Category Archives: General

“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 for 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 The sender requested for his comments not to be published, so he shall remain nameless but here’s the jist of his message: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 for 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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Physics World’s latest special report on China is out now

By Michael Banks

The pace of change in China can be bewildering – and science is no exception. With every year that goes by, the country publishes more papers, spends more cash on research and opens up yet more world-class facilities.

PWChina17cover-200This is the third Physics World special report on physics in China – following publications last year and in 2011.

Most of this year’s report was based on an action-packed schedule of visits and interviews earlier this year at institutes and labs in Shanghai and Beijing.

Speaking to researchers during my travels, it became clear that China is reaping particular benefits from its 1000 Talents programme, which seeks to persuade top Chinese  researchers who have spent time abroad to return home. Such scientists are bringing huge experience back and using it to put China at the forefront of many fields of research.

China is also showing a growing appetite to attract foreign scientists who have not worked there before. Getting overseas researchers to move to China is not always easy, so one solution has been for China to encourage Western institutions to branch out into the country. The Kavli Foundation, for example, has just opened a new Kavli Institute for Theoretical Sciences in Beijing, which aims to have about a third of its faculty from outside China.

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A temporary lack of neutrons

Photo of the instrument hall

The guide hall at the HANARO research reactor in Daejeon, Republic of Korea.

By Margaret Harris in Daejeon, Republic of Korea

For almost three years, the HANARO research reactor has been idle. Built in 1995 as a hub for neutron-scattering experiments, radioisotope production and other scientific work, HANARO (High Flux Advanced Neutron Application Reactor) is the only facility of its kind in the Republic of Korea, and it underwent a major upgrade in 2009. Then, in 2014, the facility became a delayed casualty of the meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station, as enhanced regulatory scrutiny led to the discovery that the reactor hall’s outer wall was not up to the latest standards. An enforced shutdown followed while the wall was reinforced, and although the works were supposed to take just 18 months, opposition from local citizens’ groups has led to further delays.

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Exploring Bristol’s physics heritage

Sir John Enderby and Felix James

Meeting of minds: Sir John Enderby (right) was Felix James’ perfect physics tour guide.  (Courtesy: Felix James)

By Felix James, a student on a work-experience placement with IOP Publishing

If you live in the UK, you are probably aware that at this time of year many school students are asked to do some kind of work experience. Teenagers like me find a placement we are interested in and then go there for a week – rather than school – to get a taste for what work is really like. For me this meant a week at IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World, but it included an excellent tour of the physics department at the nearby University of Bristol.

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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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Our hazardous planet: when the world is out to get you

PWJul17cover-200By Matin Durrani

For people afflicted by last month’s devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London or for those caught up in recent terrorist atrocities, it can seem that many problems in this world are entirely of our own making.

Yes the modern world has benefited from our collective wisdom and creativity – especially through science and engineering – but often it feels as if irrational human behaviour lies at the root of many of our troubles.

Nevertheless, we should remember that our planet itself holds many natural hazards too, as the latest special issue of Physics World reminds us.

Remember that if you’re a member of the Institute of Physics, you can read Physics World magazine every month via our digital apps for iOS, Android and Web browsers.

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NASA showcases its latest tech investments

Cutting edge: NASA's latest X-Plane (Courtesy: Lucina Melesio)

Cutting edge: NASA’s latest X-Plane (Courtesy: Lucina Melesio)

By Lucina Melesio in Washington DC

Yesterday in Washington DC NASA showcased its latest technology investments.  The event took place just few steps away from Capitol Hill, where the US Congress will decide on the current administration’s proposed budget cuts for the agency.

“The technologies displayed here today illustrate how sustained investments made by NASA, industry and academia directly benefit our nation’s innovation economy,” reads the event’s brochure. “These technologies help America maintain its global leadership in aerospace and enable NASA’s current and future missions of exploration and discovery,” it continues.

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Happy birthday Fermilab

Little house on the prairie: Robert Wilson's first office on the Fermilab site (Courtesy: Fermilab)

Little house on the prairie: the first director’s office on the National Accelerator Laboratory site. (Courtesy: Fermilab)

By Matin Durrani

Music lovers will remember 1967 as the year the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. For sports fans it was the year when Celtic became the first British team to win football’s European Cup. As for scientists, 1967 will go down in history as the year in which the first human heart transplant took place and the first radio pulsars were detected by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, Antony Hewish and others at the University of Cambridge, UK.

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Creating human organs on chips

Organ on a chip research

I’ll have a kidney and chips please. (Courtesy: James Dacey)

 

By James Dacey reporting from Boston, Massachusetts

Having left a rain-soaked Bristol on Monday, I was greeted by an even more rain-soaked Boston on Tuesday. Fortunately, I spent my first day in the US under a roof at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. I was there to learn about an intriguing technology that reproduces the functionality of human organs on polymer chips about the size of a little finger.

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Physics World investigative report bags writing award

Photo of Susan Curtis from IOP Publishing with Cynthia Carter, president of the Specialised Information Publishers Association (SIPA) picking up a prize on behalf of Louise Mayor for her article "Where people and particles collide"

Stateside ceremony: Susan Curtis from IOP Publishing (right) picks up the award on behalf of Louise Mayor for her article “Where people and particles collide” from SIPA president Cynthia Carter in Washington DC.

By Matin Durrani

I am delighted to announce that Physics World features editor Louise Mayor has come second in the David Swit Award for Best Investigative Reporting in the 2017 awards from the Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA). Louise was recognized for her feature “Where people and particles collide”, which was published in the March 2016 special issue of Physics World on making physics a more inclusive discipline.

The article examined long-standing attempts by members of the LGBT CERN group at the CERN particle-physics lab near Geneva to become an official “CERN Club” – a request that was denied. It also reported how the group had received some negative reception at CERN, as evidenced by a poster-defacement campaign, photos of which were published in the article.

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