Posts by: Michael Banks

A puzzling neutrino detector, the best way to crumple cans

Standard model: Super Kamiokande jigsaw puzzle (Courtesy: ICRR)

Standard model: Super Kamiokande jigsaw puzzle (Courtesy: ICRR)

By Michael Banks

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a puzzle lover, the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) in Tokyo, Japan, has just the thing. It’s created a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle of the Super Kamiokande neutrino detecter in Kamioka, Japan. The detector is a giant stainless-steel tank filled with 50, 000 tonnes of ultra-pure water and lined with 13,000 photo-multiplier tubes that detect the Cherenkov radiation released when a neutrino collides with a water molecule. In other words, it’s a jigsaw puzzle featuring water and lots and lots of identical tubes.

Costing ¥1500 (£10) and with a finished size of 38 x 26 cm, a limited number of the jigsaws went on sale in late October. But its fiendish nature doesn’t seem to have put anyone off: the puzzle sold out within days. Jigsaw enthusiasts, however, will be pleased to know that, as, the ICRR is planning to release more. (more…)

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

Riding around KAGRA

 KAGRA gravitational-wave observatory in Kamioka

Tunnel vision: entry point to the KAGRA gravitational-wave observatory in Kamioka. (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks in Kamioka, Japan

Of all the places I have been, I can’t remember being asked to ride a bicycle for 3 km down a dimly lit tunnel that had water dripping – sometimes pouring – from the ceiling.

But that’s what happened today when I visited the KAGRA gravitational-wave observatory in northern Japan.

Rising bright and early – a common occurrence this week thanks to jet lag – I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Toyama.

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged , | 1 Comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Reforming Japanese science

Image of John Hernlund

Making changes: John Hernlund.

By Michael Banks in Tokyo, Japan

Following this morning’s talk at the Tokyo Institute of Technology (as well as a mock earthquake evacuation drill that took place just afterwards), I took the opportunity to visit the Earth-Life Science Institute (ELSI), which is located in a neighbouring building at Tokyo Tech.

Like the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU), which I visited yesterday, ELSI is part of the World Premier International Research Center Initiative (WPI).

ELSI began in 2012 and has funding for 10 years from the WPI. There are around 100 people working there, the majority of whom are from outside Japan. Its main aim is to understand how life began on Earth and how that can be applied to the search for life on other planets. It covers a range of disciplines from astrophysics to microbiology.

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Reforming Japanese science | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

A decade of success

Image of Hitoshi Murayama

Looking forward: Hitoshi Murayama. (Courtesy: Kavli IPMU)

By Michael Banks in Tokyo, Japan

Just a couple of weeks ago the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe (IPMU) marked its 10th anniversary.

Located on the University of Tokyo’s Kashiwa campus, the institute held a big celebration that was attended by hundreds of researchers including Nobel prize winners. The occasion was even marked by the creation of a bespoke sweet (see image below right).

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged | Comments Off on A decade of success | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

What’s next for superconductivity research?

Hideo Hosono from the Tokyo Institute of Technology

Seeing the bigger picture: Hideo Hosono from the Tokyo Institute of Technology. (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks in Tokyo, Japan

This morning I took the train to the Tokyo Institute of Technology, which lies about 10 km south-west of Tokyo.

I met with Hideo Hosono who rose to fame almost a decade ago when he found a new class of superconductors known as iron pnictides.

In a 2008 paper, Hosono and colleagues discovered superconductivity in LaOFeAs at 26 K. The crystalline material comprises layers of lanthanum and oxygen sandwiched between layers of iron and arsenic — and is doped with fluoride ions.

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged | 1 Comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Giving scientific advice in Japan

Prof Tateo Arimoto

Sound advice: Tateo Arimoto

By Michael Banks in Tokyo, Japan

US President Donald Trump might be in Japan right now eating hamburgers and playing golf with the recently re-elected prime minister Shinzo Abe, but his presence didn’t stop me and Physics World editor Matin Durrani having our own high-level meeting as we began our week-long tour of the country.

After landing at Haneda airport in Tokyo, we headed straight to our downtown hotel for a meeting with Tateo Arimoto, who is director of science, technology and innovation at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies and a principal fellow of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST).

Over a light dinner of sushi, rice and vegetables, we had a wide-ranging and frank discussion about the role of scientific advice in Japan.

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Giving scientific advice in Japan | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Konnichiwa Japan

Lake at the University of Tokyo

An area of tranquility at the University of Tokyo (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks

Suitcases packed, Matin Durrani and I will be travelling to Japan over the weekend for a week-long road trip that will see us heading to Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Kamioka.

It’s a busy schedule that includes meeting with senior policy-makers and visiting a number of high-profile institutes.

The main purpose of our visit is to gather material for a special report on Japan that will be published in February 2018 (for this year’s reports on China and the US see here and here).

(more…)

Posted in Japan 2017 | Tagged , | Comments Off on Konnichiwa Japan | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Hawking’s PhD thesis, Einstein letter up for auction, first zero

By Michael Banks

Page of Stephen Hawking's PhD thesis

Courtesy: University of Cambridge

The PhD thesis of the University of Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking was made freely available to read this week by the university’s Library’s Office of Scholarly Communication.

Hawking completed his PhD – entitled “Properties of expanding universes” – in 1966 when he was 24 years old. To mark Open Access Week 2017, the 117-page tome was posted on the university’s Apollo open-access repository, which is already home to some 15,000 research articles and 2400 theses.

Yet within hours of Hawking’s opus being posted online, demand was so great that the site crashed. However, according to the university, it was still downloaded more than 60,000 times in the first 24 hours.

“By making my PhD thesis open access, I hope to inspire people around the world to look up at the stars and not down at their feet,” Hawking noted. “Anyone, anywhere in the world should have free, unhindered access to not just my research, but to research of every great and enquiring mind across the spectrum of human understanding.”

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , | Comments Off on Hawking’s PhD thesis, Einstein letter up for auction, first zero | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

The quest to create metallic hydrogen

Image of Isaac Silvera

Pressure experts: Isaac Silvera (right) together with Ranga Dias.

By Michael Banks

A team led by Isaac Silvera at Harvard University hit the headlines earlier this year when it claimed to have been the first to create metallic hydrogen. Silvera, who will be giving an invited talk about metallic hydrogen at the Chinese Physical Society meeting at Sichuan University (7–9 September), outlines the challenges in working with the material and what future applications it may have. The event is co-sponsored by the Institute of Physics, which publishes Physics World.

(more…)

Posted in General | Tagged , , | Comments Off on The quest to create metallic hydrogen | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Indian independence, Doppler effect on a train, contagious science

 

By Michael Banks

This week India celebrated 70 years of independence. So what better way to mark the occasion than a music video? Step forward 20 or so scientists from the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), who dub themselves the Rocket Band. Over the space of 18 months, they worked feverishly to create a seven-minute music video entitled “I am an Indian”. Mostly shot on the coast of the Arabian Sea, the video features the researchers walking along the beach as well as an animation of the Indian flag being put on the surface on the Moon. “We have a lot of talent in ISRO, making rockets comes naturally to many of us while making music is tough but it is not rocket science,” aerospace engineer Shiju G Thomas told NDTV.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Indian independence, Doppler effect on a train, contagious science | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile