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Physics in the US: no longer business as usual

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US (Courtesy: CBP)

New rules: citizens of seven countries have been barred from the US. (Courtesy: CBP)

By Matin Durrani

Over the last couple of years here at Physics World, we’ve been publishing special reports examining the state of physics in different nations around the world, including Brazil, China, Japan, India, Korea and Mexico.

When we decided in September last year to publish our next special report in 2017 on the US, it seemed reasonable to expect that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected president. For science, a Clinton presidency would pretty much have been “business as usual” and so, probably, would have been the tone of our special report.

But now that Donald Trump is in the White House, it looks as if we’re entering a period where the US is as far removed from “business as usual” as you could imagine.

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Great wagers in physics, CERN’s pine marten gets stuffed, Doomsday Clock moves closer to midnight

Flat out: Wallace saw him coming (Courtesy: PI)

Flat out: Wallace saw him coming. (Courtesy: PI)

By Hamish Johnston

I bet you can’t resist clicking on “Great wagers in physics history” – which has been compiled by Colin Hunter at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada. A surprising number involve Stephen Hawking, whose record on winning is quite abysmal according to Hunter. Hawking’s fellow Cantabrigian Isaac Newton also enjoyed a flutter and accepted Christopher Wren’s offer of 40 shillings to anyone who could – in two months – derive a force law that explained Keplers laws of planetary motion. Newton succeeded, but ran overtime so he didn’t collect the cash. In the image above you can read about another wager involving a “flat-Earth theorist”.

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Marie Curie battles downloading robots, happy 50th birthday ILL, a dodgy portrayal of astronomers

Robot proof: Marie Curie makes an appearance (Courtesy: APS)

Robots beware: Marie Curie makes an appearance. (Courtesy: APS)

By Sarah Tesh

Avid readers of the Physical Review series of journals will be used to clicking on a photograph of Albert Einstein before downloading papers. This is a security feature designed to stop robots from the mass downloading of papers. Now, the American Physical Society – which publishes the journals – has added a photograph of Marie Curie to the anti-robot system. The addition of a famous female physicist was the idea of Anna Watts, who is an astrophysicist at the University of Amsterdam. She has since Tweeted “This makes me incredibly happy.”

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Create films with the sounds of space

 

By James Dacey

Last weekend I went to a Davie Bowie tribute night at a local pub in Bath. It was a fun evening – roughly a year since the artist passed away – where local musicians played classic tracks by Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke and several of Bowie’s other alter egos. One of the more surreal moments of the night was when a man in a pink suit took to the stage to play what the band called his “spaceship” – producing a whirring, repetitive electronic sound that built up to a crescendo. For a few minutes we were transported into space, just as Bowie intended with many of his memorable songs.

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Run the solar system

By Michael Banks

Fancy running through the entire solar system while out for a jog?

Well, soon you can, thanks to a free smartphone app from the British Science Association (BSA), which is set for release in early March. Run the Solar System is an “immersive running app” with the solar system scaled down to a 10 km virtual race.

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Pillars of light in the sky, an atomic knot and an atlas of physics

 

By Sarah Tesh

If I got woken in the middle of the night by my screaming child and then saw beams of light in the sky, I think I’d be worried. When Timmy Joe in Ontario saw them, however, he assumed the multi-coloured beams were the Northern Lights. Turns out they were actually caused by the extreme cold. Moisture was freezing so fast that it formed ice flakes only a few molecules thick that could float in the air. These then refracted the city lights to create a colourful light show in the night sky.

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Stephen Hawking turns 75 with commemorative tome

Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking: 100 Years of General Relativity book

Special edition. (Courtesy: Isle of Man Post Office and Glazier Design)

By Michael Banks

What better way to celebrate Stephen Hawking’s 75th birthday than a limited edition commemorative book?

To mark the occasion, the Isle of Man Post Office has released Albert Einstein to Stephen Hawking: 100 Years of General Relativity – a 32-page glossy tome that features quotes from the two famous physicists.

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Live space station upgrade, more zombie physics, T-shirts for LIGO

Working in space: A still image from the NASA spacewalk video (Courtesy: NASA)

Working in space: A still image from the NASA spacewalk video. (Courtesy: NASA)

By Hamish Johnston

NASA is live streaming a video of a spacewalk on its Facebook page, and you just might be able to catch it live from the International Space Station – or watch it again. The video shows astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson upgrading the space station’s power system – and it looks like hard work to me.

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Physics in Beijing – a photo tour

By James Dacey

Late last year, I visited the fast-growing physics powerhouse of Beijing, China. Along the way I took snapshots of the people, events and labs I visited – a selection of which I’ve put together here to share my highlights.

Photo of a colourful pagoda ceiling

ATLAS lookalike: Colourful pavilion ceiling resembles particle detector.

During a break from the serious business of science journalism, I visited Beihei Park, a 1000-year-old former imperial park close to the Forbidden City in central Beijing. While looking up at this ornate pavilion ceiling, I couldn’t help being reminded of the ATLAS detector at CERN.

 

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Happy New Year! The January 2017 issue of Physics World is now out

 pwjan17cover-500By Matin Durrani

Happy New Year from all the team at Physics World!

To get things off to a cracking start, check out the January issue of Physics World magazine, which has a wonderful feature by Patrick Hayden and Robert Myers about how the study of “qubits” – quantum bits of information – could be key to uniting quantum theory and general relativity. The issue is now live in the Physics World app for mobile and desktop, and you can also read the article on physicsworld.com from tomorrow.

Elsewhere in the new issue, you can discover how physicists have waded into the debate over whether magnetic fields can control neurons and enjoy a great feature on why some birds don’t kick out intruder cuckoo eggs.

You can also find out just why so many physicists are worried about Donald Trump’s imminent inauguration as US president.

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