This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Strange goings on at CERN, string theory with cats, Isaac Asimov on generating new ideas and more

Bygone era: when 3D visualization really was 3D (Courtesy: CERN)

Bygone era: when 3D visualization really was 3D. (Courtesy: CERN)

By Hamish Johnston

“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” is probably the only famous sentence written by the English novelist L P Hartley. It also sums up nicely a collection of photographs of CERN in the 1960s and early 1970s showing among other things a jolly worker wearing a beret, scientists wearing white lab coats and ties, and a strange religious-like procession. There are also lots of photos of vintage kit, including one of those huge vacuum-valve-powered oscilloscopes (probably from Tektronix) that would be familiar to physicists of a certain age. My favourite photo is shown above. It was taken in 1965, when 3D data visualization was actually done in 3D! I believe that the collection was put together by CERN’s Alex Brown and you can enjoy looking at all 55 images in the collection here.

Everyone knows that the World Wide Web was invented at CERN so physicists could share videos of their cats doing crazy things. Here is a selection from BuzzFeed called “A 34-step guide to string theory, as explained by cats”. I struggled to make any connection between what the cats are doing and the physics-related captions – but then again, I’m more of a dog person.

In 1959 the renowned science-fiction writer (and scientist) Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called “On creativity” for his friend Arthur Obermayer, who was working for a technology spin-off from the Massachusetts of Technology. The company was trying to work out how nuclear blasts would affect the structure of aircraft and the US government was encouraging it and other contractors to “think out of the box”.

Asimov begins the essay by asking how Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace came up with the theory of evolution by natural selection independently. He then ponders whether it is better for creators to work alone or in groups, and whether brainstorming sessions should be free-form or guided affairs. The essay was never published until this week when it made its debut on the MIT Technology Review.

To round off this week’s Red Folder, we have some health news from the world of physics including a paper in the journal Physical Biology that answers the question “why do ingrown nails always happen in the big toes?”. And if you drink beer and work with tritium (hopefully not at the same time), you’ll find this article very reassuring: “Drinking a beer can save you from radiation poisoning”.

This entry was posted in The Red Folder and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile


  1. Trackback: Physics Viewpoint | Strange goings on at CERN, string theory with cats, Isaac Asimov on generating new ideas and more

  2. It should be stressed. Maybe the physical biology has stepped into a new era.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text