What’s in our browser tabs? August 2019

Welcome to our new monthly link round-up! As editors of physics journals, we love reading the latest research papers, but we also love a bit of lunch-break popular science reading. Here are some pieces that caught our eyes in August:  … Read more

Interactions: Ed Simpson and the 3d nuclide chart

Interactions: Ed Simpson and the 3d nuclide chart

The nuclide chart is a staple of nuclear physics, visualizing the properties of nuclides arranged by their number of protons and neutrons. The chart appears in text books, talk slides and Lego™ form (in the Binding Blocks science outreach programme). The 3D Nuclide Chart is a web app put together by Ed Simpson (@SuperSubatomic on Twitter) of the Australian National University. The app lets users plot the nuclear data of their choosing (taken from published data tables), play around with the 3D viewpoint (or work in 2D), set colour schemes and fonts, and then export the visualization as a png file or export the relevant data. The results are rather pretty, and the app is easy to use.  Read more

Interactions: Chen Fang and the Materiae database

Interactions: Chen Fang and the Materiae database

In theory, many ordinary materials can have exotic topological phases. But how can we find them? In 2018 a research group from the National Laboratory for Condensed Matter Physics in Beijing scanned 39519 materials to predict which phases of the already-known compounds might exhibit topological properties. These materials were summarised into an interactive database Materiae, where you can browse compounds containing particular elements, check if they have any topological phases and visualise their band structure.  Read more

Interactions: Conversation with Martijn van Calmthout

Interactions: Conversation with Martijn van Calmthout

The theoretical physicist Sam Goudsmit had a remarkable life. Not only did he discover the electron spin with his colleague George Uhlenbeck (for which they did not receive the Nobel prize – to the surprise of many colleagues), he was also the scientific leader of the Alsos mission, the United States mission searching for the ‘German nuclear bomb’. After the war, in 1958, he launched the pioneering weekly Physical Review Letters, which became one of the top publications in science.  Read more

Interactions: Iulia Georgescu

Interactions: Iulia Georgescu

Iulia Georgescu is the Chief Editor of Nature Reviews Physics. Previously, she was an editor of Nature Physics, where she managed to sneak in three original “Alice in wonderland” illustrations (1, 2, 3) and the self-declared best cover-line ever.  Read more

What is physics? Challenges and opportunities when working at the interface with other disciplines.

What is physics? Challenges and opportunities when working at the interface with other disciplines.

This year’s Berlin Science Week kicked off with a diverse programme. Among many events, visitors could discuss the connection between art and astronomy or learn how new technologies can be inspired by nature, or participate in a panel discussion at the Springer Nature office. The panellists set out to find an answer on how we define physics today, and to map out the boundaries with other related areas such as chemistry or biology.  Read more

Science without borders: A view from Tata Institute of Fundamental Research

The campus of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research around the time of inauguration of its new buildings in January 1962 in south Bombay (now Mumbai). Photo courtesy of the Archives of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

After seventy years of the government of independent India nurturing scientific enterprise, even in the face of criticism of its investment in the fundamental sciences, it is a good moment to review the story of what many regard as the prized jewel of them all – the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), which was founded in 1945 by the physicist Homi Bhabha with the help of the Dorabji Tata Trust. We are treated to a visit of this famous institute and its history in the book Growing the Tree of Science, Homi Bhabha and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (Oxford Univ Press, New Delhi 2016) written by Indira Chowdhury. The reference to a growing tree in the title came from a Presidential Address by Bhabha in 1963 at the National Institute of Sciences of India: “A scientific institution… has to be grown with great care, like a tree.”  … Read more

Interactions: Abigail Klopper

Interactions: Abigail Klopper

Abigail Klopper is a Senior Editor at Nature Physics. She previously worked at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden, Germany, where she pursued theoretical research in aspects of soft-matter and biological physics.  Read more

Interactions: Conversation with Adam Becker

Interactions: Conversation with Adam Becker

Quantum mechanics is a standard part of every undergraduate physics degree, but often it’s presented as “Here’s a mathematical formalism that works, end of story.” What is Real? by Adam Becker, released last week, tackles the history of how physicists have thought about the interpretation of quantum mechanics, starting with the Copenhagen interpretation but continuing through various dissenting views, such as Bohm’s pilot wave theory and Everett’s many worlds interpretation. His focus is as much on the politics and personalities that have shaped how we think about the field as it is on science and philosophy, which makes for an enlightening and entertaining read — I got through much of the book on a snowy Saturday at home, having difficulty putting it down.  Read more