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Physicists celebrate Singapore’s golden-jubilee year

Photo of the second phase of Singapore's giant Fusionopolis R&D centre taken in May 2015

Golden future – the second phase of Singapore’s giant Fusionopolis R&D centre.

By Robert P Crease in Singapore

I’ve landed in Singapore shortly before the 50th anniversary of the nation’s independence –  Sunday 9 August is the official date. The event that brought me was a conference entitled “60 Years of Yang–Mills Gauge Field Theories”, the opening day of which on Monday 25 May featured speeches by C N Yang, who shared the 1957 Nobel Prize for Physics, as well as David Gross – the 2004 Nobel-prize winner. I spoke on Wednesday morning.

But the conference isn’t the only physics-related event scheduled in Singapore’s jubilee year. Another is the opening of Fusionopolis II, the second phase of an innovative research and development (R&D) hub funded by the government’s Agency for Science and Technology Research (A*STAR). Phase one opened seven years ago – you can relive Physics World news editor Michael Banks’s experiences here; phase two is slated to open on 19 October. The initiative aims to supercharge Singapore’s research ecology by putting in close proximity materials-science research institutes, industrial research centres, and an international collection of eminent universities.

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The June 2015 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

For nearly three decades, physicists have been unable to answer a seemingly simple question: where does proton spin come from? Adding up the spins of the three quarks that make up the proton seems, in principle, straightforward, but physicists have been struggling with a strange problem: the sum of the spins of its three quarks is much less than the spin of the proton itself.

Cover of Physics World June 2015

Known as the “spin crisis”, the topic appears as the cover story of the June 2015 issue of Physics World, which is out now in print and digital formats. In the feature article, science writer Edwin Cartlidge examines the origins of the problem – and whether new experiments could mean we are about to solve it at last.

If you’re a member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), you can get immediate access to the feature with the digital edition of the magazine on your desktop via MyIOP.org or on any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet via the Physics World app, available from the App Store and Google Play. If you’re not yet in the IOP, you can join as an IOPimember for just £15, €20 or $25 a year to get full digital access to Physics World.

The issue also includes a great Lateral Thoughts article by Felix Flicker that’ll have you twisting and bending your arms as you try to follow what he’s on about.

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Big bucks from The Big Bang Theory, the good, bad and ugly of physics writing and more

Jim Parsons and UCLA alumna Mayim Bialik are among the cast, crew and executives funding a scholarship for students in science, technology, engineering and maths. ( Courtesy: Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)

Jim Parsons and UCLA alumna Mayim Bialik from The Big Bang Theory TV show. (Courtesy: Warner Bros Entertainment Inc.)

By Tushna Commissariat

It’s not often that one can say that watching TV may help your future career as a scientist, but today, after the hit US TV show The Big Bang Theory announced a scholarship for STEM students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), it may be possible. The show, revolves around a group of young scientists – mainly physicists, but also an engineer, a microbiologist and a neuroscientist – making it a science-heavy show. Indeed, we at Physics World have delved into the secrets of the show’s success and talked to one of its scientific advisers. Now, the sitcom’s co-creator, cast and crew have announced a scholarship fund at UCLA to provide financial aid to undergraduate students pursuing degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The show’s executive producer, Chuck Lorrie, told the Deadline website that “when we first discussed it, we realized that when Big Bang started, this freshman class were 10 year olds”, adding that  “some of them grew up watching the show, and maybe the show had influence on some of them choosing to pursue science as a lifetime goal. Wouldn’t it be great if we can help.” For this academic year, 20 “Big Bang Theory scholars” will be picked to receive financial assistance, with five new scholars each year from now. You can read more about it on the BBC website.

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Preparing for DEMO

Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak

Laying the groundwork: engineers are rebuilding the Mega Amp Spherical Tokamak. (Courtesy: Michael Banks)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday I took the train from Bristol and headed to the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) in Oxfordshire.

Owned and operated by the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, the CCFE is already home to the Joint European Torus (JET) tokamak, which in 2011 underwent a £60m upgrade programme that involved replacing the carbon tiles in the inner reactor wall with beryllium and tungsten. The purpose of this retrofit was to test the materials that are to be used in the ITER fusion experiment, which is currently being built in Cadarache, France.

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The museum exhibit that you inspired

Robert P Crease at the Mind Museum in Manilla, the Philippines

Inspired thinking – Robert P Crease in front of an exhibit at Manila’s Mind Museum that was inspired by Physics World readers.

By Robert P Crease in Singapore

It’s not often that you come across a museum exhibit based on a Physics World article. But I did on Saturday at the Mind Museum – an extraordinarily beautiful and original science museum in Taguig, on the outskirts of Manila in the Philippines.

Not only that, the exhibit is right at the entrance. You may recall that I once asked Physics World readers for their thoughts on the 10 most beautiful experiments and wrote up the results in an article in September 2002. The project turned into a book, The Prism and the Pendulum: The Ten Most Beautiful Experiments in Science, which came out the following year and which Physics World reviewed.

Maria Isabel Garcia, who was planning exhibits for the then-future Mind Museum, saw the article and book, and created an exhibit based on it, consisting of videos and explanations of each of the 10 experiments, along with a sculpture designed by the Philippine artist Daniel de la Cruz.

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On top of the volcano – part two

 

By Matin Durrani at Sierra Negra, Mexico

Just as my Physics World colleague James Dacey mentioned earlier, neither of us felt super-wonderful yesterday visiting the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT), which sits at a height of 4600 metres above sea level.  Spectacular though the facility is, the air pressure is roughly 60% of that at sea level and there is so little oxygen that even walking up a flight of stairs made me feeling pretty light-headed.

So, James and I were both quite glad to descend with LMT director David H Hughes to a height of 4100 metres, where it was time to visit another leading Mexican astronomy facility – the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gamma-ray observatory.

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On top of the volcano – part one

 

By James Dacey at Sierra Negra, Mexico

Friday was the final full day of the Physics World Mexican adventure and we ended with a breathtaking experience, quite literally.

Matin and I rose early in Puebla to travel over a hundred kilometres east to the ominously named Sierra Negra volcano. This extinct beast is home to two of Mexico’s finest astrophysics facilities.

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The Dark Matter Garden, gravitational atoms, boys and girls with toys, and more

Gravitational gardening: the Dark Matter Garden at Chelsea

Gravitational gardening: the Dark Matter Garden at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. (Courtesy: National Schools’ Observatory)

By Hamish Johnston

Gardening is something that the British take very seriously and this week’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show is the pinnacle of that obsession. Indeed, it is so popular that it is covered live on television by the BBC. One highlight of the show is the garden competition, in which designers transform an empty plot into a dazzling garden in just 10 days. This year’s entries include the Dark Matter Garden, which “brings the mysteries of the universe to Chelsea”. That’s the claim of the designers of the garden (including several astronomers), who built it for the UK’s National Schools’ Observatory. The team says that its gold-medal-winning design includes “innovative structures and planting, and represents the effect of dark matter on light”.

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Creating craters, Mexican style

By Matin Durrani in Puebla, Mexico

So it’s day five of the Physics World Mexican adventure and today we’ve been to the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), which is one of the oldest universities in the country. After taking a peek at a new facility containing one of the most advanced supercomputers in Latin America, we headed over to the Institute of Physics, where we bumped into Felipe Pachecho Vázquez.

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Examining precious artefacts without breaking them

By James Dacey in Mexico

From pre-Hispanic archaeological treasures to the Modernist paintings of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexico is brimming with cultural artefacts. Yesterday I visited a centre at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) that has developed techniques for investigating precious objects without damaging them.

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