Category Archives: General

Using pottery to communicate science

one of the ceramic items created by Nadav Drukker on show at the new "Quantum ceramics" exhibition in London

Showcasing science – one of the ceramic items created by Nadav Drukker on show at the new Quantum Ceramics exhibition in London. (Courtesy: Nadav Drukker)

By Matin Durrani

You might not think theoretical physics and pottery have much in common. But they do now, thanks to a new exhibition being staged at the Knight Webb Gallery in Brixton, south-east London, which opens today.

Entitled Quantum Ceramics, the exhibition is the first solo display of ceramic works by theoretical physicist Nadav Drukker. Based at King’s College London, Drukker makes traditional studio pottery as a new way to communicate his scientific research.

Drukker, who is a string theorist, has six different projects – entitled “Circle”, “Cusp”, “Index”, “Polygons”, “Cut” and “Defect” – with each inspired by one of his research papers. His works are all traditional glazed stoneware and porcelain vessels, but decorated with mathematical symbols.

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Penguin spotting

Photograph of King penguins

A waddle of King penguins. (Courtesy: F Jones)

By Louise Mayor

Those of you who enjoyed Peter Barham’s Physics World feature “Penguin physics” might have – like me – come away enamoured of these little creatures, but not imagining that you could contribute to penguin research yourself.

Imagine my delight then when I discovered that the team behind British Science Week (BSW), which starts today, has teamed up with Penguin Watch, a citizen-science Zooniverse project that is calling for volunteers. The volunteer activity involves looking at photographs and, in each one, marking penguins, chicks, eggs and other animals such as humans. These crowd-sourced data will then then help the University of Oxford project Penguin Lifelines to better understand how threats to the ecosystem disrupt the dynamics of resident wildlife.

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Guest presenter shakes up the Physics World podcast

By James Dacey

 

Physics World podcast: Neutrino tour
See below for details of how to download this programme and how to subscribe to future podcasts
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Regular listeners of the Physics World podcast will have noticed that things have been a little different for the past couple of months. That’s because we’ve handed over the presenter mic to science communicator Andrew Glester, who has brought his own unique style to proceedings. Based in Bristol, UK, just a few kilometres from the Physics World HQ, Glester is a presenter and co-founder of Cosmic Shed – a podcast about science and storytelling, recorded in Andrew’s garden shed.

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Introducing Physics World Discovery

Image of the first five Physics World Discovery ebooks

Free to read – the first five Physics World Discovery titles.

By Matin Durrani

What better way to celebrate World Book Day than by checking out Physics World‘s new series of free-to-read, short-form ebooks. Entitled Physics World Discovery, they are short introductions to some of the hottest topics in physics written by leading voices in the physics community.

Available online here, these short-form ebooks follow all the attributes of feature articles in Physics World magazine – being well written, accessible, timely and authoritative. But as ebooks, they allow authors to go into more detail than a standard Physics World feature and include plenty of graphs, diagrams and pictures too.

Being short, each title is an ideal starting point for for physicists at all stages of their careers to get quickly up to speed with an evolving physics field.

We’ve published five Physics World Discovery texts so far, with more in the pipeline. You can read them in PDF, ePUB or Kindle format, making them perfect for those wanting intellectual stimulation on a train or plane journey.

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Coding and computing: the March 2017 issue of Physics World is out now

PWMar17cover-200By Louise Mayor

Physics these days wouldn’t succeed without software. Whether those lines of code are used to control new apparatus, make sense of fresh experimental data or simulate physical phenomena based on the latest theories, software is essential for understanding the world. The latest issue of Physics World, which is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, shines a light on how some physicists are exploiting software in new ways, while others are reinventing the hardware of a computer itself – binary isn’t the only way to go.

Sometimes there are so much data that software collaboration is the best way forward. In the issue, physicists Martin White and Pat Scott describe how the GAMBIT Collaboration is creating a new, open-source software tool that can test how theories of dark matter stack up against the wealth of data from various experiments such as direct searches for dark matter and the Large Hadron Collider. And with software development being so essential for physics research, data scientist Arfon Smith argues that we need to adopt better ways of recognizing those who contribute to this largely unrewarded activity. Columnist Robert Crease explores the other extreme: whether software can be patented.

Meanwhile, in an emerging field straddling both coding and computing, researcher Maria Schuld explains how quantum computers could enhance an already powerful software approach known as machine learning. (You can also read her article on physicsworld.com here.) Further into the realm of raw computing, physicist Jessamyn Fairfield describes the quest to develop a new kind of hardware that is physically, and functionally, similar to the computers inside our very own heads. As for how our brains process information, don’t miss a glimpse into the mind of physicist Jess Wade who has created a doodle based on the work Fairfield describes.

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Brooklyn’s pioneering approach to art and science

 Janna Levin outside the Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, New York 21 February 2017

Where art and science mix – astrophysicist Janna Levin outside Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, New York.

By Matin Durrani in New York, US

After spending four days in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I travelled down by train to New York (gotta love those comfy Amtrak seats and free WiFi). I first hooked up with mathematical physicist Peter Woit at Columbia University and then with science philosopher Bob Crease from Stony Brook University, who’s been a long-time columnist for Physics World.

I was keen to find out if they’d be interested in writing for the new Physics World Discovery series of ebooks and, while at Columbia, I had also hoped to put the same question to astrophysicist and author Janna Levin, who’s based in the physics department. Turns out, however, that Levin is on sabbatical, spending a year as “director of sciences” at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn’s Red Hook district. Curious to find out more about a centre that seeks to “make culture accessible to all”, I accepted her invitation to pay a visit.

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The February 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

PWFeb17cover-500-ruleBy Matin Durrani

It’s time to check out the February issue of Physics World magazine, where our cover story looks at the physicists studying how dinosaurs moved. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.com here.

There’s also a great feature about whether supersolids could be making a comeback, while science writer Brian Clegg explains why anticipating people’s questions is the secret to good science communication.

Elsewhere in the new issue, check out why Jules Verne was spot-on with the physics of drones and meet the man who’s been the driving force behind statistical physics meetings.

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

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Juan Morante: an energetic man

 

By Matin Durrani

Juan Morante, who’s boss of the Catalonian Institute for Energy Research (IREC), visited the headquarters of IOP Publishing, which publishes Physics World, late last year. Morante has also just taken up the reins as the new editor-in-chief of the Journal of Physics D and was here to discuss everything about the journal, from commissioning and peer review to design and marketing.

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Your future with physics

PWCareers17-cover-500By Margaret Harris

In a typical month, the careers section of Physics World features the stories of two different physicists: one who is working in a physics-related field (such as engineering or teaching), and another who decided to do something totally different (such as designing sailboats or running a winery).

I find these stories endlessly fascinating, and when I was Physics World’s careers editor, I loved sharing them with the wider physics community. But the section isn’t there just to add human interest. It’s also giving current students (and later-career physicists seeking a change) a better idea of what they could do with their physics knowledge in the workplace.

After talking to students and careers professionals, I realized that publishing two stories in the magazine once a month wasn’t really the ideal way of doing this – at least, not for readers who are actively looking for careers ideas, and who might therefore prefer to learn about lots of different options at once.

So with these readers in mind, we’ve come up with a brand-new publication for 2017. The first edition of Physics World Careers contains a selection of the best articles published in the magazine’s careers section last year, plus an extensive employer directory.

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Boosting innovation in a Brexit Britain

Kevin Baughan, chief development officer at Innovate UK address delegates

Kevin Baughan, chief development officer at Innovate UK, addressing delegates at a Westminster Higher Education Forum yesterday on UK science funding and policy.

By Michael Banks

I headed to London yesterday for an event on the future of UK science and innovation funding and policy that was organized by the Westminster Higher Education Forum.

Held at the Royal Society of Medicine, the meeting was attended by representatives from government, business and academia. It was impeccably timed given that the “Brexit bill” is currently going through parliament and the UK government recently published an industrial strategy together with the announcement of an additional £4.7bn for R&D.

While it is safe to say that the UK is a scientific powerhouse, the same cannot be said of its ability to translate research into products and services, something that the new industrial strategy aims to tackle.

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