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Tag archives: conference

Lateral Thoughts: some things never change

By Margaret Harris

This is the second in a series of blog posts about “Lateral Thoughts”, Physics World’s long-running humour column. You can read the first one here.

The Lateral Thoughts column of humorous, off-beat or otherwise “lateral” essays has been part of Physics World ever since the magazine was launched in October 1988. In my previous post about the column’s history, I described some ways that Lateral Thoughts have changed since the early days (tl;dr version: loads of sexism, side order of class conflict).  But in my trawl through the archive, I’ve also discovered that some things haven’t changed very much at all over the past quarter-century.

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The future of energy in Gothenburg

Steven Chu and David Gross

Nobel laureates Steven Chu (left) and David Gross talk energy in Gothenburg. (Courtesy: A Mahmoud)

By Michael Banks

Yesterday I joined more than 1000 people attending the day-long Nobel Week Dialogue event in Gothenburg, Sweden. The delegates battled the cold winter weather to make it to the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre, just south-east of the city centre (and next to a theme park, of all things).

This is the second such Nobel Week Dialogue and the first time it has been held in Gothenburg. Last year the theme for the event in Stockholm was the “genetic revolution” and this year it was on “exploring the future of energy”.

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Why do beer bottles foam when struck on top?

A foamy mess in the making (Courtesy: Javier Rodríguez-Rodríguez)

A foamy mess in the making. (Courtesy: Javier Rodríguez-Rodríguez)

By Hamish Johnston

We’ve all had a friend who does it – you’re deep in conversation at a party, beer bottle in hand, when someone sneaks up and taps the top of your bottle with theirs, causing a foamy mess to erupt from your bottle. And to add insult to injury, their bottle doesn’t foam.

Now, physicists in Spain and France have studied this curious effect and gained a better understanding of how it occurs. While their work won’t prevent wet shoes and slippery floors at university social gatherings, the researchers believe their work could provide insights into geological features such as oil reservoirs, mud volcanoes and “exploding lakes”.

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Stephen Hawking boycotts high-profile Israeli conference

By James Dacey

Stephen Hawking has decided to pull out of the fifth Israeli Presidential Conference: Facing Tomorrow 2013, which is taking place in June. The world-famous British cosmologist and science communicator was due to deliver a keynote speech at the conference in Jerusalem, which boasts other presenters including Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev. But it appears that Hawking has made a late U-turn. That is according to a statement published by the British Committee for Universities for Palestine – an organization of UK-based academics, set up in response to the Palestinian call for an academic boycott of Israel.

We understand that Professor Stephen Hawking has declined his invitation to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference Facing Tomorrow 2013, due to take place in Jerusalem on 18–20 June. This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.

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Hunting the Higgs

By Michael Banks in Boston

“It looks like a Standard Model Higgs,” remarks Christopher Hill from Ohio State University. “Everything we have measured has strengthened that position.”

Last year, researchers working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN reported they had found a Higgs-like particle with an energy of around 126 GeV.

Yet while the Higgs looks like that predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, further measurements were needed before researchers could be sure.

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Shining a light on dark energy

By Michael Banks in Boston

Robert Kirshner

Robert Kirshner (Courtesy: Lynn Barry Hetherington).

Dust is annoying, particularly when you want to obtain a precise measurement of the expansion of the universe.

Today, Robert Kirshner from Harvard University gave a plenary lecture at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston giving participants a tour of the latest in dark-energy research.

Kirshner is a member of the High-Z team that some 15 years ago used observations of supernovae to discover that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Indeed, his former students – Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess – shared the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics together with Saul Perlmutter for this discovery.

Riess, a graduate student at the time, played an important part in figuring out how to account for dust when measuring supernovae distances. This dust surrounding a supernovae is annoying as it absorbs light, which introduces uncertainties in deducing how far away supernovae are.

Reiss managed to account for this well enough to measure the brightness of supernovae to a reasonable precision that could then be used to deduce the accelerating expansion of the universe; but now Kirshner’s team is planning to go a few steps further by doing better measurements.

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Japan 101

Stand from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting

Stand from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting.

By Michael Banks in Boston

There is certainly a big presence from Japanese research bodies at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston.

In the exhibitors’ hall, the World Premier Institutes (WPI), RIKEN and the Okinawa Institute for Science and Technology all share a large central stall plugging their research and facilities.

Indeed, this presence may well be part of Japan’s drive to increase the number of foreign researchers and students in the country by actively highlighting its top research and facilities, a topic Physics World touched upon in a special report published last September.

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First results due from AMS

By Michael Banks in Boston

The first results from the $1.5bn Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) are expected to be released in the coming two weeks, according to AMS principal investigator Samuel Ting.

Ting, who shared the 1976 Nobel Prize for Physics, was speaking at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston.

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A factor of two

conference image

Worrying signs at the National Ignition Facility.

By Michael Banks in Boston

“A factor of two is not a small thing, it is quite a challenge,” says Robert McCory from the University of Rochester in New York.

McCory was speaking about the latest in laser-based fusion research (known as inertial confinement fusion) at the 2013 AAAS conference.

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Infinite BBQs

By Michael Banks in Boston

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold.
(Courtesy: Ryan Matthew Smith)

Here is a good quiz question. What contains more water: a cucumber or a glass of milk?

If you happened to guess the humble cucumber then you would be correct.

At least that is, according to Nathan Myhrvold, who says the water content of a glass of milk is around 85%, while for a cucumber it is more like 95%.  This is because milk is made up of other things such as proteins and fat.

Myhrvold, who has a PhD in physics, was speaking at the 2013 AAAS meeting in Boston where he gave a plenary lecture to a packed audience on the science of cooking.

Myhrvold is the brains behind the recently published six-volume, 2400-page tome  Modernist Cuisine that took him and his staff of eight researchers around five years to put together.

Apart from talking about the novel cooking techniques he has developed such as making crispy chips in an ultrasonic bath and spinning peas in a centrifuge to bring out more flavour, Myhrvold had some tidbits of information we could all put to use.

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