The cover story in the October 2016 issue of Physics World magazine – now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop – reveals the inside story of how military labs are opening up their research facilities to the world. You can read the article here too.
The October issue also looks at how breakthroughs in physics really occur – is it flashes of insight or just long, hard graft? – and examines why we could finally find discrepancies in the “equivalence principle” that inertial and gravitational mass are the same.
Don’t miss either the ding-dong over China’s plans to build a new collider, our interview with Nithaya Chetty on transforming South African astronomy, or Robert P Crease’s Critical Point column on the danger of “unknown unknowns”.
Prize winning: will the detection of gravitational waves win this year’s Nobel? (Courtesy: Caltech/MIT/LIGO Lab)
By Hamish Johnston
The first week of October is nearly upon us and the question on almost every physicist’s lips is “who will win this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics?”. The people’s favourite for 2016 seems to be the physicists who pioneered the LIGO gravitational-wave detectors. In February 2016 LIGO researchers announced that they had made the first ever detection of a gravitational wave – from two merging black holes. A few months later, a second detection was announced.
Normally, Nobel nominations are closed in January so it’s possible that LIGO missed the boat. However, both the first and second detections were actually made in 2015 – with the results subsequently published in 2016. So the LIGO pioneers could have been nominated before the deadline as the collaboration already knew it had detected gravitational waves. It’s all pure speculation, of course, as each year’s deliberations are kept top secret for 50 years.
So who could be claiming the prize for LIGO? Three people favoured by pundits are Rainer Weiss, Kip Thorne, and Ronald Drever. Drever and Weiss played crucial roles in designing and building LIGO, whereas Thorne calculated what gravitational waves would look like to the detector.
Today marks the end of Peer Review Week – a “global event celebrating the essential role that peer review plays in maintaining scientific quality”. The event brought together “individuals, institutions and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications”.
My first experience of being peer reviewed did not begin well. Here’s the opening of the referee’s report:
“The purpose of publication is to disseminate knowledge to other people who may be able to use it. Since the model dramatically fails the authors’ own experimental tests more than half of the time, I can’t imagine anyone wanting to use it. I therefore recommend against its acceptance, here or anywhere else.”
So what better time to have another special report on China? Based on visits to Beijing, Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the issue, which you can read free here, includes an overview of the current state of physics in the country as well as an interview with Wei Yang, president of the National Natural Science Foundation – the country’s biggest investor in basic science – and a piece looking at how scientists can foster good collaborations with physicists in China.
If you’ve ever wondered just how big a deal peer review is to the publishing sector, the infographic above (click on it to see the whole graphic) reveals some key figures such as the number of reviews completed last year at IOP Publishing, the average time taken to complete a review, as well as the reviewers’ geographical spread.
This week, academic publishers all over the world are celebrating peer review and the vital role it plays in the scientific process. Indeed, this week is officially dubbed “Peer Review Week” and this yearly event aims to bring together “individuals, institutions and organizations committed to sharing the central message that good peer review, whatever shape or form it might take, is critical to scholarly communications”. This is the second time the event is being held, and this year’s theme is “recognition for review”.
TPDL 2016 took place at the grand Hannover Congress Centrum.
Communicating science through video was the theme of a workshop I participated in yesterday in Hannover, Germany, as part of the Theory and Practice of Digital Libraries conference (TPDL 2016). It was a varied audience that included journalists, academics and librarians. I came away feeling inspired by all the possibilities, but realizing that science communication has a long way to go to use this medium to its full potential. I’ll share with you here some of the key messages.
As Physics World’s multimedia editor, I used my slot to talk about some of the journalistic videos I’ve produced and commissioned during the past few years – discussing what’s worked, what hasn’t and where I think journalistic video production is heading. I made the point that to create engaging web video you have to think carefully about how your audience will be watching the films. Your film may look great on a large monitor, but will it be enjoyed by someone watching it on a smartphone on a bus or train? Also, what are you trying to achieve with the film? Are you trying to entertain or promote something? Or perhaps you are trying to teach? The style and tone will vary depending on the purpose.