Category Archives: The Red Folder

Citizen science, astronaut growth, water-flipping physics

Image of a five-planet system

Planet hunting (courtesy: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

By Michael Banks

This week the American Astronomical Society is meeting in Washington, D.C. At the conference it was announced yesterday that a citizen-scientist project called Exoplanet Explorers had used data from the Kepler mission to detect a new five-planet system.

The 27 authors include, among others, the astronomer and broadcaster Chris Lintott and the particle physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox. Exoplanet Explorers was featured prominently on the Australian TV show Stargazing Live in April and another author on the paper is the Australian TV presenter Julia Zemiro, who is affiliated with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. You can read the paper here. (more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

US candidates on science policy, your satellite idea could bag a share in £50,000

No denying: Democratic Party candidate Elizabeth Moro (Courtesy: Elizabeth Moro)

No denying: Democratic Party candidate Elizabeth Moro. (Courtesy: Elizabeth Moro)

By Hamish Johnston

The Science Debate organization sent out questions about science policy to candidates in the 2018 US elections and the answers are in (at least some of them). Prospective US representatives, senators and state governors were queried on 10 topics ranging from climate change to the importance of science to American prosperity.

James Henry, a Democratic Party candidate in Florida, pointed out: “If you look at your monthly credit card statement and remember the kinds of products and services you spent your money on recently, many of the items purchased probably did not even exist 10 or 20 years ago.” This, he added, is why “It is critical that the government encourage a proactive approach to technology”.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , | Comments Off on US candidates on science policy, your satellite idea could bag a share in £50,000 | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

The 10 quirkiest physics stories of 2017

By Michael Banks

From the law of defecation to CERN emojis, physics has had its fair share of quirky stories this year. Here is our pick of the 10 best, not in any particular order.

Marten on display

Marten on display at the Natural History Museum of Rotterdam

Stuffed. (Courtesy: Natural History Museum of Rotterdam)

You may remember the strange story last year of a marten that entered an electrical outbuilding at CERN and gnawed through a 66 kV transformer. The move ended up frying the weasel-like creature and triggering a wide power outage at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). But when another marten met its doom in November 2016 by chewing on an 18 kV transformer, the animal was kept for posterity, rather than being disposed of like its chum. The 18 kV marten was stuffed and earlier this year went on display at the Rotterdam Natural History Museum’s Dead Animal Tales exhibition. “With a growing human population size and ongoing habitat destruction and urbanization, man and animal more often share the same environment. We have to be prepared for more collisions,” museum director Kees Moeliker told Physics World. “This tiny creature shutting down the LHC is, in a way, poetic, and as such deserves a place of honour in our exhibit.”

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on The 10 quirkiest physics stories of 2017 | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

New constellations, happy birthday Kristian Birkeland, ‘There once was a chemist from Bath…’

Reach for the stars: constellation Serena (Courtesy: University of Birmingham)

Reach for the stars: constellation Serena (Courtesy: University of Birmingham)

By Hamish Johnston

Astronomers at the University of Birmingham have dreamt-up a set of modern constellations in a bid to inspire young people to take an interest in the cosmos. The constellations are related to eight admirable people including J K Rowling, Usain Bolt, Malala Yousafzai, David Attenborough, Mo Farah and Michael Bond. But my favourite is the tennis racquet shaped constellation Serena, named after Serena Williams.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , | Comments Off on New constellations, happy birthday Kristian Birkeland, ‘There once was a chemist from Bath…’ | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

A puzzling neutrino detector, the best way to crumple cans

Standard model: Super Kamiokande jigsaw puzzle (Courtesy: ICRR)

Standard model: Super Kamiokande jigsaw puzzle (Courtesy: ICRR)

By Michael Banks

If you are looking for a Christmas present for a puzzle lover, the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research (ICRR) in Tokyo, Japan, has just the thing. It’s created a 300-piece jigsaw puzzle of the Super Kamiokande neutrino detecter in Kamioka, Japan. The detector is a giant stainless-steel tank filled with 50, 000 tonnes of ultra-pure water and lined with 13,000 photo-multiplier tubes that detect the Cherenkov radiation released when a neutrino collides with a water molecule. In other words, it’s a jigsaw puzzle featuring water and lots and lots of identical tubes.

Costing ¥1500 (£10) and with a finished size of 38 x 26 cm, a limited number of the jigsaws went on sale in late October. But its fiendish nature doesn’t seem to have put anyone off: the puzzle sold out within days. Jigsaw enthusiasts, however, will be pleased to know that, as, the ICRR is planning to release more. (more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , | Comments Off on A puzzling neutrino detector, the best way to crumple cans | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Star Wars fact or fiction, Wikipedia editor in space, stellarator tour

Fact and fiction: Carsten Welsch (Courtesy: Cockcroft Institute)

Fact and fiction: Carsten Welsch. (Courtesy: Cockcroft Institute)

By Hamish Johnston

What is it about Star Wars that captivates the imaginations of physicists? Earlier this week Carsten Welsch, who is head of physics at the University of Liverpool and head of communication for the nearby Cockcroft Institute, gave a presentation called “Physics of Star Wars” to an audience of hundreds of secondary school children, undergraduate and PhD students and university staff.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Star Wars fact or fiction, Wikipedia editor in space, stellarator tour | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

CMS publishes 700 papers, extreme data centres, flat-Earth space programme launches tomorrow

Big data: analysis of CMS papers. See Rao's article for an interactive version (Courtesy: Achintya Rao/CMS)

Big data: analysis of CMS papers. See Rao’s article for an interactive version (Courtesy: Achintya Rao/CMS)

By Hamish Johnston

CERN’s CMS collaboration has passed a milestone of sorts at the end of October – it published its 700th research paper. And physicists working on the giant detector on the Large Hadron Collider haven’t stopped there as the tally is now 712 and rising.

CERN’s Achintya Rao has delved into the CMS archives and has chosen his top seven papers. These include the first-ever paper about the detector, which was published in 2008 and, embarrassingly, gets the weight of the detector wrong. Rao has also put together an interactive infographic that looks at 680 papers that analyse data collected by CMS.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on CMS publishes 700 papers, extreme data centres, flat-Earth space programme launches tomorrow | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Meteoroid seen from space, Nobel laureates speak their minds on group awards and keeping up with technology

 

By Hamish Johnston

Fix your eyes on the upper-right portion of the above video and pay particular attention about seven seconds into the footage. You will see a fireball falling through Earth’s atmosphere. The video was taken from the International Space Station by the Italian astronaut and prolific photographer Paolo Nespoli.

Was the fireball a piece of space junk, or perhaps a tiny piece of asteroid? And how fast was it moving? For an analysis of what Nespoli may have seen, go to: “The backstory: Paolo spots a meteoroid from the ISS”. There you will also find a fantastic gallery of photographs taken by Nespoli.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , | Comments Off on Meteoroid seen from space, Nobel laureates speak their minds on group awards and keeping up with technology | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Name a distant world, fireworks through a diffraction grating, radio telescope helps Puerto Rican relief

Double act: artist's impression of the (486958) 2014 MU69 flyby (Courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Carlos Hernandez)

Double act: artist’s impression of the (486958) 2014 MU69 flyby. (Courtesy: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Carlos Hernandez)

By Hamish Johnston

Here is an opportunity to put your mark on the solar system. NASA and the team behind the New Horizons spacecraft are asking the public to nickname the mission’s next flyby target. Located in the Kuiper belt and called “(486958) 2014 MU69”, the target is likely to be two objects – each about 20 km across – in a very close orbit. So, a name like “Cheech and Chong” could be a winner. To enter, go to “Help us nickname a distant world”.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , | Comments Off on Name a distant world, fireworks through a diffraction grating, radio telescope helps Puerto Rican relief | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Putting a stamp on gravitational waves, LEGO’s Women of Nasa, physicist competes in bake-off

Cosmic delivery: German stamp commemorates gravitational waves (Courtesy: German Federal Ministry of Finance)

Cosmic delivery: German stamp commemorates gravitational waves. (Courtesy: German Federal Ministry of Finance)

By Michael Banks and Hamish Johnston

For those wanting to add a physics twist to your season’s greetings, you now can thanks to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Finance. It has announced two new stamps that will go on sale in the country on 7 December. A €0.40 stamp will feature the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite and will be the first German stamp to include a metallic coating. Gaia was launched in 2013 to measure the positions and distances of astronomical objects, including stars, planets as well as comets. The ministry also announced a €0.70 stamp that depicts the gravitational waves that emerge from the collision of two black holes. The simulation was made by researchers at the Albert Einstein Institute (AEI) in Potsdam, Germany. “The ministry did not announce whether letters equipped with the new gravitational-wave stamp will be transported at the speed of light,” states an AEI press release.

(more…)

Posted in The Red Folder | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Putting a stamp on gravitational waves, LEGO’s Women of Nasa, physicist competes in bake-off | Permalink
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile