Category Archives: General

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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LGBT engineers share their inspiring experiences

 

By James Dacey

February in the UK is LGBT History Month, an annual event to promote equality and diversity for the benefit of the public. This year, three engineering organizations have got involved by producing a series of online videos profiling lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) engineers. According to the Royal Academy of Engineering, InterEngineering and the engineering firm Mott MacDonald, the ‘What’s it Like?’ video series is designed to “inspire prospective engineers who are LGBT, as well as existing engineers who may wish to come out or transition at work”.

The video above features a medley of quotes from people profiled in the films, including Mark McBride-Wright, who is the chair and co-founder of InterEngineering and a gay man. A not-for-profit outfit, InterEngineering seeks a more inclusive profession by running panel discussions and providing career development opportunities for LGBT engineers. “As a profession, we are at the beginning of a journey creating an inclusive industry for everyone and I hope these videos will play a part in attracting LGBT+ students to the engineering industry,” says McBride-Wright.

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US immigration and trade policies provoke debate at Photonics West

Photo of the Golden Gate Bridge against a clear blue sky

San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge welcomes scientific visitors to Photonics West – except for those banned from travelling to the US.

By Margaret Harris at Photonics West in San Francisco

“I’m an immigrant. I stole one American job. I helped create hundreds of thousands of others.”

Deepak Kamra’s words caused a stir among listeners at Photonics West, the massive industry trade show and scientific conference that descends on San Francisco, California each winter. Speaking at a panel discussion on “Brexit, US Policy, EU and China,” the Delhi-born veteran of the Silicon Valley venture capital scene said that he expected the new US administration – which recently imposed a travel ban on visitors from seven majority-Muslim countries – to target Asian and South Asian technology workers next. Restrictions on the number of foreign-born students studying science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) at US universities could follow. Ultimately, Kamra concluded, “We are going to lose a lot of qualified people.”

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A fusion fly-over

 

By Michael Banks

To the critics, a working fusion power plant is always 30 years away.

But in the past decade, progress has been made at the construction site of the ITER fusion reactor in Saint-Paul-lez-Durance, France.

Ten years ago – on 29 January 2007 – preparation work began on ITER’s home in the large stretch of national forest. Within two years, more than three million cubic metres of rocks and soil had been removed to level the site ready for the behemoth.

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Physics in the US: no longer business as usual

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US (Courtesy: CBP)

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US. (Courtesy: CBP)

By Matin Durrani

Over the last couple of years here at Physics World, we’ve been publishing special reports examining the state of physics in different nations around the world, including Brazil, China, Japan, India, Korea and Mexico.

When we decided in September last year to publish our next special report in 2017 on the US, it seemed reasonable to expect that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president. For science, a Clinton presidency would pretty much have been “business as usual” and so, probably, would have been the tone of our special report.

But now that Donald Trump is in the White House, it looks as if we’re entering a period where the US is as far removed from “business as usual” as you could imagine.

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