Archive by category | Guest post

The matter that apparently doesn’t matter

Artist's impression of the expected dark matter distribution around the Milky Way

We interact with ordinary matter all the time. It is the bed in which you wake up in the morning and the food that you eat for breakfast. It is the people we love and the pets we often love even more. It is us. Being fairly prominent stuff, ordinary matter is often referred to as ‘the matter that matters’ and without doubt deserves our attention. But we should not forget that it only makes up 5% of our Universe, the remainder of which is dark matter. Indeed, dark matter crosses paths with all of us but unless you’re a physicist it is unlikely to have crossed your mind.  Read more

There was nothing sane about Chernobyl

Liquidators (biorobots) clear radioactive debris off the roof of the reactor, throwing it on the ground where it will later be covered by the sarcophagus.

The new British-American miniseries ‘Chernobyl’, aired on HBO and Sky in May and June 2019, takes you on a dark ride through the insanity that accompanied the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl. Five haunting episodes depict the night and aftermath of the explosion of reactor 4, using the style of disaster films to vividly show how the combination of bad nuclear reactor design, irresponsible scientists, a totalitarian system and human error led to one of the biggest nuclear disasters, with devastating consequences within and outside the Iron Curtain.    … Read more

The rise of open source in quantum physics research

The rise of open source in quantum physics research

Open-source scientific computing is empowering research and reproducibility. It forms one of the principles of the ‘open science’ movement, which aims to promote the spread of scientific knowledge without barriers. Open-source software refers to code which can be read, modified and distributed by anyone and for any purpose under the various open-source compliant licenses. This ‘open source way’ could extend beyond just software and is impacting quantum physics research in radically different ways.  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

10 things to remember for when you have graduate students

Graduate school has been both a wonderful experience and incredibly challenging. When I will later look back on this period in my life, I’m sure that my memory will fail to accurately capture what it was like to be a graduate student. I’ll remember the highs, and more lows than I care to admit, but will likely lose some of what the day-to-day experience was like. If I have graduate students of my own someday, I want to have a more complete picture of what graduate school was like so that I can give them a better experience. With that goal in mind (and with some great suggestions from Twitter folks), I compiled the following list for my future self.     … Read more

DIY science: open source and low-cost instruments

DIY science: open source and low-cost instruments

Without hardware there is no science. Equipment, reagents and consumables are all paramount for the execution of experiments, collection of new data and generation of new knowledge. Coupled with the movement for open science, many groups and initiatives are pushing to make Open Science Hardware the new norm in labs worldwide. We interviewed one of the founders of one such initiative, Prometheus Science, that is working to develop easily accessible and usable open science hardware starting from published academic research.  Read more

Radio frequencies: The many lives of radio waves

Radio frequencies: The many lives of radio waves

The radio frequency (rf) range is one of the most technologically exploited portions of the electro-magnetic spectrum. Although the definition is not strict, the rf spectrum commonly refers to waves with frequencies between 20 kHz and 300 GHz. This also includes microwaves, which have frequencies stretching from 300 MHz to 300 GHz. Rf technology was discovered in the early days of modern physics, and it quickly became the cornerstone of mass media broadcasting. Unlike optical signals at higher frequencies, rf waves are generated with electronic circuits comprising a capacitor and an inductor. In these so-called LC circuits, electronic charge carriers can be made to oscillate and, as a consequence, emit electromagnetic radiation at the desired frequency. The faster the oscillation and the smaller the corresponding circuit, the higher the frequency of the emitted waves; amplitude and frequency modulation of the produced waves enables the encoding of information.  Read more