Posts by: Sarah Tesh

Happy birthday Curiosity, overpaid footballers, cheeky Einstein photo sells

By Sarah Tesh, Hamish Johnston and Michael Banks

It’s Mars Curiosity’s 5th birthday tomorrow! The NASA rover touched down on 5 August 2012 and has been exploring the red planet ever since. It has travelled more than 10 miles, studied more than 600 vertical feet of rock and even proved that Mars was once habitable. While a Mars birthday party for Curiosity would be a lonely affair, researchers at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have programmed the rover to sing “Happy birthday” to itself using its Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. To introduce ground samples into the rover, SAM resonates through a range of frequencies, so the researchers programmed the instrument to run through the frequencies of the celebratory song.

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“A week in which good practice and frustrations could be shared honestly”

ICWiP conference chair Nicola Wilkin

Warm welcome: Nicola Wilkin welcomed an international audience.

By Sarah Tesh 

The International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWiP) was everything I hoped it would be – a fascinating event full of interesting discussions, talks and workshops, and inspiring women. Held at the University of Birmingham in the UK from 16 to 20 July, the conference was organized by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP).

Over a series of blogs, Jess Wade from Imperial College London and myself have endeavoured to give you an insight into the conference – the international stories, the iconic women and the important hurdles still to overcome. To round this up and reflect upon the inspirational event, I spoke to conference chair Nicola Wilkin from the University of Birmingham.

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Bias, stereotyping and harassment: what women battle

The words associated with girls and boys influence their futures

Word association: “Sugar and spice and all things nice, that’s what little girls are made of”. (Courtesy: Jessica Rowson, IOP)

By Sarah Tesh about the International Conference on Women in Physics in Birmingham, UK

Have you ever thought about why, when asked to indicate your gender on a form, “male” comes above “female”? It’s not alphabetically first, so why is it listed first? I had never questioned this myself until Jocelyn Bell Burnell pointed it out in her Institute of Physics (IOP) President’s Medal lecture. This is an excellent example of bias in our day-to-day lives – while each one of us may believe we are fair and unprejudiced, we cannot always control what our brains do and many of us are unconsciously biased without meaning to be. Unfortunately, this is one of the factors holding back women in physics.

Bias, stereotyping and harassment were major topics during the International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWiP) last week at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Many delegates at the conference have experienced these issues to varying degrees and several of the talks focused on ways to combat them.

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“One woman can change a lot if she is determined”

Photographs from around the conference

International collaboration: women from around the world gathered to discuss and tackle how to improve the situation for women in physics. (Courtesy: Sarah Tesh)

By Sarah Tesh at the International Conference on Women in Physics in Birmingham

A couple of weeks ago, Physics World received an e-mail that made my blood boil. The sender requested for his comments not to be published, so he shall remain nameless but here’s the jist of his message:

The latest issue of Physics World contained too many articles on women in physics (it had five small pieces on the topic). He finds the subject tedious and thinks it no longer needs covering – but it’s OK for him to say this because his daughter is doing physics at university.

In my opinion, this is an excellent example of exactly why it is important to talk about equality in physics. Some members of the community just don’t see that there is still a problem.

In an excellent coincidence, I signed up for the International Conference on Women in Physics (ICWiP) that very week. The conference is run by the Institute of Physics (IOP) and the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and has been taking place this week at the University of Birmingham in the UK. ICWiP gives people from around the world, and at all stages of their careers, a chance to discuss and tackle the many topics surrounding women in physics. These include under-representation, stereotypes, conscious and unconscious bias, inequality in pay, the drop-off as you progress through academia…the list could go on.

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Aldrin’s faces for Trump, tunnels to the underworld, physics collides with art

 

By Sarah Tesh

Buzz Aldrin pulled some spectacular facial expressions during a speech by Donald Trump this week. The President of the United States was announcing his executive order to revive the US National Space Council. During points of Trump’s rather rambling speech, the Apollo 11 astronaut looked a combination of unimpressed, confused and bored. But while he may be bemused by the president’s chatter (as many are), he posted a positive Tweet about the executive order, saying, “I’m happy that space is getting the attention it needs to move us forward to committing to plans to get back to the Moon & on to Mars #GYATM.”

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A trip to Diamond Light Source – experiments, swords and treasure

Academic researcher Claire Corkhill and bealmine scientist Sarah Day

Super team: academic researcher Claire Corkhill and beamline scientist Sarah Day. (Courtesy: Sean Dillow)

By Sarah Tesh

When I was teenager, we often drove past a massive metal “doughnut” that was taking shape in the Oxfordshire countryside – a doughnut more commonly known as Diamond Light Source. After years of passing by but never visiting, last Thursday I finally got to go inside the silver building housing the UK’s synchrotron.

I was there to find out about the longest ever experiment to take place at a synchrotron, which hit the 1000-day milestone on 2 July. The experiment was the first to be set up on the world’s only long duration synchrotron beamline and investigates the hydration of cements used in nuclear waste storage and disposal. My guides for the day were beamline scientist Sarah Day, experiment leader Claire Corkhill from the University of Sheffield and Diamond press officer Steve Pritchard.

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A particle physics love song, NASA’s space Olympics, wobbling suitcases

 

By Sarah Tesh

If any physicist couples out there are struggling to find a first-dance song for their wedding, CERN has just come up with the perfect solution. US communications manager Sarah Charley teamed up with grad students Jess Heilman and Tom Perry to produce a particle-physics parody of Howie Day’s song “Collide”. Day came across their music video on Twitter and asked to visit CERN – “I figured it was a long shot, but why not?” The project spiralled from there, leading to Day re-recording the song and filming a new video that features him playing guitar in the LHC tunnel and CERN scientists dancing in their labs.

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Cat-chy quantum song, science TV resurrected, $800,000 textbook, desk traffic lights

 

By Sarah Tesh 

I never realized it until now, but my life was missing a song about Schrödinger’s cat. Well, theoretical physicist, science writer and now singer/song writer Sabine Hossenfelder  has come to the rescue with a song about quantum states. This is her second music video done in collaboration artists Apostolos Vasilidis and Timo Alho. The rather cat-chy tune not only includes lyrics about quantum entanglement, Boltzmann brains and the multiverse, but also fits in references to Star Trek and The Matrix. In her BackReaction blog, Hossenfelder says, “If you think this one’s heavy on the nerdism, wait for the next.” We’re looking forward to it!

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Cassini’s emotional countdown, Steve the light show, shooting hoops ‘granny style’

 

By Sarah Tesh

This week has seen the beginning of Cassini’s Grand Finale. The rather dramatically named final mission for the NASA spacecraft involves 22 dives between Saturn and its surrounding rings. Once complete, Cassini will crash into the planet’s atmosphere in what the scientists hope will be a flurry of data gathering. The spacecraft has already sent back stunning images of storms in Saturn’s atmosphere from its first dive on 26 April. After 20 years since its launch, the mission to Saturn’s system has been a masterclass in space exploration, and NASA highlights the best bits in this theatrical video. The short film, reminiscent of Star Trek, could be considered a bit cheesy, but it’s hard not to form an emotional attachment to NASA’s loyal Cassini as you join in the countdown to its final demise.

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Snooker cues, negative mass, apps for waiting and CERN croissants

By Sarah Tesh

With the World Snooker Championship taking place at the moment, it’s that time of year when those of us who are usually snookered by the game are suddenly in its pockets. Right on cue, Phil Sutton from Loughborough University in the UK helps bridge the gap between science and snooker. In his video big break, he looks at why players use chalk on their cue tips. Interestingly, there is a right way to help you spin out a 147 and a wrong way that could leave you pocketing the white.

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