Category Archives: General
By James Dacey
Last night, the Nobel Laureate Andre Geim gave a talk in Bristol – hosted by Physics World – in which he told a lovely anecdote about the difference between fundamental research and the development of new technologies. Geim, who shared his Nobel in 2010 for his experiments with graphene, described an occasion during a holiday when he took a boat tour to watch dolphins. To the joy of Geim and the crew, these graceful animals glided up alongside the boat as if they were pining for human interaction. The physicist joined the others in reaching over the side of the boat to touch these magnificent beasts, and for a few minutes everyone delighted in the moment. Then suddenly the paradise was lost. To his shock, Geim heard the voice of a little boy behind him: “Mum, can we eat them?”
The point Geim was making was that, for him, it is enough to marvel at the wonder of graphene without necessarily “eating it” by turning it into commercial products. Geim does appreciate, however, that every so often a fundamental discovery does come along (as in the case of graphene) where the potential spin-offs are simply too delicious to resist. The tale of the boy and the dolphin was Geim’s poetic way of saying that he is going to stick with the pure physics, while it is the job of others to speculate about the potential technological uses of his research.
By James Dacey
In just over an hour’s time, I’ll be hopping on my bike and cycling to the top of a steep hill where the Nobel laureate Andre Geim will be found practising his lines. Sir Andre Geim is delivering a talk at the University of Bristol as part of a series of lectures to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Physics World. In Random Walk to Stockholm, Geim is going to be discussing his work on graphene that led to him sharing the 2010 Nobel prize with Konstantin Novoselov. He will also try to explain why this “wonder material” is attracting so much attention today.
For the small percentage of you who live close to Bristol, there are still tickets left for the event, which starts at 18:00 local time. I am planning to publish an audio recording of the lecture on this website after the event, for those of you who cannot attend tonight.
By James Dacey
The story goes that on the morning of this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics announcement, Peter Higgs had popped out for a leisurely lunch at a local pub without telling his colleagues at the University of Edinburgh. It meant that the Nobel prize committee in Stockholm was left scrabbling around trying to contact Higgs on several numbers, to no avail. We heard from François Englert in the slightly awkward phone conversation that customarily follows the prize announcement. But there was still no sign of the elusive Prof. Higgs.
Well fear not, because we will finally get to hear from the man behind the boson about his crowning achievement, via a free online course offered by the University of Edinburgh. The Discovery of the Higgs Boson is a seven-week course “about developments at the Large Hadron Collider, particle physics and understanding the universe”. Registration is already open for the massive open online course (MOOC), which starts on 10 February. It will feature interviews with Higgs himself and filmed lectures by a team of particle physicists at the University of Edinburgh, along with additional material including notes and further videos for more advanced students.
By Hamish Johnston
There is an interesting paper in Physical Review Letters this week with the mouthful of a title: “Enhancement of electron energy to the multi-GeV regime by a dual-stage laser-wakefield accelerator pumped by petawatt laser pulses“. This piqued my interest because I recently wrote an article for the 25th anniversary issue of Physics World that looks at how laser acceleration of protons and other hadrons could make certain cancer therapies more accessible.
By Matin Durrani
As you may have gathered (and if not, where have you been?) this month marks the 25th anniversary of Physics World – the member magazine of the Institute of Physics (IOP).
The issue has been available in print, online and via our apps (from the App Store and Google Play) since the start of the month to all members of the IOP, but because we want to celebrate our birthday with as many people as possible, we’re now making available a free PDF download of the entire issue to members and non-members alike. The PDF doesn’t have all the great multimedia you’ll find in the online and app versions, but it is still worth checking out.
The issue looks back at some of the highlights in physics of the last 25 years and also forward to where the subject is going next. We’ve split the bulk of the issue into five sections, each with five items (five times five being 25, of course):
By James Dacey
Science songs in London and a series of “lightning talks” in the Equadorian capital Quito are among the many events being held today around the world to mark Ada Lovelace Day 2013. The annual celebrations, which are now in their fifth year, are held to recognize the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).
The day’s namesake Ada Lovelace is often referred to as the world’s first computer programmer. Born in 1815, Lovelace was a child of the Romantic poet Lord Byron, and was raised by her mother who encouraged her daughter to develop an interest in science, logic and mathematics. Lovelace excelled and became friends with the mathematician Charles Babbage at the University of Cambridge, who had already started drawing up plans for his famous calculating machines.
By Tushna Commissariat
Inquisitive minds from all over the city of Bristol (where Physics World HQ is based) met at the University of Bristol’s Peel Lecture Theatre last night to hear astrophysicist Catherine Heymans give a talk entitled “The Dark Universe”, in which she tackled dark matter, dark energy, the structure of our universe from the largest to the smallest scales, flying pigs and even astronomical tooth fairies!
Heymans’ lecture was the first of a number of talks to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Physics World that we will be running with the Bristol Festival of Ideas, which hosts special events, talks and screenings held throughout the year in the city.
This being the first time that Physics World has been directly involved with the festival, we were pleased that Heymans’ talk was entirely sold out. And having a particular interest in astronomy, I made sure to attend the event, which proved to be a great success.
By Matin Durrani
Today marks the 25th anniversary of Physics World – the member magazine of the Institute of Physics (IOP) – which launched in October 1988. And to celebrate that fact, we’ve created a fantastic special issue of Physics World in which we look back at some of the highlights in physics of the last 25 years and also forward to where the subject is going next.
All members of the IOP can access the entire new issue right now via the digital version of the magazine or by downloading the free Physics World app onto your iPhone or iPad or Android device, available from the App Store and Google Play, respectively. The issue includes a stack of bonus audio and video content, including three short films we’ve specially made about some of the top spin-offs from physics.
We’ve split the bulk of the issue into five sections, each with five items (five times five being 25, of course):
• Find out our choice of the top five discoveries in fundamental physics over the last 25 years.
• See what five leading researchers have to say about Physics World‘s choice of the five biggest unanswered questions in physics right now.
• Enjoy our pick of the five top images from the last 25 years that have let us “see” a physical phenomenon or effect.
• Learn more about the five people who are changing the way physics is done.
• Gaze into the future as we disclose the five most promising spin-offs from physics.
We also have a set of fiendish physics-themed puzzles devised for you by staff at the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) – the first is revealed in the special issue and on our blog, with the rest to be unveiled on physicsworld.com throughout October.
By Hamish Johnston
Loyal readers may recall that earlier this year we published a news article entitled “Physicists rethink celebrated Kelvin wake pattern for ships” that reported on work done by two French physicists. While looking at Google Earth images of ships moving through the sea, Marc Rabaud and Frédéric Moisy noticed that some of the wakes did not conform to a prediction made years ago by Lord Kelvin, the renowned Victorian physicist, engineer and entrepreneur.
By James Dacey
US citizens woke up this morning to the unbelievable news that their federal government would be shutting down all its “non-essential” services after the two houses of Congress failed to reach an agreement on a new budget. What this means in practice is that hundreds of thousands of federal employees will now face unpaid leave – and NASA’s workforce is among the most badly affected.
A staggering 97% of NASA’s 18,134 employees have been granted leave of absence, according to the Office of Management and Budget, quoted in the New York Times. This is the highest percentage of all the federal departments and agencies to be affected by the shutdown. Other federal workers affected include 94% of the 16,205 employees of the Environmental Protection Agency, along with 69% of the 13,814 working within energy.
“Due to the gov’t shutdown, all public NASA activities/events are cancelled or postponed until further notice. Sorry for the inconvenience,” read a rather understated tweet from NASA earlier today. Within the past few hours, the NASA website has also shutdown indefinitely.