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Tag archives: Physics World magazine

The July 2015 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

Sometimes, nature does something unexpected – something so rare, transient or remote that only a lucky few of us get to see it in our lifetimes. In the July issue of Physics World, we reveal the physics behind our pick of the weirdest natural phenomena on our planet, from dramatic rogue waves up to 30 m tall, to volcanic lightning that can be heard “whistling” from the other side of the world, and even giant stones that move while no-one is watching. We also tackle tidal bores on rivers and the odd “green flash” that is sometimes seen at sunset.

Plus, we’ve got six fabulous full-page images of a range of weird phenomena, including salt-flat mirrors, firenadoes, “ice towers”, beautifully coloured nacreous clouds, mysterious ice bubbles of gas trapped in columns, as well as my favourite – the delicately wonderful “frost flowers” seen very occasionally on plants.

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Inside Mexico’s giant centre of learning

 

By Matin Durrani in Mexico City

It’s one of the biggest universities in the world with several hundred thousand students, but the Universidad Nacional Autonóma de México (UNAM) is certainly not the oldest. In fact, the first person to get a degree and PhD in physics at UNAM – Fernando Alba – is still alive. Aged 95, he studied at UNAM’s Institute of Physics shortly after it opened its doors in 1939.

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Physics World visit to Mexico kicks off

By Matin Durrani in Mexico City

I don’t know about you, but my trick whenever flying halfway across the world is to shoehorn myself as fast as possible into the new time zone I’m in. Having travelled from the UK to Mexico City with my colleague James Dacey yesterday, that tactic seems to have worked…so far. After staying up till midnight following a mini-feast of fabulous spicy tacos at a nearby restaurant while a thunderstorm broke, I woke up on cue at 7 a.m. as dawn broke in one of the biggest urban areas in the world.

We’re both here to gather material for a Physics World special report on physics in Mexico, which is due out in September. Following fast on the heels of recent reports on India, Brazil, Korea, India (again), Japan and China, the report will shine a light on some of the exciting physics research going on in the country and highlight some of the challenges and opportunities the country’s physicists face, too.

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The May 2015 issue of Physics World is now out

By Matin Durrani

A couple of years back, I had the pleasure of travelling 1100 metres below ground to visit a dark-matter laboratory at the bottom of the Boulby Mine on the north-east coast of England. The journey was certainly memorable – it involved plunging down in a rattling lift cage for several minutes with a group of miners setting off on their morning shift. Once in the lab – housed inside a souped-up set of trailers – I interviewed physicist Sean Paling about the experimental projects going on there.

Setting up an underground lab, like that at Boulby, certainly doesn’t come cheap and in recent years, many have started to diversify into new areas. In the May issue of Physics World, which is now out in print and digital formats, Paling and his colleague Stephen Sadler – who is director at DURRIDGE UK Radon Instrumentation – describe the renaissance in the science taking place far beneath our feet. Studies in underground labs now range from Mars rovers to muon tomography and from radioactive dating to astrobiology.

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Five amazing physics demonstrations

By Matin Durrani

Even if you’re a hardcore theoretical physicist, I’m sure you’ll agree that experiments are the lifeblood of physics. After all, theory and experiment go hand in hand – and there’s nothing to beat getting your hands dirty to get a proper understanding of the subject.

But how can pupils and students get excited about experiments? Making practical work a key part of exam syllabuses is surely important – yet the danger then is experimental work becomes a chore not a charm.

If you need inspiration, check out the April issue of Physics World magazine, which is now out in print and digital formats. It contains a great feature by Neil Downie – head of sensors at Air Products, Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK and a Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Surrey.

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Your secret superpower

By Matin Durrani

The March 2015 issue of Physics World magazine, a special issue about light in our lives that is now out in print, online and via our apps, contains a fascinating feature about an astonishing – and largely unknown – superpower that you perhaps don’t realize you have. It might sound bizarre, but using your naked eyes – and with no additional gadgets whatsoever – you can detect whether or not light is “polarized”. And in the video above, Louise Mayor, features editor of Physics World, tells you how.

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Louise Mayor bags European astronomy journalism prize

Andrew Taylor, Executive Director of the National Laboratories at STFC congratulates the winner of the European Astronomy Journalism Prize 2014. (Courtesy: ESO/STFC)

Andrew Taylor of the Science and Technology Facilities Council congratulates Louise Mayor on winning the European Astronomy Journalism Prize 2014. (Courtesy: ESO/STFC)

By Matin Durrani

If you think that writing a great feature article about physics is easy, think again. You want something that’s pitched at the right level for the audience. You’ve got to avoid jargon and explain technical terms where necessary. You can’t go on and on – you’re not trying to rewrite Wikipedia.

Most importantly, you need to tell a good story and say something new, different and intriguing. And remember, your readers could switch off at any point, so the article has to be well written, flow well from point to point, have plenty of colour and, ideally, have some pay-off or punch-line at the end. No point just trailing off into nothingness. Oh, and good pictures, headlines and captions are a must.

So I’m sure you’ll join me in congratulating my colleague Louise Mayor – features editor of Physics World magazine – who has won this year’s European Astronomy Journalism Prize for an article she wrote for the October 2014 edition of the magazine. Her winning article is entitled “Hunting gravitational waves using pulsars” and looks at efforts to detect gravitational waves using radio telescopes to observe distant pulsars.

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The February 2015 issue of Physics World magazine is now out

By Matin Durrani

It’s now more than 40 years since the last person set foot on the Moon, but since then we’ve come to realize that the lunar surface is not only home to plenty of rare-earth elements, such as lanthanum and neodynium, but also to more than a billion tonnes of water-ice at the poles. Several US firms in fact have bold plans to mine those resources, as the cover story of the February issue of Physics World magazine makes clear.

One idea is to electrolyse the water into hydrogen and oxygen that could be used as a fuel source for operations on the Moon. Even more boldly, the water ice could be shipped to low Earth orbit, where it could be used to fuel space craft sent up from Earth. To find out more about whether those plans are realistic, do check out the February issue, which is now out online and through our app.

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Enjoy 10 of the best Physics World articles on light

PW-2015-01-19-blog-select-isotope

Celebrating IYL 2015 with a special free-to-read digital edition of Physics World.

By Matin Durrani

The International Year of Light (IYL 2015), which officially launches today at the headquarters of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Paris, is a brilliant initiative, but if you’re wondering how to find out more about the science and applications of light, then I’ve got the perfect place for you to start.

That’s because Physics World magazine is launching today a great, free-to-read digital edition containing 10 of our very best feature articles on the science and applications of light.

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The January 2015 issue of Physics World is out now

 

By Matin Durrani

The first issue of Physics World magazine of 2015 is now out online and through our app.

As I outline in the video above, this issue looks at the challenges of synthesizing artificial human voices. Another feature explores the little-known Jesuits who boosted astronomy in China in the 17th century. And don’t miss our exclusive interviews with Fabiola Gianotti, who takes over from Rolf-Dieter Heuer as director-general of the CERN particle-physics lab early next year, and with Mark Levinson, the former physicist who directed the film Particle Fever about what particle physicists get up to.

We also have a fascinating feature about how you can help in understanding cosmic rays simply using your mobile phone. While most “citizen-science” projects involve people analysing data collected by “real” scientists, two new apps will let you collect data using your phone itself. Indeed, the people behind one of the apps think we’d need just 825,000 phones to gather as much data as are obtained using the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina.

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