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Blog

Physics mosh pit, stained-glass scientists, opera and dance at CERN and more

 

By Hamish Johnston

Last week Physics World’s Michael Banks was at the APS March Meeting in San Antonio, and at the top of his to-do list was to belt out a few tunes at the event’s regular physics singalong. You can hear him in harmony with a roomful of physicists in a rendition of “(You Got Me) Lasing” in the video above. It is sung by Walter Smith of Haverford College to the tune of Britney Spears’ “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and his performance drives the dance floor into a frenzy of moshing physicists.

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Last views of a huge particle detector before the Large Hadron Collider comes to life

Photograph of the author at the CMS detector at CERN

My photo opportunity: this could be the last we will see of the CMS for three years.

By Tushna Commissariat at CERN

Regular readers of Physics World will know that I am currently visiting the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva, ahead of the restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the coming weeks. My first stop yesterday afternoon was a press conference in which CERN’s director-general Rolf Heuer and other leading physicists briefed us about “Run 2” and what researchers are hoping to discover. You can read about what they had to say here: “Large Hadron Collider fires up in a bid to overturn the Standard Model“.

I managed to squeeze in a quick last-minute visit to the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector before it is sealed up tight for the next three years. My host was CMS communications officer Achintya Rao, who took me and a few others deep underground into the bowels of the CMS – and what a sight it was!

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Pioneering women of physics, why you should become a particle physicist and a BICEP2 scientist on all that dust

Photograph of particle physicist at CERN

Smiley happy people: who would not want to be a particle physicist? (Courtesy: ATLAS)

By Hamish Johnston

Over on the Quantum Diaries blog, Aidan Randle-Conde has put together a lovely photo-essay called “30 reasons why you shouldn’t be a particle physicist”. It is reverse psychology, of course, and the 30 images highlight the benefits of devoting your life to studying sub-atomic particles. As someone who chose to do condensed-matter physics, do I now think that I made a huge mistake? No, but I have shared the thrill and excitement of being at CERN when the Higg’s was discovered and seen the Large Hadron Collider and its detectors up close, so I know where he is coming from.

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Zombie outbreaks in San Antonio

Photograph of a person dressed as a zombie

Where are you going to run to? (Courtesy: iStockphoto/Renphoto)

By Michael Banks in San Antonio, Texas

If you ever find yourself in the unfortunate position of trying to survive a zombie apocalypse in the US, what should you do?

Well, according to Alex Alemi of Cornell University and colleagues, you should head to the Rocky Mountains or the Nevada desert.

Using 2010 US census data for population levels around the country, Alemi and colleagues used statistical mechanics to model how a zombie outbreak would spread.

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Rediscovering Marie Curie and the pioneering women of science

Photograph of a panel of speakers at the women in physics conference

The panel of speakers at the women in physics conference. (Courtesy: Institute of Physics)

By Tushna Commissariat

This Sunday, as the world celebrates International Women’s Day, I’ll be thinking of some amazing women who had a huge impact on the world of physics, helping shape the field as we know it today. Indeed, yesterday I was at the Institute of Physics in London, attending a day-long conference on “The lives and times of pioneering women in physics” hosted by the Institute’s Women in Physics group along with its History of Physics group. While there were a host of interesting speakers at the event, undoubtedly the star of the day was French nuclear physicist Hélène Langevin-Joliot, granddaughter of one of the 20th-century’s most famous female physicists – Marie Curie.

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Daresbury holds a ‘wedding for microscopists’

Photograph of Quentin Ramasse

Quentin Ramasse in the driver’s seat at SuperSTEM 3. (Courtesy: Stuart Eyres/EPSRC)

By Anna Demming, online editor of nanotechweb.org

Last month on a rainy grey morning in north-east England I headed to the Daresbury Laboratory as the SuperSTEM lab there celebrated the installation of its latest world-class microscope. Industrial and academic microscopists from around the world gathered for the inauguration, which was described as a “wedding for microscopists” because so many people from the tightly knit microscopy community were there. You can hear the excitement in the audio piece below, where SuperSTEM lab director Quentin Ramasse and other researchers at the event tell me their plans for the new instrument.

Celebrating SuperSTEM 3
Quentin Ramasse, Peter van Aken, Helen Freeman and Ralph Haswell explain why they are looking forward to using SuperSTEM 3
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Celebrating a year of light

Photograph of Shuji Nakamura

Shuji Nakamura talks to delegates about blue light-emitting diodes.

By Michael Banks in San Antonio, Texas

With 2015 being the International Year of Light it is perhaps the perfect opportunity to have a session at this year’s American Physical Society meeting in San Antonio dedicated to the forefront of optics research.

Yesterday afternoon saw a number of light pioneers update delegates about their research. The session boasted three of last year’s Nobel-prize winners: Stefan Hell of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Gottingen, Germany; William Moerner of Stanford University; and Shuji Nakamura of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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Supporting industrial physicists

By Michael Banks in San Antonio, Texas

Here is a stat for you: around 50% of US physics graduates (both undergraduates and postgraduates) go on to work in industry.

Whether you think that is good or bad, the American Physical Society (APS) wants to do more to support those physicists who don’t pursue a career in academia.

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Weighty matters

The conference centre for the APS meeting

March maze. The conference centre for the APS meeting.

By Michael Banks in San Antonio, Texas

After finally getting my head round the maze-like Henry B Gonzalez Convention Center in San Antonio, it was straight into a packed schedule at this year’s American Physical Society (APS) meeting.

One topic that always causes concern among researchers is the crunch in helium supply.

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Your secret superpower

By Matin Durrani

The March 2015 issue of Physics World magazine, a special issue about light in our lives that is now out in print, online and via our apps, contains a fascinating feature about an astonishing – and largely unknown – superpower that you perhaps don’t realize you have. It might sound bizarre, but using your naked eyes – and with no additional gadgets whatsoever – you can detect whether or not light is “polarized”. And in the video above, Louise Mayor, features editor of Physics World, tells you how.

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