Posts by: Tushna Commissariat

Days out at CERN, serendipitous songs, shaken scientists and more

By Tushna Commissariat

A peek into the Red Folder this week brings up the CERN Open Days – the biggest particle-physics laboratory in the world will allow people from all over the globe to roam its hallowed halls freely for this weekend. While the most exciting part of the event will undoubtedly be visits into the underground caverns that host the Large Hadron Collider’s experiments, a whole host of other activities for researchers, science enthusiasts and children are available. Also this weekend, as a part of the European Researcher’s Night festivities, CERN will be hosting events in Paris, Geneva and Bologna for their Origins 2013 event that looks at two big scientific discovers made in the past two years: the discovery of the Higgs boson at CERN and the latest Planck mission data. For those of you attending, “Speed-dating – close encounters with researchers” definitely caught our eye. Those of us not fortunate enough to be in any of those places can watch many of the festivities via a live webcast. And lastly, you can explore CERN from the inside on Google Maps with Street View.

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Lectures with Peter Higgs, award-winning photographs, multidimentional shapes and more

Guiding Light To The Stars

By Tushna Commissariat

Each week, all of us here at Physics World comb the Internet for all things physics – we look at national and local newspapers, university news outlets, a variety of magazines, science websites and blogs, and, of course, all the  latest scientific papers. We then pool our research and pick the cream of our crop to report on. But we can’t always cover all the interesting bits of physics news that we have chanced upon and a lot of good stuff is left behind in a red folder. So, starting from today, at the end of each week we’ve decided to point all of you, our eager readers, to the stories that have caught our fancy but not made it to the site yet and leave you with some extra weekend reading from The Red Folder.

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Kepler telescope goes into retirement…for now

Artist’s concept of the Kepler spacecraft

Retirement among the stars: Artist’s concept of the Kepler spacecraft. (Courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Ball)

By Tushna Commissariat

A few months ago, I wrote a blog about NASA’s Kepler space telescope being in a spot of trouble, as the spacecraft shut down and went into “safe mode”. The problem was that two of the four gyroscope-like “reaction wheels” that help the telescope remain steady and pointed in a particular direction had broken. Since May, researchers have been looking at ways and means to fix the problem or work around it.

Unfortunately, after analysing and testing the systems, the Kepler Space Telescope team has decided to end its attempts to restore the spacecraft to full working order, and is now “considering what new science research it can carry out in its current condition”.

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Physics on the big screen

By Tushna Commissariat

A new documentary of Stephen Hawking’s life is due in cinemas later this summer, with the esteemed physicist himself narrating the film. Hawking, as the documentary is simply dubbed, takes a personal look at the life of the celebrated scientist – his early days as a student in Oxford and his ongoing battle with motor neurone disease – as well as documenting his academic achievements.

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Eyeing light pollution

By Tushna Commissariat

The newly patented all-sky camera

The newly patented all-sky camera (Courtesy: University of Granada)

Researchers in Spain have developed a small and light device that can quickly and accurately measure the light-pollution levels or artificial night-sky background brightness for a given location. The team, led by Ovidio Rabaza from the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Granada, has developed a portable system that includes an all-sky camera and several interference filters that can be easily transported and can be used anywhere.

Currently, methods to measure light pollution that affects the night sky involve using complex techniques such as astronomical photometry, which requires large-scale and expensive equipment generally housed in observatories, according to the researchers. According to the team, the new system is “clearly innovative because, for the first time, relative irradiance and sky background luminance have been measured through wide-field images, of all the sky, instead of using more conventional methods”.

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New portrait of Peter Higgs unveiled

Portrait of Peter Higgs

(Photo courtesy: Antonia Reeve)

By Tushna Commissariat

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) has just unveiled a portrait of famed physicist Peter Higgs, at the Society’s Fellows’ Summer Reception last week. The painting, which will hang on the walls of the Kelvin Room within the RSE’s premises in Edinburgh, was commissioned to one of Scotland’s leading artists, Victoria Crowe, “to honour the man whose outstanding research was instrumental in [the Higgs boson’s] discovery”. The professor seems distinctly unperturbed by the high-energy proton–proton collision taking place in the top right corner of the painting. I shall leave you to find and discern the other interesting imagery in the painting for yourselves – click on the thumbnail to view a larger picture of the portrait.

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Kepler – it’s not all doom and gloom just yet

By Tushna Commissariat

Illustration of Kepler

NASA’s Kepler space telescope. (Courtesy: NASA)

To much general dismay, earlier this month NASA officials announced that their Kepler space telescope had gone into a self-imposed “safe mode”, something that the telescope is programmed to do if one of its primary systems is not fully functional. Although the telescope was then rebooted, it shut down again this week and it seems that all is definitely not well with our favourite exoplanet spotter: the mission collaboration announced that the instrument has suffered a critical failure and may never be fully operational again.

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Getting into shape

By Tushna Commissariat

Just think how handy it would be if your mobile phone could transform into different shapes depending on what you are using it for – nice and compact if you want to, say, securely enter a password in a public space or a broad console when playing a video game. That vision has moved one step closer to reality thanks to a prototype ultra-flexible mobile device unveiled yesterday by a group of researchers from the Department of Computer Science at Bristol University in the UK.

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What’s new with the ILC?

By Tushna Commissariat

Are you suffering from particle-collider withdrawal symptoms now that the LHC has begun its long shutdown? If so, you will be pleased to learn that you can focus your attention elsewhere.

The International Linear Collider Collaboration has posted an updated version of its 2013 Technical Design Report on the arXiv preprint server. It’s a short and sweet overview of the collider’s design, including “detailed descriptions of the accelerator baseline design for a 500 GeV e+e llinear collider, the R&D program that has demonstrated its feasibility, the physics goals and expected sensitivities, and the description of the ILD and SiD detectors and their capabilities”.

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Old-school cosmological calculations

By Tushna Commissariat

Image of a calculator

Doing away with complex calculations? (CC-BY-2.0/Boaz Arad)

The next time you need to quickly convert the redshift of some distant cosmic object to parsecs or kilometres, and find that your laptop and phone have both run out of charge (the horror!), the “Paper-and-pencil cosmological calculator” might be just the thing for you. More of a chart than a “calculator”, the new table – that is based on the ΛCDM cosmological model of the universe – has been drawn up by Sergey Pilipenko from the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow. And here’s the best bit – all the parameters that Pilipenko has plugged into his table are from the latest Planck results unveiled last month.

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