Posts by: Tushna Commissariat

Holiday word challenge

rev-astronomy-poty-coverTo keep your brain cells active over the festive period, we have put together a word puzzle based wholly on articles published in Physics World this year. We have two copies of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 to give away as prizes. Download a PDF of the puzzle here.

For the fifth year in a row, the Royal Observatory Greenwich has produced a beautiful hardback book showcasing the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. This year, its publisher Collins Astronomy has kindly offered us two copies to give away to readers. You just need to complete the festive puzzle in this PDF to be in with a chance of winning. Terms and conditions apply.

See “Galaxies and auroras and planets, oh my!” for our review of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 and a sneak preview of the photos.

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Physics World‘s shortlist for Book of the Year 2016

pw-top-book-of-the-year-rgbBy Margaret Harris and Tushna Commissariat

The year 2016 has not covered itself in glory. Divisive elections, various natural and human-made disasters and a depressingly long obituary roll of well-loved celebrities mean that for many residents of planet Earth, this solar orbit has been one to forget.

But if, for a moment, we concentrate solely on the year in physics, the picture looks brighter. In particular, it’s been another strong year for popular-physics writing, and over the past few weeks, we have been determining which of the 57 books reviewed in Physics World in 2016 deserve to be on our list of the year’s best.

The books that appear on the shortlist below are all well written, novel and scientifically interesting to physicists – the criteria we’ve followed since 2009, when The Strangest Man, Graham Farmelo’s landmark biography of Paul Dirac, became our first “Book of the Year”.  A couple of biographies appear on our 2016 shortlist, too, but they face stiff competition from books on big science, stringy science, loopy science, spooky science, jazzy science and more. There’s even a book of science infographics in the running – a first for a competition that is, naturally, dominated by words rather than images.

We’ll announce the winner of our “Book of the Year” award in the Physics World podcast in mid-December, but in the meantime, take a look at the shortlist. We think it’s proof, if you needed any, that the year 2016 had some redeeming features after all.

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The facts and figures of peer review

infographic-thumbnail

Counting up: peer review by numbers – click to expand. (Courtesy: IOP Publishing)

By Tushna Commissariat

I mentioned yesterday that it was the start of “Peer Review Week”, which this year takes “recognition for review” as its theme. Physics World is published by IOP Publishing, which makes us a “society publisher” as we’re wholly owned by the Institute of Physics – a charity. IOP Publishing is also a relatively small operation compared with other large commercial publishers, but we still pack a punch, publishing more than 70 journals.

If you’ve ever wondered just how big a deal peer review is to the publishing sector, the infographic above (click on it to see the whole graphic) reveals some key figures such as the number of reviews completed last year at IOP Publishing, the average time taken to complete a review, as well as the reviewers’ geographical spread.

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Recognizing peer review and all those who referee

Recognised reviewers: Peer Review Week 2016

Recognized reviewers: Peer Review Week 2016

 

By Tushna Commissariat

This week, academic publishers all over the world are celebrating peer review and the vital role it plays in the scientific process. Indeed, this week is officially dubbed “Peer Review Week” and this yearly event aims to bring together “individuals, institutions and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications”. This is the second time the event is being held, and this year’s theme is “recognition for review”.

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Award-winning ‘Bailys Beads’, schoolyard accelerators , pulsar poems and more

 

By Tushna Commissariat

Its officially that time of the year again when we can marvel at this year’s winners of the Insight Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2016. The awards ceremony, held at the Royal Greenwich Observatory, has unveiled some truly spectacular and ethereal shots of our universe. The overall winner this year is a truly amazing composite image of the 2016 total solar eclipse that shows the ‘Baily’s Beads’ phenomenon and was taken by photographer Yu Jun in Luwuk, Indonesia. In the video above, the judges explain why this particular image was the main winner for the year.

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Primal colours across the spectrum, impossible space engines

 

By Tushna Commissariat 

Physicists and artists have long been intrigued and drawn in by the various mysteries that light and its many colours offer. In the latest installation to be unveiled at the Natural History Museum in London, artist Liz West has unveiled her stunning new work dubbed Our Spectral Vision. The exhibit aims to delve into the long and complex history of the development of colour and vision “through the eyes of nature”. Our regular readers will recall the many physics papers that look into the same, from the structural colour of butterflies to the nanostructures in avian eggshells to the mantis shrimp’s visual superpowers. West’s exhibit deals with many of these topics and more including some fantastic “350 rarely seen specimens, from beautiful birds to fossils of the first organisms with eyes”. If you are based in the UK, do visit the exhibit and otherwise, take a look at the video above to see through West’s eyes.

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Cracking water drops caught on camera

(Courtesy: E Ghabache et al., Phys. Rev. Lett.)

(Courtesy: E Ghabache et al./Phys. Rev. Lett.)

By Tushna Commissariat

Drops of water normally tend to splash when they strike a surface. But what happens if they hit something very cold? It turns out they first freeze and then crack, forming intricate fracture patterns, one of which you can see in the image above.

It was taken using a high-speed camera by Christophe Josserand, Thomas Séon and colleagues at the Jean Le Rond d’Alembert Institute in France. They watched water solidifying as it dripped onto a stainless-steel surface cooled to various temperatures between 0 and −60 °C (Phys. Rev. Lett. 117 074501). Due to the contact between the drop and the surface, the water’s ability to freeze is limited and mechanical stress makes it fracture in a few milliseconds.

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Plush toys launched into space, interplanetary mining missions and more

 

By Tushna Commissariat

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft has, as of this week, spent two full years in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, since it reached its destination in August 2014. While Rosetta was the mothership, it also deposited its “baby” lander called Philae onto the comet’s surface in November that year. Sadly Philae was switched off in July this year. If you feel like you want to relive the excitement of the initial launch, take a look at the video above. The folks over at Design and Data, who created Rosetta’s iconic cartoons and memorabilia for ESA, launched a plush-toy version of the spacecraft into space, to see how it would fare. Watch the video to see how their “mission” played out.

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And so to bed for the 750 GeV bump

the combined 2015 nd 2016 ATLAS diphoton data

No bumps: ATLAS diphoton data – the solid black line shows the 2015 and 2016 data combined. (Courtesy: ATLAS Experiment/CERN)

By Tushna Commissariat

After months of rumours, speculation and some 500 papers posted to the arXiv in an attempt to explain it, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations have confirmed that the small excess of diphoton events, or “bump”, at 750 GeV detected in their preliminary data is a mere statistical fluctuation that has disappeared in the light of more data. Most folks in the particle-physics community will have been unsurprised if a bit disappointed by today’s announcement at the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) 2016, currently taking place in Chicago.

The story began around this time last year, soon after the LHC was rebooted and began its impressive 13 TeV run, when the ATLAS collaboration saw more events than expected around the 750 GeV mass window. This bump immediately caught the interest of physicists the world over, simply because there was a sniff of “new physics” around it, meaning that the Standard Model of particle physics did not predict the existence of a particle at that energy. But also, it was the first interesting data to emerge from the LHC after its momentous discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 and if it had held, would have been one of the most exciting discoveries in modern particle physics.

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Sporty physics, the pub in a Faraday cage, LEGO NASA women and more

 

By Michael Banks and Tushna Commissariat

The Rio 2016 Olympics will kick off tomorrow and over the next three weeks, while you enjoy watching the world’s top athletes compete in the huge variety of sports, spare a thought for the physics involved. From how to throw a ball to running, from pole vaulting to golf, physics and sport are fellow brethren. Head on over on the JPhys+ blog to read “The big physics of sport round-up!” post and watch our video series above, in between cheering on your favourite teams.

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