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Physics World special report on Mexico is out now


By James Dacey

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day, marking the Grito de Dolores – the day in 1810 when the Roman Catholic priest Miguel Hidalgo called on his congregation in the small Mexican town of Dolores to revolt against the Spanish colonial government. This “Cry of Dolores” is seen as the flash point that triggered the Mexican War of Independence.

Modern-day Mexico is still a place with its fair share of turmoil, as the government faces increasing pressure over its inability to deal with drugs, violence and corruption. One area that is starting to look more positive, however, is Mexico’s science base – the administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto has vowed to double Mexico’s investment in science and technology to 1% of GDP and has already sanctioned increases in 2013 and 2014.

To shine a light on what the Mexican physics community is up to, this month sees the publication of a new free-to-read Physics World special report on physics in Mexico. We believe that physicists in Mexico are doing engaging work that deserves to be more widely known. In choosing our coverage for the report, we have not only focused on the challenges for the Mexican community, but also hope to give you a flavour of the rich culture and geography of this most colourful of countries.

Among the highlights in the report is an account of a visit I made with Physics World editor Matin Durrani to an extinct volcano, Sierra Negra. This former smoking giant is now home to two genuinely world class astronomy facilities, both bi-national projects between Mexico and the US – the Large Millimeter Telescope (LMT) and the High-Altitude Water Cherenkov (HAWC) gamma-ray observatory. Matin and I describe what these instruments are designed to achieve and give an account of our struggles with the altitude conditions at 4600 m above sea level.

Photo of Sierra Negra

A-maize-ing view: The Sierra Negra and the even taller Pico de Orizaba volcanoes behind farm fields of maize. (Courtesy: James Lowenthal)


Other highlights in the report include:

• Revisiting the crater of doom – The Chicxulub impact structure in Mexico is widely believed to be the site of the asteroid impact that allegedly killed the dinosaurs. As Sergio de Régules reports, scientists are now preparing to glean from it new insights into crater formation, materials science and the mechanisms of mass extinction

• Challenges for Mexican physics – After visiting key labs, researchers and policy-makers, Matin Durrani outlines what he sees as the main priorities for developing physics in Mexico

• Monitoring a smoking giant – James Dacey investigates a plan to use muons to peer inside the throat of Mexico’s famous volcano Popocatépetl to help predict the eruptions

• On the road – James Dacey and Matin Durrani document highlights from their trip to Mexico, presenting soundbites from some of the people they met on their travels

The digital version of the special report also contains a podcast presented by James Dacey about the hunt for hidden chambers within the Sun Pyramid at the pre-Colombian city of Teotihuacan.

You can access the report here, or you can view it on any iOS or Android smartphone or tablet via the Physics World app, available from the App Store and Google Play.

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One comment to Physics World special report on Mexico is out now

  1. Trackback: Physics World special report on Mexico is out now – MyPhysNet


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