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Antimatter comes to Brazil

Photo of some of the delegates at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazil Physics Society in Natal, Brazil, 5 September 2016

Great minds – some of the delegates at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazil Physics Society.

By Matin Durrani in Natal, Brazil

There can’t be many physics experiments to have been visited by members of not one, but two different rock bands. But then there’s something fundamentally captivating about the work of the ALPHA collaboration at the CERN particle-physics lab near Geneva, which is studying the properties of antimatter.

As Jeffrey Hangst from Aarhus University in Denmark revealed in his plenary talk at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazilian Physics Society (SBF) yesterday, the ALPHA collaboration has not only played host to a visit from legendary 1970s rockers David Crosby and Graham Nash, but in July also welcomed members of British alternative “space rock” outfit Muse while they were on a visit to CERN.

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Sun, sea, sand – and science

The beach next to the venue of the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazilian Physics Society in Natal

Paradise for physicists – the scene just metres from the venue for the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazilian Physics Society in Natal.

By Matin Durrani in Natal, Brazil

From London via Lisbon, I arrived yesterday evening in Natal – a city of 800,000 people on the north-eastern tip of Brazil – for the 50th anniversary meeting of the Brazilian Physics Society (SBF).

I was invited by Ricardo Galvão, previous SBF president and chair of the organizing committee, to take part in a session later in the five-day meeting about the development of physics over the next two decades.

As editor of Physics World, which is published by the Institute of Physics (IOP), I’ll be joined by representatives from other physical societies around the world.

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Terahertz analytics for better plasmas

Terahertz generators: Gianqian Liao (left) and Yutong Li

Terahertz generators: Gianqian Liao (left) and Yutong Li.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing 

Today was the last day of the Fall Meeting of the Chinese Physical Society here in Beijing and this morning I grabbed a coffee with Yutong Li and Giuqian Liao. I was hoping to learn more about their work that we covered in May in “Coherent terahertz radiation created in laser plasmas“.

Their technique involves firing a powerful laser pulse at a thin metal foil. This creates a plasma in which electrons are accelerated to high energies before bursting out of the foil. When they emerge, coherent terahertz radiation is given off.

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A great day out at the Institute of Physics in Beijing

Weyl theorists: Zhong Fang (left) and Hongming Weng

Weyl theorists: Zhong Fang (left) and Hongming Weng.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing 

This morning I had a wonderful visit to see some condensed-matter physicists at the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOP CAS). First I met with theorists Zhong Fang and Hongming Weng and if you know your equations you can see from the above photo that they work on Weyl semi-metals. Fang is deputy director of the institute and is head of a theoretical physics group that includes six faculty members and about 20 postgraduate students. Avid readers might recall that Fang and Weng were named in the Physics World Top 10 Breakthroughs of 2015 for their work on Weyl fermions.

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Primal colours across the spectrum, impossible space engines

 

By Tushna Commissariat 

Physicists and artists have long been intrigued and drawn in by the various mysteries that light and its many colours offer. In the latest installation to be unveiled at the Natural History Museum in London, artist Liz West has unveiled her stunning new work dubbed Our Spectral Vision. The exhibit aims to delve into the long and complex history of the development of colour and vision “through the eyes of nature”. Our regular readers will recall the many physics papers that look into the same, from the structural colour of butterflies to the nanostructures in avian eggshells to the mantis shrimp’s visual superpowers. West’s exhibit deals with many of these topics and more including some fantastic “350 rarely seen specimens, from beautiful birds to fossils of the first organisms with eyes”. If you are based in the UK, do visit the exhibit and otherwise, take a look at the video above to see through West’s eyes.

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Entrepreneurs should practise ‘inclusive knowledge transfer’

Ethical entrepreneur: Surya Raghu in Beijing

Ethical entrepreneur: Surya Raghu in Beijing.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing

“90% of new products are targeted at the richest 10% of the world’s population” – that’s my take-home message from a fascinating presentation by Surya Raghu at the Fall Meeting of the Chinese Physical Society here in Beijing. An engineer by training, Raghu founded US-based Advanced Fluidics in 2001 after a career in academia.

Raghu was speaking to a group of Chinese students about how to embark on a career as an entrepreneur. Student-age is the best time to acquire the mindset of an entrepreneur, says Raghu and he emphasized the concept of “inclusive knowledge transfer”. This a way of ensuring that products developed at universities benefit even the most disadvantaged in the world.

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China’s quantum star drops into Beijing

Quantum star: Jian-Wei Pan before his television appearance

Quantum star: Jian-Wei Pan before his television appearance.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing 

A few weeks ago China launched the world’s first “quantum satellite” from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, which about 1600 km from Beijing. This morning I met the lead scientist on the mission, Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China, who is visiting Beijing on his way home to Hefei from Jiuquan.

I asked Pan how the mission (called QUESS) was going, and in particular if his team has managed to get the satellite to send entangled pairs of photons back to Earth. He said we would have to wait for the team to write a paper about the satellite’s initial performance – so let’s just say he was in a very good mood! Stay tuned for more information about this pioneering mission that could lead to quantum communications in space.

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The September 2016 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

The cover story in the September 2016 issue of Physics World magazine – now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop – reveals the fascinating new field of “crowd breath research”, which can even shed light on how cinema audiences react during the changing scenes in a movie. You can read the article here on physicsworld.com too.

The September issue also shows how to do crystallography without crystals, explains how first data from the Gaia spacecraft could revolutionize astronomy (see the above video for more on that), and contains one physics teacher’s fascinating story about what she did to change her school’s gender balance.

Don’t miss either reader feedback on the potential impact of Britain leaving the EU on physics or Robert P Crease’s Critical Point column on why science denial is one of the most important issues in the US presidential campaign.

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How to use a mountain to detect neutrinos

Aiming high: Zhen Cao explains how to use a mountain to detect tau neutrinos

Aiming high: Zhen Cao explains how to use a mountain to detect tau neutrinos.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing

This evening I had dinner with Zhen Cao, who is one of China’s leading particle astrophysicists and works at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences here in Beijing.

Cao has found a great way to combine his passion for mountains and neutrinos: the Cosmic Ray Tau Neutrino Telescope (CRTNT), which, if built, will use an entire mountain in western China as a cosmic neutrino detector.

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A physics tour of Beijing

Dusk falls on Beijing

Dusk falls on Beijing.

By Hamish Johnston in Beijing 

It’s a lovely warm evening here in Beijing. I have just arrived for an action-packed visit in which I will have a chance to meet some of China’s top physicists and science policy makers.

Over the next few days I’m looking forward to meeting people at the Chinese Physical Society (CPS),  the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (MOST), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and more.

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