Posts by: Michael Banks

Who will bag the 2013 Nobel prize?

By Michael Banks

Yep, it’s that time of year again, when predictions for the Nobel prize get bandied about and notable physicists will be making sure that their mobile phones are fully charged in anticipation of a call from Stockholm.

The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced on Tuesday 8 October at 11:45 CET. Work on the Higgs boson, which was discovered last year at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, is the surely the hot favourite to win this year, but the Nobel Foundation sometimes springs surprises and 2013 may be no different.

So who do you think will win this year’s prize?

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South Korea – day six

A transmission electron microscope at KIST

A transmission electron microscope at KIST.

By Michael Banks

The first thing Kyung-Ho Shin, vice president of international affairs at the Korean Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), passed me when we met in the lobby of my hotel today was an umbrella.

Today Seoul has had a very good watering, but after the recent warm weather the change could be seen as being welcome.

In the morning’s pouring rain, I visited KIST, which was created in 1966 to help commercialize basic research. The 2000 or so researchers based at KIST carry out work in areas from neuroscience and fuel cells to robotics and medicine.

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South Korea – day five

The Gyeongbokgung

The Gyeongbokgung.

By Michael Banks

Today I was traveling back from Pohang where I spent the weekend after an busy few days in Daejeon.

Daejeon is certainly an impressive place to do science, being home to no fewer than 60 research centres. Unfortunately, in the limited time I had I could only visit a couple, including the Korean Research Institute of Standards and Science and the National Fusion Research Institute (NFRI).

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The joke’s on Chu

Steven Chu

Caught on camera. (Courtesy: The Onion)

By Michael Banks

With Steven Chu nearing towards his final days in office as US energy secretary we couldn’t help but highlight a recent spoof of the Nobel laureate in the satirical The Onion magazine.

The Onion may have recently duped China’s People’s Daily newspaper into thinking that North Korea’s leader had been voted the sexiest man alive in 2012, but the magazine failed to fool people that the spoof of Chu was true.

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Don Glaser: 1926–2013

Don Glaser

Don Glaser giving a talk at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in 2010.
(Courtesy: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

By Michael Banks

The US physicist Don Glaser has died at the age of 86. Glaser was instrumental in inventing the bubble chamber – a vessel filled with a superheated transparent liquid such as liquid hydrogen that can be used to detect electrically charged particles moving through it. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for this work in 1960, aged just 34.

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Opening up research

David Willetts speaking at the open access meeting at the Royal Society (courtesy: Jesse Karjalainen/IOP Publishing)

David Willetts speaking at the open-access meeting at the Royal Society.
(Courtesy: Jesse Karjalainen/IOP Publishing)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday I headed to the Royal Society in London to attend a meeting on open access and what it means for scientific research.

From what I heard at the meeting, I was surprised to learn that some scientists were largely unaware of how it could change scientific publishing.

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Hunting the Higgs

By Michael Banks in Boston

“It looks like a Standard Model Higgs,” remarks Christopher Hill from Ohio State University. “Everything we have measured has strengthened that position.”

Last year, researchers working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN reported they had found a Higgs-like particle with an energy of around 126 GeV.

Yet while the Higgs looks like that predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, further measurements were needed before researchers could be sure.

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Shining a light on dark energy

By Michael Banks in Boston

Robert Kirshner

Robert Kirshner (Courtesy: Lynn Barry Hetherington).

Dust is annoying, particularly when you want to obtain a precise measurement of the expansion of the universe.

Today, Robert Kirshner from Harvard University gave a plenary lecture at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston giving participants a tour of the latest in dark-energy research.

Kirshner is a member of the High-Z team that some 15 years ago used observations of supernovae to discover that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Indeed, his former students – Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess – shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics together with Saul Perlmutter for this discovery.

Riess, a graduate student at the time, played an important part in figuring out how to account for dust when measuring supernovae distances. This dust surrounding a supernovae is annoying as it absorbs light, which introduces uncertainties in deducing how far away supernovae are.

Reiss managed to account for this well enough to measure the brightness of supernovae to a reasonable precision that could then be used to deduce the accelerating expansion of the universe; but now Kirshner’s team is planning to go a few steps further by doing better measurements.

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Japan 101

Stand from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting

Stand from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting.

By Michael Banks in Boston

There is certainly a big presence from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston.

In the exhibitors’ hall, the World Premier Institutes (WPI), RIKEN and the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology all share a large central stall plugging their research and facilities.

Indeed, this presence may well be part of Japan’s drive to increase the number of foreign researchers and students in the country by actively highlighting its top research and facilities, a topic Physics World touched upon in a special report published last September.

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First results due from AMS

By Michael Banks in Boston

The first results from the $1.5bn Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) are expected to be released in the coming two weeks, according to AMS principal investigator Samuel Ting.

Ting, who shared the 1976 Nobel Prize for Physics, was speaking at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston.

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