Posts by: Michael Banks

CMS on canvas

Collage of the CMS detector at CERN

Collage of the CMS detector at CERN created by Genevieve Lovegrove.

By Michael Banks

We’ve already had a LEGO model of the giant CMS detector at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) but now University of Leicester modern literature student Genevieve Lovegrove has attempted to go one better by creating a collage of the LHC detector made from everyday objects.

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Homebrew physics

Will Alston with Rhubarbe de Saison

Cambridge astrophysicist Will Alston together with his winning tipple. (Courtesy: Will Alston/Thornbridge)

By Michael Banks

An astrophysicist from the University of Cambridge has bagged this year’s Great British Homebrew Challenge award for the quality of his beer.

Seeing off some 200 rival entries, the tipple was created by postdoc Will Alston using rhubarbs from his allotment to provide an extra twist.

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Physics World 2015 Focus on Neutron Science is out now

By Michael Banks

PWneutron15cover-200

For physicists who love scattering neutrons off materials, the recent ground-breaking ceremony at the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden, will have been a long time coming. First proposed more than two decades ago, the ESS will – when it finally opens in 2020 – generate the world’s most intense beams of neutrons and help satisfy demand for these most useful of particles.

Neutron scattering has emerged as a mainstream scientific endeavour over the last 20–30 years, which is one reason why this month sees the first-ever Physics World focus issue on neutron science. We take a look at how researchers at the ESS are designing the facility’s tungsten target, as well as a new neutron source being built in China and how the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in the UK is looking to bring in more users from industry.

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Friction between the sheets

Interleaved phone directories

Physics helps to explain why it is so hard to pull apart two interleaved phone directories. (CC  BY SA Mark Longair)

By Michael Banks

Ever tried – and duly failed – to pull apart two interleaved phone books? Well, a team of researchers from France and Canada, led by Héctor Alarcón of the University Paris-Sud, has now studied why this is such an impossible task.

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Space Station vacancy, lead balloons on the fly and more

 

By Michael Banks and Tushna Commissariat

You may remember that the “classical crossover” soprano star Sarah Brightman had been undergoing strenuous training at Moscow’s Star City complex before hitching a ride on a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) in September. The singer was set to pay a whopping £30m for a ticket that would have seen her embark on a 10-day journey into space. Brightman even recorded a special song in March that she was planned to perform on the ISS itself – you can watch the 5 News report above. But Brightman has now postponed the trip, putting out a brief statement on her website citing “personal family reasons” for the decision. One beneficiary of Brightman’s no-show will be the Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu, who had been training as Brightman’s back-up. Whether he’ll do his own version of her planned performance isn’t clear.

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Preparing for DEMO

Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak

Laying the groundwork: engineers are rebuilding the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak. (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday I took the train from Bristol and headed to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire.

Owned and operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, the CCFE is already home to the Joint European Torus (JET) tokamak, which in 2011 underwent a £60m upgrade programme that involved replacing the carbon tiles in the inner reactor wall with beryllium and tungsten. The purpose of this retrofit was to test the materials that are to be used in the ITER fusion experiment, which is currently being built in Cadarache, France.

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A telescope for the Year of Light

The Galileoscope

The Galileoscope – yours for only $25.

By Michael Banks

Avid readers of physicsworld.com may remember the Galileoscope – a low-cost educational telescope kit that was released for the International Year of Astronomy in 2009.

The telescope marked the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first telescope, which he presented to policy-makers from the Venetian Republic on 25 August 1609.

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Philae comet lander set for reboot

Artist's impression of Philae on the surface of comet 67P

Here comes the Sun: the Philae lander may reawaken soon. (Courtesy: ESA/ATG medialab)

By Michael Banks

Scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) are hoping that the Philae lander, which successfully landed on a comet last year, will re-establish contact soon as it travels closer to the Sun. Philae was part of ESA’s Rosetta mission that was launched in 2004 but when Philae separated from Rosetta in November, it landed on the comet in an awkward position. This meant that the craft’s solar panels did not receive enough sunlight to recharge its battery, but the lander’s 10 instruments were able to carry out measurements before it went into hibernation mode about 50 hours after landing.

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Littered with errors

By Michael Banks

Photograph of Swheat Scoop cat litter (CC-BY-SA Ryan Forsythe)Cat litter and radioactive waste – not a combination you would normally expect to come across (although some cat owners may disagree).

But a report by the US Department of Energy has squarely blamed kitty litter for the explosion of a single drum of nuclear waste – dubbed “68660” – that burst open at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico in February 2014.

A year-long investigation by a nine-member panel – led by David Wilson of the Savannah River National Laboratory – has concluded that the incident was caused by the use of the wrong brand of feline litter.

As cat litter is highly absorbent, for years it has been used to help keep nuclear waste contained. Indeed, each barrel of waste at the WIPP is filled with about 26 kg of the stuff.

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Particle-physics electronica

By Michael Banks

Fancy a bit of particle-physics electronica?

Subatomic Particles albumThen make sure you download the latest album from Isle of Wight electronic duo Cosmic Mind Warp.

In a “unique crossover” between the worlds of cosmology, quantum physics and electronic music, Alister Staniland and David Holmberg have just released a new concept album dubbed Subatomic Particles.

The 15-track album, which features songs such as “Large Hadron Collider”, “Quantum Tunnelling” and “Down Quark”, is described by the duo as a “hallucinogenic head-trip through the microscopic world of subatomic particles and the strangeness of quantum physics”.

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