Tag archives: Nobel prize
By Tushna Commissariat and Hamish Johnston
Folk and country music often blends the sharp twang of a banjo with the mellow and sustained tone of a guitar. While the two instruments appear to be very similar – at least at first glance – they have very different sounds. This has long puzzled some physicists, including Nobel laureate David Politzer, who may have just solved this acoustical mystery.
By Hamish Johnston
When I was a PhD student, there was a group of retired professors that shared a tiny office in the physics department. It was whispered that one of them was extremely wealthy thanks to a successful commercial spin-out and we marvelled at the fact that he came in to work every day rather than enjoying the fruits of his labours. However, it wasn’t the wealthy professor who was destined for international fame. In 1994 his officemate Bertram Brockhouse shared the Nobel Prize for Physics, and Brockhouse’s quiet life changed dramatically. Indeed, he got his own office!
I was reminded of this little group when I read ZapperZ’s blog entry about his encounter with Ray Davis before Davis bagged the 2002 Nobel for his work on neutrinos. Sitting next to Davis on a two-hour flight, ZapperZ had an inkling that he was beside an interesting character after their brief chat about physics. But it wasn’t until the Nobel was announced several years later that he realized the opportunity he had missed.
By Hamish Johnston
On Tuesday I was feeling particularly pleased with myself over the April Fool’s piece that I penned. It was about a fictitious microwave-oven ban organized by radio astronomers at the UK’s Jodrell Bank Observatory. But now it looks like I might have a bit of microwaved egg on my face because two of my colleagues visited Jodrell Bank this week and guess what? Astronomers there have built a Faraday cage around the microwave in their tearoom to stop it from interfering with their equipment. Louise Mayor took the above photos: click on the image to read the reminder to microwave users.
By Hamish Johnston and Tushna Commissariat
This was Nobel week, and physicists had two prizes to celebrate this year. Of course there was the prize for physics, which this year went to Peter Higgs and François Englert for their theoretical prediction of the Higgs boson in 1964.
Shortly after the physics-prize announcement, Englert was on the phone to Stockholm, but the Nobel officials couldn’t seem to find Higgs. Early rumours were that he had retreated to the Highlands of Scotland to avoid the media glare, but a few hours later he was photographed outside his Edinburgh home by The Scotsman newspaper.
Later, the BBC reported that Higgs was told about his Nobel win by a passer-by on an Edinburgh street, who stopped her car when she spotted the physics laureate on the pavement. “She congratulated me on the news and I said ‘Oh, what news?’,” Higgs is quoted as saying.
By Michael Banks
Yep, it’s that time of year again, when predictions for the Nobel prize get bandied about and notable physicists will be making sure that their mobile phones are fully charged in anticipation of a call from Stockholm.
The 2013 Nobel Prize for Physics will be announced on Tuesday 8 October at 11:45 CET. Work on the Higgs boson, which was discovered last year at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, is the surely the hot favourite to win this year, but the Nobel Foundation sometimes springs surprises and 2013 may be no different.
So who do you think will win this year’s prize?
By Hamish Johnston
I thoroughly enjoyed a recent BBC Radio 4 profile of Andre Geim of the University of Manchester, who shared the 2010 Nobel Prize for Physics. In the 13 minute broadcast, which is available for download, Geim and several admirers talk about the passion for doing quirky fundamental research that led to his co-discovery of graphene.
There is even the bold suggestion from one of Geim’s colleagues that there might be another Nobel in the Russian-born physicist.
By James Dacey
Earlier this week my colleague reported the death of Heinrich Rohrer, the Swiss condensed-matter physicist who shared the 1986 Nobel Prize for Physics for the invention of the scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) at IBM’s Zürich Research Laboratory. Rohrer shared one half of the prize with his IBM colleague Gerd Binnig, while the other half went to the West German Ernst Ruska for his invention of the electron microscope (EM).
By bringing into view the atomic world, EMs and STMs have undoubtedly had a huge impact on science. Before their invention, optical microscopy had been a truly transformative technology. But it had been fundamentally limited to seeing things that are (roughly speaking) larger than the wavelength of the light used to produce the image. And since the wavelength of visible light is some 10,000 times larger than the typical distance between two atoms, we could not see individual atoms.
By Tushna Commissariat
There’s nothing quite like mentioning extraterrestrials or aliens to get us “Earthlings” all excited or riled up! Late last week, a paper popped up on arXiv, by astronomer Alan Penny from the University of St Andrews. He outlines an incident where, for a short while, the possibility of alien contact was seriously considered. He was talking about what was ultimately the discovery of the first pulsar; but at the time the researchers couldn’t help but wonder if they had come across the first “artificial signal” from outer space.
The exciting happenings began in August 1967, when Jocelyn Bell Burnell (then a graduate student working with Antony Hewish – controversially, only Hewish won the Nobel prize for the pulsar discovery in 1974) at the University of Cambridge, noticed a particular source that had a “flickering pattern” that, over a few weeks, she realized showed up regularly each day at the same sidereal time. That December Bell pinpointed the specific position of the source in the sky using another telescope and the discovery was confirmed. In the coming months, three more similar patterns were found and the researchers agreed on “pulsating stars” or pulsars being the source. But during those winter months, the possibility that they had encountered the first alien signal loomed large. In fact, Brunell and colleagues dubbed the first pulsar LGM-1 or “Little Green Men”; although it was changed to CP 1919, and is now known as PSR B1919+21.