Category Archives: General
By James Dacey
Today is Ada Lovelace Day (ALD), a day to celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM). Named after the 19th-century polymath Ada Lovelace, the annual initiative also seeks to engage with the challenges of attracting more women into STEM careers and supporting career development. Now in its eighth year, the day includes a number of events and online activities.
The day will culminate in a few hours with Ada Lovelace Day Live!, a “science cabaret” event at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London (18:30–21:30, tickets still available). In what promises to be “an entertaining evening of geekery, comedy and music”, the all-female line-up includes several scientists from the physical sciences. Among them is Sheila Kanani, a planetary physicist and science comedian who is the education, outreach and diversity officer for the Royal Astronomical Society in London.
By Michael Banks
Neutron scientists in Europe are facing a number of headwinds in the coming decade. One is the uncertainty caused by the recent UK vote to leave the European Union. Another is the impending closure of ageing reactors across the continent such as the Orphée reactor in Paris and the BER II reactor in Berlin, which could both shut down by 2020.
A recent report by an expert group of researchers – the Neutron Landscape Group – paints a worrying challenge for neutron scientists. It forecasts that the continent’s supply of neutrons could drop by as much as a half over the next decade – a shortfall in capacity that is unlikely to be met by the upcoming European Spallation Source in Lund, Sweden.
That said, there are plans to help overcome the impending neutron gap, including proposals to plug it by building compact, specialist sources. Improvements to accelerator technology and instruments could also help by boosting the number of usable neutrons. Scientists at the US Spallation Neutron Source, for example, are pioneering a method to improve its proton beam energy using plasma processing, while the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s world-leading neutron microscope will soon open up to users.
By James Dacey
As science-inspired global initiatives go, it’s fair to say that the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015) burned brighter than its organizers could have imagined. IYL 2015 set out to raise awareness of the crucial roles light can play in areas such as sustainable development, education and health, and it did so through festivals, workshops, publications and a plethora of other activities. A final report published this week details some of IYL 2015’s key achievements and describes some of the year’s most memorable activities.
Among the highlights identified in the report is the Physics World film series “Light in our Lives”, a set of short documentaries about the role of light in people’s everyday lives. We commissioned the films as an official IYL 2015 media partner, embracing the collaborative and international dimensions of the year by working with filmmakers across the world. They include a film about how LED lanterns are enabling students to study after sunset in a rural community in India, and another about how lighting technologies are bringing a modern twist to Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico City (see above).
By Alaina Levine
Recently I had the pleasure of travelling to La Sapienza University of Rome, to serve as the keynote speaker for the first ever Young Italian Quantum Information Science Conference. I was invited as part of a visiting lectureship programme run by the International Society of Optics and Photonics (SPIE), which supports SPIE student chapters around the world by providing travel funds for speakers.
The conference was a satellite of the annual Italian Quantum Information Science Conference (IQIS) and involved 95 students and postdocs from Italy and beyond. The day-long event was a great opportunity for the up-and-comers of quantum information to shine – and their technical talks demonstrated their expertise and passion.
By Matin Durrani
The cover story in the October 2016 issue of Physics World magazine – now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop – reveals the inside story of how military labs are opening up their research facilities to the world. You can read the article here too.
The October issue also looks at how breakthroughs in physics really occur – is it flashes of insight or just long, hard graft? – and examines why we could finally find discrepancies in the “equivalence principle” that inertial and gravitational mass are the same.
Don’t miss either the ding-dong over China’s plans to build a new collider, our interview with Nithaya Chetty on transforming South African astronomy, or Robert P Crease’s Critical Point column on the danger of “unknown unknowns”.
By Michael Banks
Physics World published its first special report on China in 2011, which looked at China’s lunar programme and how the country was tackling fraud, as well as profiling the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics and the Institute for High Energy Physics, which are both located in Beijing.
Five years on and physics in the world’s most populous country has rapidly expanded, with China building a number of other huge facilities – including the China Neutron Spallation Source and the China Jinping Underground Laboratory. Now close to completion, they will put the country at the forefront of physics.
So what better time to have another special report on China? Based on visits to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the issue, which you can read free here, includes an overview of the current state of physics in the country as well as an interview with Wei Yang, president of the National Natural Science Foundation – the country’s biggest investor in basic science – and a piece looking at how scientists can foster good collaborations with physicists in China.
Communicating science through video was the theme of a workshop I participated in yesterday in Hannover, Germany, as part of the Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries conference (TPDL 2016). It was a varied audience that included journalists, academics and librarians. I came away feeling inspired by all the possibilities, but realizing that science communication has a long way to go to use this medium to its full potential. I’ll share with you here some of the key messages.
As Physics World’s multimedia editor, I used my slot to talk about some of the journalistic videos I’ve produced and commissioned during the past few years – discussing what’s worked, what hasn’t and where I think journalistic video production is heading. I made the point that to create engaging web video you have to think carefully about how your audience will be watching the films. Your film may look great on a large monitor, but will it be enjoyed by someone watching it on a smartphone on a bus or train? Also, what are you trying to achieve with the film? Are you trying to entertain or promote something? Or perhaps you are trying to teach? The style and tone will vary depending on the purpose.
By Matin Durrani
The cover story in the September 2016 issue of Physics World magazine – now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop – reveals the fascinating new field of “crowd breath research”, which can even shed light on how cinema audiences react during the changing scenes in a movie. You can read the article here on physicsworld.com too.
The September issue also shows how to do crystallography without crystals, explains how first data from the Gaia spacecraft could revolutionize astronomy (see the above video for more on that), and contains one physics teacher’s fascinating story about what she did to change her school’s gender balance.
Don’t miss either reader feedback on the potential impact of Britain leaving the EU on physics or Robert P Crease’s Critical Point column on why science denial is one of the most important issues in the US presidential campaign.
By Hamish Johnston
Is there a government-led conspiracy that uses aeroplanes to lace the atmosphere with chemicals? Of course there isn’t, and now there is a peer-reviewed study that says so.
Dubbed the “secret large-scale atmospheric programme” (SLAP), the conspiracy concerns condensation trails (contrails) that can often be seen high up in the sky. These are the lines of cloud that are formed when water condensates around particulate matter in the exhaust from jet engines. But are those contrails actually “chemtrails” that are spreading noxious substances far and wide?
By Matin Durrani
I’m pleased to say that the latest focus issue of Physics World, which explores the many fascinating applications of vacuum science and technology, is now out.
Plasma processing is a strong theme this year, as we discover why tools and techniques developed as part of the boom in semiconductor fabrication are now benefiting biomaterials. Elsewhere, we reflect on the strengths of the vacuum community with outgoing IUVSTA president Mariano Anderle.
And, as always, this vacuum focus issue provides a great chance to catch up with major industry players, including Pfeiffer Vacuum, Agilent, Honeywell and Edwards, to examine the latest instrument upgrades and trends across the sector.