Category Archives: Physics

Talk for Polish physics students

On Friday 7th November I will be giving a short talk to physics students entitled ‘Fermions in Physics: from anticommuting variables to supermanifolds’, as part of the Ogólnopolska Sesja Kół Naukowych Fizyków.

This translates as ‘Scientific Session of the Nationwide Circle of Physicists’. This year the session is in the Tricity area.

I hope to tell them a little about the passage from the canonical anticommutation relations to Grassmann algebras and then supermanifolds. I have 45mins to get them interested in this geometric side of mathematical physics.

I will post the slides here after the event, but they may not make much sense without me telling this you this story.

I'm blue da ba dee da ba die…

The 2014 Nobel prize in physics has been awarded to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura for the development of blue LEDs.

This year’s Nobel Laureates are rewarded for having invented a new energy-efficient and environment-friendly light source – the blue light-emitting diode (LED). In the spirit of Alfred Nobel the Prize rewards an invention of greatest benefit to mankind; using blue LEDs, white light can be created in a new way. With the advent of LED lamps we now have more long-lasting and more efficient alternatives to older light sources.

“The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics – Press Release”. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 7 Oct 2014.

Nobel prize in physics 2014

Mathematical Physics IOP booklet

The Institute of Physics (IOP) has written a report that examines the relationship between mathematics and physics.

There is no completely agreed upon definition of mathematical physics, which is closer to mathematics that physics in most respects. The IOP report puts it like this;

Mathematical physics is best described as consisting of two parts: physical research that proceeds primarily through mathematical means and areas of mathematics that work to solve the problems posed by physics.

The Journal of Mathematical Physics define mathematical physics as;

…the application of mathematics to problems in physics and the development of mathematical methods suitable for such applications and for the formulation of physical theories.

The IOP booklet looks at a wide range of topics in mathematical physics from quantum mechanics, gravity & black holes, random matrix theory, solitons and topological insulators.

Mathematical Physics: What is it and why do we need it?

'Banana skins are slippery', say Japanese physicists

Banana Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai have won the 2014 Ig Nobel Prize in physics for their paper on measuring the amount of friction between a shoe and a banana skin, and between a banana skin and the floor, when a person steps on a banana skin that’s on the floor [1].

Bananas are my second favourite fruit, just behind Polish apples, so it is nice to see them feature in world-class physics research. More than that, slipping on a banana skip is the pinnacle of slapsick comedy and deserves more scientific attention.

[1] Kiyoshi Mabuchi, Kensei Tanaka, Daichi Uchijima and Rina Sakai, Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin, Tribology Online 7, no. 3, 2012, pp. 147-151. (Available online here)

The 2014 Ig Nobel Prize Winners

Nuclear theory research in the UK to be exanded

Flag A new nuclear theory group is going to be set up at the University of York. The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) will make a special funding award to set up the group and will provide funding to appoint a nuclear physics theory chair and PhD studentships. Furthermore, the university of York will fund a nuclear physics theory lectureship.

The need to expand the UK’s capability in theoretical nuclear physics was part of the Institute of Physics review in October 2012. For sure, although the UK has some good researchers in this field, the numbers of people in theoretical nuclear physics is small. One number that has been suggestion is that there are about seven permanent researchers in the UK working on theoretical nuclear physics.

The establishment of a new group must be welcome news for the UK nuclear physics community.

Gap in nuclear physics research identified by IOP is to be filled.

Smoking supercapacitors!

scientists from South Korea have converted cigarette butts into a high-performing material that could be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors [1].

The material is produces via the heat treatment of used cigarette butts in a nitrogen rich environment.

The article states that the processed cigarette filter material stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon. Also the material stored more energy than the more experimental materials graphene and carbon nanotubes.

If the process can be made economically viable then this process could be used to ecologically recycle cigarette butts.

[1] Minzae Lee, Gil-Pyo Kim, Hyeon Don Song, Soomin Park and Jongheop Yi, Preparation of energy storage material derived from a used cigarette filter for a supercapacitor electrode, 2014 Nanotechnology 25 345601.

Cigarette butts offer energy storage solution IOP News

Warning about UK science spending

The science board of the Science and Technology Funding Council (STFC) published a report last week warning about the effects of the flat cash funding of UK science.

According to the report the UK spent 1.8% of GDP on research and development over the past twenty years. The average spend of comparator countries has been 2.9%.

Other countries have increased their spending. For example South Korea has doubled its spending over the last few years to 4% GDP

The bottom line is unless we spend more money on science there could be huge damage to the scientific standing of the UK in the future, which at the moment punches well above its weight.

Stark warnings on spending made by STFC’s Science Board IOP website.

Charlotte Church to study physics

Image by BrotherDarksoul
The Welsh singer Charlotte Church has said she wants to obtain a degree in physics.

Speaking to BBC Wales she said

I want to go and do a degree in physics – I will have to do an A-level in physics and maths first though.

What ever she decides I wish her luck in her studies.

The other music stars turned scientists include Brian May of Queen fame and Brian Cox.

Charlotte Church plans to study for degree in physics BBC News