IOP report on how higher university fees impact physics

Tuition fees here in the UK will be £9,000 per year and this must have some effect on the numbers, and the demographic of future physics students. However, a new study has found that university physics students are largely undeterred by the costs and are determined to pursue the subject.

The report Gravitating towards physics: How will higher fees affect the choices of prospective physics students? used secondary data, focus groups and a survey, involving more than 500 applicants, to assess the potential impact of higher fees.

It was crucial to undertake this research because it is of national strategic importance that universities are able to continue producing a steady stream of physics graduates.

While the report does throw up some concerns – particularly in relation to diversity – we’re delighted to find physics in rude health.

Professor Paul Hardaker, Chief Executive at the Institute of Physics



Gravitating towards physics: How will higher fees affect the choices of prospective physics students?


University physics fares well with higher fees (IOP News)

The mouse chorus?

We have all seen the film Babe and listened to the mice sing. Well it seems that mice can actually learn to sing! [1]

Male mice produce courtship ultrasonic vocalizations with acoustic features similar to songs of song-learning birds. However, it is assumed that mice lack a forebrain system for vocal modification and that their ultrasonic vocalizations are innate. Here we investigated the mouse song system and discovered that it includes a motor cortex region active during singing, that projects directly to brainstem vocal motor neurons and is necessary for keeping song more stereotyped and on pitch. We also discovered that male mice depend on auditory feedback to maintain some ultrasonic song features, and that sub-strains with differences in their songs can match each other’s pitch when cross-housed under competitive social conditions. We conclude that male mice have some limited vocal modification abilities with at least some neuroanatomical features thought to be unique to humans and song-learning birds. To explain our findings, we propose a continuum hypothesis of vocal learning.

Gustavo Arriaga, Eric P. Zhou and Erich D. Jarvis



[1] Arriaga G, Zhou EP, Jarvis ED (2012) Of Mice, Birds, and Men: The Mouse Ultrasonic Song System Has Some Features Similar to Humans and Song-Learning Birds. PLoS ONE 7(10): e46610. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0046610