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Tag archives: art and science

Faraday explodes in court, NIST is entangled in dance, and Oliver Sacks’ periodic table


By Hamish Johnston and Michael Banks

You may remember back in 2013 when researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the US entangled the motion of a tiny mechanical drum with a microwave field for the first time ever. Not content with that feat, NIST physicist Ray Simmonds, who was involved in the work, has now made a dance about it (but no song, yet). Teaming up with choreographer Sam Mitchell, the duo has created a modern dance piece entitled Dunamis Novem (“The chance happening of nine things”). Featuring four dancers, their movements are based on nine quantized energy levels of a harmonic oscillator – like the microscopic drum in the NIST work. For each level, Mitchell created corresponding dance actions, while Simmonds created a random-number generator – to add some “quantum randomness” – for the sequence of levels that the dancers perform at. If the dancers happen to touch each other, their actions become synchronized, which can then only be broken by a beam of light – demonstrating that a measurement collapses the entanglement.

NIST has published a Q&A with Mitchell and Simmonds with links to videos of the dance and the animations of the corresponding energy levels of the harmonic oscillator. A video of the first half of Dunamis Novem is shown above and a video of the entire dance is also available.


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Converging streams, secret science and more


By Tushna Commissariat

Regular readers will know that Physics World‘s Hamish Johnston and Louise Mayor will be attending the “Convergence” conference at the Perimeter Institute in Canada from tomorrow onwards.  While the conference will undoubtedly prove exciting – just look at this list of speakers – it looks like the institute already has convergence on its mind as this month’s Slice of PI contemplates the “converging streams” of art and science. The video above features Perimeter researcher and artist Alioscia Hamma, who finds solace and symmetry in both his art and physics. Watch the video and read more about his work on the Perimeter blog.


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Space Station vacancy, lead balloons on the fly and more


By Michael Banks and Tushna Commissariat

You may remember that the “classical crossover” soprano star Sarah Brightman had been undergoing strenuous training at Moscow’s Star City complex before hitching a ride on a Soyuz rocket to the International Space Station (ISS) in September. The singer was set to pay a whopping £30m for a ticket that would have seen her embark on a 10-day journey into space. Brightman even recorded a special song in March that she was planned to perform on the ISS itself – you can watch the 5 News report above. But Brightman has now postponed the trip, putting out a brief statement on her website citing “personal family reasons” for the decision. One beneficiary of Brightman’s no-show will be the Japanese entrepreneur Satoshi Takamatsu, who had been training as Brightman’s back-up. Whether he’ll do his own version of her planned performance isn’t clear.


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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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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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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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A bright light in Mexico City’s historic centre

Museo de la LuzBy James Dacey in Mexico City

When you visit an unfamiliar city, you can often discover some hidden gems by just wandering the streets with your eyes wide open. This is what happened to Physics World editor Matin Durrani and me yesterday here in Mexico City when we stumbled across the Museo de la Luz (Museum of Light) in the backstreets of the historic city centre.

Located in an old Jesuit college with a beautiful courtyard, the exhibits are spread over three floors covering a wide spectrum of themes, from human vision to the history of the theories of light. What I loved about the place is that it really did offer something for everyone. Too often I find that museums can be great for kids or great for the type of serious adult who loves to leaf through tea-stained archives. El Museo de la Luz manages to hit a sweet spot, being informative and interactive but not too whizz-bang – that is certainly not what I needed yesterday with this jetlag!


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Space-station toilet tour, the Louvre’s particle accelerator and more


By Tushna Commissariat

I’m sure that many of us, while watching videos of astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS), floating around with their halo-like hair, have given much thought to how they shower, wash their hair, brush their teeth and, indeed, poop and pee! Well, you can stop stretching your imagination and take a look for yourself – we spotted this story on the Slate website, where you can see the latest videos from the European Space agency, where Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, who is currently on the ISS, gives us a tour of both the toilet (above) and the “shower” area (below). She even demonstrates exactly how to wash your hair in space – it looks rather fuss-free if you ask me!


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Hawking on 1D, Chernobyl fires, psychedelic science and more


By Tushna Commissariat

It’s not often that physics, or indeed a physicist, has much in common with pop music or exceedingly popular boy bands. But earlier this week, at an event at the Sydney Opera House titled “An Evening with Stephen Hawking, with Lucy Hawking and Paul Davies”, an audience member asked Hawking (who appeared in holographic form) “What do you think is the cosmological effect of Zayn Malik leaving One Direction?” Watch the video above to see what Hawking said to comfort the distraught fan and how theoretical physics truly may have all the answers.


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IYL 2015 gets Swiss design makeover

Posters inspired by IYL 2015

IYL 2015 is the theme of this student poster project.

By James Dacey

One of the big aims of the International Year of Light (IYL 2015) is to take scientific ideas out of the lab to show the world just how inspiring and useful they can be. In the process, it can forge relationships between different communities, including scientists, engineers, artists, journalists, architects, politicians, aid workers…the list goes on.

Here in Bristol, where Physics World is produced, we’ve seen a fantastic local example of this by way of an art project at the University of the West of England (UWE). Second-year graphic-design students were set the brief of creating posters themed on IYL 2015. Last night we hosted an evening at IOP Publishing headquarters to showcase the students’ work and to let them find out more about science publishing.


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