Category Archives: General

Oppenheimer and the Bomb

Photograph of the panel members from "Oppenheimer and the Bomb"

Backstage at the Swan Theatre with the panel members from “Oppenheimer and the Bomb”. From left to right: Oppenheimer director Angus Jackson, former literary editor of The Times Erica Wagner, playwright Tom Morton-Smith, physicist Frank Close and ITV science correspondent Alok Jha.

By Margaret Harris

It’s pretty easy to see why the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) wanted to stage a play about J Robert Oppenheimer. There is definitely a bit of Macbeth in the way this ambitious, aloof theoretical physicist rose to become the scientific leader of the Manhattan Project during the Second World War. Equally, there’s a hint of Caesar or Lear in Oppenheimer’s eventual downfall, which came thanks to a toxic combination of political intrigue and his own arrogance.

The parallels between “Oppie” and Shakespeare’s tragic heroes were highlighted on Saturday, when a group of physicists and artists gathered on stage at the RSC’s Swan Theatre for a panel discussion on “Oppenheimer and the Bomb”. The discussion was part of a programme of events related to the RSC’s production of Oppenheimer, a new play written by Tom Morton-Smith and based on Oppenheimer’s life in the 1930s and 40s. During the discussion, one of the panel members, director Angus Jackson, called Oppenheimer “a play about leadership” as much as science, noting that the leadership conflicts that Oppenheimer experienced were “comparable” to those of the heroes in the RSC’s traditional repertoire.

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Debating UK science

Making your mark. (Courtesy: iStockphoto.stocksnshares)

Science and the ballot box. (Courtesy: iStockphoto/stocksnshares)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday evening I went to the Royal Society in London to hear what the three main political parties in the UK have to say about science. The event was held because in May voters in the UK will be heading to the polls to choose their next government. The three parties had therefore sent their main science representatives to the Royal Society to spell out their intentions.

Chairing the debate was space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock of University College, London. She had the unenviable task of keeping science minister Greg Clarke (Conservative), Liberal Democrat science spokesperson Julian Huppert, and shadow universities, science and skills minister Liam Byrne (Labour) in check. For non-UK readers, it’s worth pointing out that the Conservatives have been in coalition with the Liberal Democrats since 2010.

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Physics World’s festive puzzle: solution

By Louise Mayor

Did you manage to solve Physics World’s festive puzzle, published last month? In case you missed it, take a look at part 1 and part 2 and see how you fare. The puzzle was created for Physics World by Colin of the UK’s Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ), whose full identity cannot be revealed.

Spoiler alert: the solution in full is posted below.

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Lighting up a mid-winter Bath

By James Dacey

In what could be described as the West Country’s answer to Diwali, the city of Bath in the UK has just hosted an eight-day festival of light, featuring colourful public artworks based on lighting technologies. “Illuminate 2015″ was one of the first events on the calendar in this International Year of Light, the UNESCO-supported celebration of light science and its applications. I popped along to the event last Thursday to find out what it was all about and I’ve put together this short film, which includes the event’s creative director Anthony Head explaining what the festival is all about.

 

“It’s a subtle introduction to experimenting with science,” says Head, referring to the fact that many of the exhibits are interactive and involve some playful experimentation. One such exhibit, called “Light Painting”, invited the general public to create images that were then projected onto some of the local buildings. Another exhibit, called “Sonic: Sullis”, enabled people to create sounds and light projections by simply disturbing water contained in a box.

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The January 2015 issue of Physics World is out now

 

By Matin Durrani

The first issue of Physics World magazine of 2015 is now out online and through our app.

As I outline in the video above, this issue looks at the challenges of synthesizing artificial human voices. Another feature explores the little-known Jesuits who boosted astronomy in China in the 17th century. And don’t miss our exclusive interviews with Fabiola Gianotti, who takes over from Rolf-Dieter Heuer as director-general of the CERN particle-physics lab early next year, and with Mark Levinson, the former physicist who directed the film Particle Fever about what particle physicists get up to.

We also have a fascinating feature about how you can help in understanding cosmic rays simply using your mobile phone. While most “citizen-science” projects involve people analysing data collected by “real” scientists, two new apps will let you collect data using your phone itself. Indeed, the people behind one of the apps think we’d need just 825,000 phones to gather as much data as are obtained using the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina.

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Milestone for preprint server

Paul Ginsparg

Paul Ginsparg. (Courtesy: Cornell University)

By Michael Banks

The arXiv preprint server received its millionth paper on 25 December 2014 – a major milestone for the repository, which was set up by the physicist Paul Ginsparg in 1991.

Cornell University’s arXiv has its roots in xxx.lanl.gov – a server set up by Ginsparg, who at the time was at the Los Alamos National Laboratory to share preprints in high-energy physics. It was originally intended for about 100 submissions per year, but rapidly grew in users and scope, receiving 400 submissions in its first half year.

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Physics World’s festive puzzle: part 2

PWDec14puzzle-glassBy Louise Mayor

The image above is the second and final part of Physics World’s festive puzzle 2014. If this is the first you’ve heard about the puzzle, start by checking out Physics World’s festive puzzle: part 1, which was published a week ago.

Can you solve it? Let us know how you get on by posting a comment below, but please do keep the answer to yourself, if you work it out, to avoid giving the game away for others.

We hope you enjoy this bit of fun. There are no prizes – the only reward is the satisfaction of finishing the puzzle. Solutions will be published on this blog in January.

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Physics World’s festive puzzle: part 1

PWDec14puzzle-treeBy Louise Mayor

Although I wouldn’t want to tar us all with the same brush, for many people – including me – the festive period marks indulging in rest, rich food and a reacquaintance with the goggle-box.

Switching off and slumping on the sofa seems like the best thing ever for a few days, but eventually I find it gets a bit boring. That’s when I find myself craving some mental stimulation, whether that be gorging on crosswords, designing a new knitting pattern or learning a new programming language.

But how about you – are you busy right now digesting roast potatoes and zoning out on Indiana Jones, or do you have an appetite, instead, for a challenge?

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Season’s greetings and last-minute gift ideas

 

By Hamish Johnston

Things are winding down for the holidays at Physics World and we are all looking forward to recharging our batteries before we get stuck in to all the exciting physics that is sure to come our way in 2015.

If you are like me, you probably haven’t finished your Christmas shopping so here are a few suggestions that are sure to get a smile out of the physicists in your life. In the above video, author and scientist Neil Downie recommends a few traditional gifts as well as several quirky presents. I’m not sure that many people have a retort stand on their wish list, but I would certainly welcome a multimeter if I didn’t own one already.

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Physics World Special Report: India

By Michael Banks

Physics World Special Report India 2014

This year has been one of change for India. In May, some 800 million eligible voters went to the polls in an election that was won by the Bhartiya Janata Party. Led by Narendra Modi, the party went on to form a coalition government called the National Democratic Alliance.

Our Special Report, which you can read free online, kicks off by looking at how science is faring under Modi’s fledgling administration. Indeed, in September, Modi was personally on hand at the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to laud engineers who had just carefully manoeuvred the Mars Orbiter Mission into position around the red planet – a feat that announced India as a major player in space exploration.

Modi’s personal interest in ISRO will not only please the organization’s chairman K Radhakrishnan, who we interview for the report, but could also be seen as a sign that the new administration is serious about boosting science in the country.

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