          GROSS         CONSTANT      CHARON

ARGON         NEUTRINO      FORD          TITAN   

CONDUCTANCE   FRICTION      MIRANDA       FORCE

POWER         DARCY         MODULUS

The answer needs to be entered as three words, in this order: the associated word of the listed word that precedes FLOW, FLOW’s associated word, and the associated word of the listed word that follows FLOW. The three words should be entered as a single string of text with no spaces.

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle 4

By Louise Mayor

Prepare to be perplexed by the fourth and penultimate brainteaser in the Physics World at 25 Puzzle. #PW25puzzle

 

Which food is, unusually, mentioned in the third of these well-known laws of physics?

KEPLcRS FIddT iAW ecYc hHec adu OrBug ey hVbit PLsNgm oS ff fjagnhf WenH bbg iUq sg Odh cF fme dfCv

egmyffa kijpNd vql DffmqszgS doW kHd garbtnpgmvbd dF kx nBJdCe xdLjcpe co uic McaS knD jHe FjRcE ACgecG ON IT

THE mmIRD LAW OF THERMODYNAMwCS GIVst xHe kNoRxPY iF nqsnx Ay kjMsivmTUio jjPnOACHlS ZERO

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle 3

By Louise Mayor

Have you got what it takes to crack the third conundrum in the Physics World at 25 Puzzle? You can catch up on the previous two instalments here. #PW25puzzle

 

You are trying to find a phrase with the pattern 3, 6, 2, 8, 8. The puzzle answer is the six-letter word. We hope you enjoy the joke.

QIGC-YLKQDQRIKR INTPRDLKQ DKYGTSDKA IWYBPKAI PKS YLOOIGPRDLK ICCIYRQ

QDHA-EJSDPWRSEKJ

RKPPDRSEKJ SK LDJQESY-ATJRSEKJWH WMMPKXEIWSEKJQ AKP IWJY-DHDRSPKJ QYQSDIQ

IMJQHN OPTPY JF PVY YDYEPMJH ITO WX T OPJEVTOPAE GYPVJN

PWOct13puzzle-3

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle 2

By Louise Mayor

Welcome to the second instalment of the Physics World at 25 Puzzle. The first puzzle was released last week and your second challenge lies below. #PW25puzzle

 

Is Schrödinger’s cat alive or dead?

1. Schrödinger’s cat is alive.
2. Schrödinger’s cat is dead.
3. Exactly one of statements 6 and 9 is true.
4. Exactly one of statements 2 and 6 is false.
5. Statements 4, 5 and 10 are all false.
6. Exactly one of statements 1 and 10 is false.
7. Exactly 5 statements are true.
8. Exactly one of statements 3 and 10 is false.
9. Exactly one of statements 6 and 10 is true.
10. Exactly one of statements 1 and 2 is false.
11. Statements 1, 8 and 11 are all false.

Enter your answer as a list, in numerical order, of the number(s) of the statements that are definitely true, as a single string with no spaces, such as, for example, 25811.

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Physics World at 25: Puzzle 1

By Louise Mayor

Physics World at 25 Puzzle

This month is the 25th anniversary of Physics World – the member magazine of the Institute of Physics – and in addition to a special celebratory issue, we’ve decided to set you a challenge.

In fact, we have teamed up with GCHQ – one of the UK’s three Intelligence Agencies and home to some of the country’s hottest code-breaking talent – to create with us a set of five physics-themed puzzles. The puzzles have been devised by three GCHQ members of staff, who today we still know only as Colin, Nick and Pete. (Thank you, guys!)

Below is Puzzle 1, the first of the five. The rest will be released on successive Tuesdays throughout October on this blog. The first is the easiest – they only get harder from here on in!

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An afternoon of quantum theory

By Louise Mayor

Yesterday I had an exciting trip out of the office.

This month's cover story

This month’s cover story.

Earlier this week, one of Physics World’s freelance writers, Jon Cartwright, told how me he’d been invited to the Bristol University theory department’s weekly seminar. Felix Flicker, a 2nd-year PhD student who organizes these events, had seen Jon’s article “The life of psi” in this month’s Physics World, which discusses a theorem published in Nature Physics. The theorem is interesting because if its assumptions hold, it rules out one of the four interpretations of quantum mechanics and leaves us with three.

I wanted in on the seminar action!

Last year when I was planning the Physics World special issue on quantum frontiers (which was out in March and is still available as a free PDF download), I had approached Jon to ask whether he’d like to tackle a quantum topic, and he let me know he was interested in covering the paper by Matthew Pusey, Jonathan Barrett and Terry Rudolph. Jon had seen the story reported elsewhere but had found these accounts were light on the details and didn’t get to the bottom of the science. I liked the idea and Jon went ahead. Once the story arrived in my inbox I was hooked! I found it to be one of those stories that covers some tricky concepts but if you let yourself become immersed in the story and think through what’s being explained, is very rewarding.

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