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A journal for brief ideas, Heisenberg’s mirror, space-mission stickers and more

Mission accomplished: these graphics were created by Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard. (Courtesy:

Mission accomplished: these graphics were created by Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard. (Courtesy:

By Hamish Johnston

Dr Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty” is the name of a series of photographs taken in 1999 by the American photographer Duane Michals. The picture over at that link is lovely, but I don’t really see the connection to quantum mechanics. I suspect my artist friends would accuse me of being a scientific literalist, which doesn’t bother me one bit.

More to my liking are the graphics pictured above, which have been created by Ariel Waldman and Lisa Ballard. The pair run a website called, which “catalogues the active human-made machines that freckle our solar system and dot our galaxy”. Here is their page on Voyager 2, which is packed with facts about the mission’s instruments and many accomplishments. These and other illustrations of space missions can be bought as stickers and posters – the perfect gift for the space enthusiast in your life.

Do you have a good idea that can be explained in less than 200 words? Would you like to get it into the public record so others can follow it up – and you still get some of the credit? If you answered yes to these questions, The Journal of Brief Ideas could be for you.

The editor-in-chief of the journal is the physicist and journalist David Harris, who has edited Symmetry magazine and also worked on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Harris and colleagues say they launched the new publication because “We think that that there is an inherent inefficiency in scientific publishing due to the quantum (or minimum publishable amount) of research being too large.”

Contributions are not peer reviewed – the team says this would be impractical for such short pieces – but rather, it appears that contributors are able to “like” the contributions of others. I think it sounds like a great idea, but I do worry that the journal will soon be swamped by crackpots peddling their nonsense. Indeed, a quick search of physics-related ideas seems to suggest that some rather dubious entries have already been removed.

Finally, never shy to jump on an Internet bandwagon, here is a reasonable attempt to explain the physics behind that dress photo.

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  1. M. Asghar

    I am affraid, the Heisenberg’s magic Mirror is just a sort of distorting device whose reflections result in a bit of Cubism à la Picasso!

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