Category Archives: General

Run the solar system

By Michael Banks

Fancy running through the entire solar system while out for a jog?

Well, soon you can, thanks to a free smartphone app from the British Science Association (BSA), which is set for release in early March. Run the Solar System is an “immersive running app” with the solar system scaled down to a 10 km virtual race.

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Stephen Hawking turns 75 with commemorative tome

Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking: 100 Years of General Relativity book

Special edition. (Courtesy: Isle of Man Post Office and Glazier Design)

By Michael Banks

What better way to celebrate Stephen Hawking’s 75th birthday than a limited edition commemorative book?

To mark the occasion, the Isle of Man Post Office has released Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking: 100 Years of General Relativity – a 32-page glossy tome that features quotes from the two famous physicists.

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Physics in Beijing – a photo tour

By James Dacey

Late last year, I visited the fast-growing physics powerhouse of Beijing, China. Along the way I took snapshots of the people, events and labs I visited – a selection of which I’ve put together here to share my highlights.

Photo of a colourful pagoda ceiling

ATLAS lookalike: Colourful pavilion ceiling resembles particle detector.

During a break from the serious business of science journalism, I visited Beihei Park, a 1000-year-old former imperial park close to the Forbidden City in central Beijing. While looking up at this ornate pavilion ceiling, I couldn’t help being reminded of the ATLAS detector at CERN.

 

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Happy New Year! The January 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

 pwjan17cover-500By Matin Durrani

Happy New Year from all the team at Physics World!

To get things off to a cracking start, check out the January issue of Physics World magazine, which has a wonderful feature by Patrick Hayden and Robert Myers about how the study of “qubits” – quantum bits of information – could be key to uniting quantum theory and general relativity. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.com from tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the new issue, you can discover how physicists have waded into the debate over whether magnetic fields can control neurons and enjoy a great feature on why some birds don’t kick out intruder cuckoo eggs.

You can also find out just why so many physicists are worried about Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration as US president.

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Holiday word challenge

rev-astronomy-poty-coverTo keep your brain cells active over the festive period, we have put together a word puzzle based wholly on articles published in Physics World this year. We have two copies of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 to give away as prizes. Download a PDF of the puzzle here.

For the fifth year in a row, the Royal Observatory Greenwich has produced a beautiful hardback book showcasing the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. This year, its publisher Collins Astronomy has kindly offered us two copies to give away to readers. You just need to complete the festive puzzle in this PDF to be in with a chance of winning. Terms and conditions apply.

See “Galaxies and auroras and planets, oh my!” for our review of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 and a sneak preview of the photos.

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The Science of Heaven

 

By Richard de Grijs in Beijing

Good things come to those who wait. Indeed, it has been almost six years since we initially thought about making an astronomy documentary set in China – and we finally showed it in public last month. The Science of Heaven premiered on 30 November 2016 at my institution, the Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University. By all accounts, it was very well received. While we are ironing out some final issues before releasing it publicly in early 2017, you can watch the trailer (above).

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Waking up to a gravitational wave


By Hamish Johnston

Yesterday we announced the winner of the Physics World 2016 Breakthrough of the Year, which went to the LIGO Scientific Collaboration for its revolutionary, first ever direct observations of gravitational waves. I caught up with six LIGO scientists in the above video Hangout and asked them what it was like when they first realized that they had detected gravitational waves emanating from two coalescing black holes 1.3 billion light-years away.

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To the stars, through adversity

pwastro16-cover-500By Margaret Harris

Space is, famously, “the final frontier”. It is also – almost as famously – “hard”. We saw this most recently in October, when the Schiaparelli lander crashed onto the surface of Mars, but throughout humanity’s nearly 60-year history as a spacefaring species, our hopes of exploring and observing the cosmos have repeatedly come up against the stiff challenge of building vessels that can survive the journey. Arguably, no other industry on Earth (or indeed off it) has rejoiced in such high “highs”, or agonized through such low “lows”.

That mix of heady dreams and harsh realities is one reason why the latest Physics World focus issue on astronomy and space science carries the tag line “To the stars, through adversity” (I’ll come to the other reason at the end of this blog post). The articles in the issue – which you can read free of charge – pay tribute to the ingenuity of the scientists and engineers involved in the challenging and rewarding practical work of exploring and observing the cosmos. Here, you can learn about the latest advances in astronomical instrumentation, get up to speed with future space missions, and familiarize yourself with recent developments in the entrepreneurial “new space” industry.

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Physics World‘s shortlist for Book of the Year 2016

pw-top-book-of-the-year-rgbBy Margaret Harris and Tushna Commissariat

The year 2016 has not covered itself in glory. Divisive elections, various natural and human-made disasters and a depressingly long obituary roll of well-loved celebrities mean that for many residents of planet Earth, this solar orbit has been one to forget.

But if, for a moment, we concentrate solely on the year in physics, the picture looks brighter. In particular, it’s been another strong year for popular-physics writing, and over the past few weeks, we have been determining which of the 57 books reviewed in Physics World in 2016 deserve to be on our list of the year’s best.

The books that appear on the shortlist below are all well written, novel and scientifically interesting to physicists – the criteria we’ve followed since 2009, when The Strangest Man, Graham Farmelo’s landmark biography of Paul Dirac, became our first “Book of the Year”.  A couple of biographies appear on our 2016 shortlist, too, but they face stiff competition from books on big science, stringy science, loopy science, spooky science, jazzy science and more. There’s even a book of science infographics in the running – a first for a competition that is, naturally, dominated by words rather than images.

We’ll announce the winner of our “Book of the Year” award in the Physics World podcast in mid-December, but in the meantime, take a look at the shortlist. We think it’s proof, if you needed any, that the year 2016 had some redeeming features after all.

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Diversity marks Institute of Physics awards dinner

Thumbs up - IOP president Roy Sambles at the IOP awards dinner in London on 29 November 2016

Thumbs up – Institute of Physics president Roy Sambles at the 2016 annual awards ceremony

By Matin Durrani

With the winter sun dipping over the horizon late on Tuesday afternoon, I caught the train from Bristol up to London to attend the annual awards dinner of the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World.

The event was held at the Lancaster London hotel a few minutes’ walk from Paddington station. Now, I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, but I found myself seated at dinner next to Farideh Honary, a space physicist from Lancaster University.

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