Category Archives: General

From penguins to photons – the December 2016 issue of Physics World is now out

pwdec16cover-200By Matin Durrani

Everyone loves physics. And everyone loves animals, right? In the December issue of Physics World magazine, which is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, University of Bristol physicist Peter Barham explains how he became an expert in penguins, studying the factors that that affect their survival and discovering how to use the spots on African penguins to identify them. You can also read the article here.

Elsewhere in the new issue, you can enjoy our selection of the best books for Christmas, discover how one physicist became a successful contemporary dancer, and find out how to spot single photons with your naked eye.

Don’t miss either the chance to win a copy of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 in our special prize puzzle.

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The beauty of gravitational waves

Painting by Penelope Cowley depicting gravitational waves is being unveiled at Cardiff University's school of physics and astronomy on 25 November 2016

Science meets art – this painting by Penelope Cowley will be unveiled at Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy on 25 November.

By Matin Durrani

A new painting by Welsh artist Penelope Cowley is the latest attempt to bring art and science together. Set to be unveiled on Friday 25 November at Cardiff University’s school of physics and astronomy, the 1.2 × 1.5 m picture was inspired by the recent detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO collaboration.

According to the university, the oil painting “combines a visualization of data taken from the equipment used to detect the first gravitational waves…with an imagination of some of the celestial bodies that are responsible for creating these waves, such as binary black holes and neutron stars”.

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Quantum technology 2.0

Niki Haines from Insight Technologies

Niki Haines from Insight Technologies predicts the future of quantum computing.

By Michael Banks

Are we on the verge of a “quantum 2.0” revolution?

That was a question raised yesterday at an event that I attended at HP Labs in north Bristol, which was organized by the University of Bristol.

The day-long meeting featured a series of talks from industry about how quantum technologies are affecting business.

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American angst

Phot of Capital building in Wasington DC

Danger ahead – Donald Trump’s election as US president will not be business as usual for science policy. (Courtesy: iStock/uschools)

By Matin Durrani

Like many people, I’m fearful of the imminent Donald Trump presidency, given the many sexist, racist and otherwise unpleasant remarks he made during the US election campaign. However, his slogan – “Make America great again” – proved powerfully effective for many voters. Who, after all, could disagree with renewed domestic glory? Sadly, Trump’s plans for achieving that goal – what little we know of them – are based on such ill-informed and ignorant views that he could damage America’s long-standing leadership in many areas, including science.

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Newton’s apple pips to form UK orchard

Logo of the first ever Internetional Science Center and Science Museum Day

Extending outreach: today is a worldwide celebration of science centres and museums.

By Matin Durrani

Today is not only World Science Day for Peace and Development (come on, don’t tell me you didn’t know) but also the world’s first ever International Science Center and Science Museum Day, which goes by the clunky acronym ISCSMD.

The grandiosely titled day seeks to “create new ways for our institutions to proactively address global sustainability while reaching increasingly diverse audiences”.

Building on UNESCO’s theme of “science for peace and development”, outcomes from the day’s events and discussions will be presented at the Science Centre World Summit 2017 in Tokyo next November.

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Physics of food – the November 2016 issue of Physics World is now out

 

By Matin Durrani

If you love crisps – and frankly who doesn’t? – you’ll relish the cover feature of the latest issue of Physics World, in which features editor Louise Mayor tours the world’s biggest crisp factory at Leicester in the UK to see how physics is improving production of this yummy salty snack. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop and will also be made available on physicsworld.com later this month.

Elsewhere in this special issue on physics and food, you can find out how electric fields could help to cut the fact from chocolate and discover why sound holds the key to our appreciation of what we eat.

You can also see how physicists – being masters of data-gathering, modelling and simulation – are ideally placed to develop products that are healthier, more nutritious and make more of our resources. Find out too how soft-matter physicists are crafting “functional” foods that promote feelings of fullness and satisfaction.

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A toe-tally terrific trio

Photo of three Chatty Feet socks

Toe to toe: the three ChattyFeet physicist designs.

By Matin Durrani

It’s not even Halloween yet and Physics World HQ has already received its first gift ideas for the Christmas season. Now most of us might roll our eyes if we were given a pair of socks for Christmas, but the footwear sent to us by UK firm ChattyFeet – slogan “Let the socks do the talkin'” – are sure to bring a smile to any physicist’s face.

The company has three different physics-related sock designs on offer, each depicting a cartoon image of a famous physicist and branded with a toe-totally amusing name. First up is a fetching blue number dubbed “Stephen Toeking” with the washing instruction: “Choose a slow spinning cycle to avoid a black hole.”

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Highlights from Ada Lovelace Day 2016

Portrait of Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace (1848): considered to be the first computer programmer.

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.

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The 2016 Physics World Focus on Neutron Science is out now

By Michael Banks

pwneut16cover-200Neutron 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.

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Spotlight on the International Year of Light (IYL 2015)

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).

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