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    On the cover:

    Animal magic: How a physicist fell in love with penguins
    (iStock / Dhoxax)

  2. {flannel 2016}

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    Matin Durrani is editor of Physics World


    In our latest podcast, hear what it’s like to do particle physics without sight. To listen, click on the audio icon in the toolbar and select Physics World podcast



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    Editor Matin Durrani

    News Editor Michael Banks

    Reviews and Careers Editor Tushna Commissariat

    Multimedia Projects Editor James Dacey

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    Industry Editor Margaret Harris

    Web Editor Hamish Johnston

    Features Editor Louise Mayor


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    Copyright © 2016 by IOP Publishing Ltd and individual contributors. All rights reserved.


    The contents of this magazine, including the views expressed above, are the responsibility of the Editor. They do not represent the views or policies of the Institute of Physics, except where explicitly stated.


    Winner of “best app/digital edition” in the association/non-profit (B-to-B) category at the 2015 Eddie and Ozzie Awards


    Finalist in the “science and nature” category at the 2015 Digital Magazine Awards

  3. Animal magic

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    Why it’s all so easy for physicists to get entranced and enthralled by animals

    Amid all the political uncertainty (see “American angst”), it’s a relief to think about animals. In our cover feature this month, Peter Barham, a physicist at the University of Bristol in the UK, explains how he became an expert in penguins, studying factors that affect their survival, such as metal versus plastic flipper bands (see “Penguin physics), as well as using the spots on African penguins as a means of identification.

    Barham’s interest in animals might seem unusual for a physicist, but I can empathize with him, having spent the last few years writing a popular-science book with Liz Kalaugher about how all sorts of animals – from peacocks to turtles – use physics to survive. If you thought the subatomic “particle zoo” was complex, Furry Logic: the Physics of Animal Life (Bloomsbury) reveals that animal mysteries are sometimes even more impressive.

  4. {podcast}

    Leave a Comment editor Hamish Johnston visits Beijing on a hunt for the elusive Weyl fermions. To listen, click on the audio icon in the toolbar and select track 1

  5. Holiday word challenge

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    To keep your brain cells active over the festive period, we have put together a word puzzle based wholly on articles published in Physics World this year. We have two copies of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 to give away as prizes. Download a PDF of the puzzle here.



    For the fifth year in a row, the Royal Observatory Greenwich has produced a beautiful hardback book showcasing the winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. This year, its publisher Collins Astronomy has kindly offered us two copies to give away to readers. You just need to complete the festive puzzle in the attached PDF to be in with a chance of winning. Terms and conditions apply.

    See “Galaxies and auroras and planets, oh my!” for our review of Astronomy Photographer of the Year: Collection 5 and a sneak preview of the photos.


    How to enter

    To enter the competition, download the PDF, complete the puzzle and send it to us by 16 January 2017.


    Please include your full name and contact details with your entry.


    Send your completed puzzle by post to:

    Physics World

    Temple Circus

    Temple Way


    BS1 6HG



    Alternatively, you can fill in the PDF electronically, or scan your completed puzzle, and e-mail it to

    Terms and conditions

    These terms and conditions apply to all entries to the Physics World Crossword Competition – December 2016, however submitted. Promoter is IOP Publishing Limited (“IOP”) of Temple Circus, Temple Way, Bristol, UK, BS1 6HG. No purchase necessary. All entries must be received by the closing date of 16 January 2017. The winners will be drawn at random from all the entrants who successfully complete the crossword. The draw will take place within 30 days of the closing date. If IOP cannot contact any winner within 90 days of the closing date, it shall have the right to declare their entry void and to draw a new winner. IOP’s decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into. Only one entry per person and entrants must be over 16 and have the right to enter. IOP can change or withdraw these terms without notice and can refuse any entry. No entries allowed from IOP employees or anyone connected with the competition, including their immediate families. Only two prizes. As not all countries in the world accept the legality of competitions, it is the sole responsibility of each non United Kingdom based entrant to ensure that he or she is not breaching any laws of their country of residence by submitting an entry. IOP will not be held responsible for any entrant entering any competitions unlawfully. If in any doubt, the entrant should check with the relevant authorities in his or her country. Delivery costs paid by IOP but any other costs winner’s responsibility. IOP can use winner’s name, location and affiliation for promotion. Personal data will be processed in accordance with Data Protection Act 1998. Terms governed by English law.

  6. Careers and people

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    (Rick Fienberg / AAS / EPSC)

    Spotlight on: Kleomenis Tsiganis

    The 2016 Paolo Farinella Prize has been awarded to Greek physicist Kleomenis Tsiganis at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, for his work on the applications of celestial mechanics to the dynamics of planetary systems, including the development of the “Nice model”, which describes the migrations of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune during the early phases of the solar system’s evolution. The model also explains how the interaction of the giant planets with a disc of leftover debris caused a temporary dynamical instability, which led to the outer planets moving to their currently observed orbital configuration.

    The annual prize, which was established in 2010 to honour the memory of the Italian scientist Paolo Farinella (1953–2000), acknowledges an outstanding researcher not older than 47 years who has achieved important results in one of Farinella’s fields of work, with each year’s prize focused on a different field. “Tsiganis has produced impressive results in modelling the solar system. In particular, he contributed to a deep understanding of the early dynamical phases and architecture of our planetary system,” says prize committee chairperson Alessandra Celletti.

    Movers and shakers

    The 2017 Robert R Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators has been awarded to theoretical physicists James Bjorken from the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, US, Sekazi Mtingwa of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US and Anton Piwinski at DESY in Germany. The trio were given the prize “for the detailed, theoretical description of intrabeam scattering, which has empowered major discoveries in a broad range of disciplines by a wide variety of accelerators, including hadron colliders, damping rings/linear colliders, and low emittance synchrotron light sources”.

    Brian Bowsher has been appointed as the chief executive of the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council, replacing John Womersley, who has been appointed the next director-general of the European Spallation Source research facility.

    Marvin Cohen, a theoretical condensed-matter physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, has won the 2017 Benjamin Franklin Medal in physics for developing techniques for accurately predicting the physical properties of new materials. A separate Benjamin Franklin Medal for materials science and engineering went to carbon nanotube pioneer Mildred Dresselhaus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, US.

    The American Physical Society’s J J Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics has been awarded to Sally Dawson of Brookhaven National Laboratory, John Gunion of the University of California, Davis, Howard Haber of the University of California, Santa Cruz and Gordon Kane of the University of Michigan, all in the US, for “instrumental contributions to the theory of the properties, reactions and signatures of the Higgs boson”. The quartet will share a $10,000 prize.

    Michel Della Negra, Peter Jenni and Jim Virdee have been awarded the 2017 W K H Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics by the American Physical Society. The trio share the $10,000 award “For distinguished leadership in the conception, design and construction of the ATLAS and CMS detectors, which were instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson.” Virdee is a physicist at Imperial College London and Della Negra splits his time between Imperial and CERN, while Jenni is based at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

    Darby Dyar, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Arizona, US, has received the Geological Society of America’s G K Gilbert Award for her spectroscopic studies of hydrogen and oxygen in rocky objects throughout our solar system.

    Two physicists are among five winners of the 2017 L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Awards. María Teresa Ruiz, director of the Center for Excellence in Astrophysics and Associated Technologies at the University of Chile, was honoured “for her discovery of the first brown dwarf and her seminal work on understanding the faintest stars, including stars at the final stages of their evolution (white dwarfs)”. Michelle Simmons, director of the ARC Centre for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at the University of New South Wales, Australia, has won “for her pioneering contributions to quantum and atomic electronics, constructing atomic transistors en route to quantum computers”.

    Thomas Zurbuchen, a space scientist at the University of Michigan, US, has become the new head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, which has a budget of about $5.3bn and is responsible for a number of high-profile projects, including the James Webb Space Telescope.

  7. Once a physicist: Elizabeth Waterhouse

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    Elizabeth Waterhouse is an artist and contemporary dancer based in Bern, Switzerland

    (Sylvio Dittrich)

    What sparked your interest in physics?

    Like most children, I had a wish to go to outer space, and in my home town there was a scholarship you could apply for to go to space camp. The year that I applied, it wasn’t available, so they gave me a scholarship to an astronomy camp instead. Because of this, I met an amazing mentor, Don McCarthy of the University of Arizona, US, and I developed a passion for astronomy. More recently, I’ve realized that there are actually a lot of similarities between astronomy and theatre. Astronomy is a nocturnal discipline, and a lot of astronomers are pretty fluid in thinking about signals in terms of both something visual and something acoustic. They move between metaphors of sound and sight, and in theatre, people do those things too.

    Did you enjoy your physics classes at Harvard University?

    No. But I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed all of my dance education either. I valued my physics classes. They were difficult. They were interesting. But they were not that pleasurable. I enjoyed doing research – that was pleasurable for me!

    Did you ever consider studying dance instead?

    I was educated in classical ballet, but in that field if you want to become a professional, you need to do it early – between the ages of 16 and 18. I decided not to pursue that because I wanted to have a career that was intellectually fulfilling, and I didn’t understand what intellectually fulfilling opportunities existed for dancers in America. Also, I was quite happy thinking that I would become a research scientist, and there were a lot of chances to keep practising dance as an amateur, so I enjoyed that balance very much. But unfortunately, you have to pick a profession, and at the time I thought that if I wanted to come back to physics, I could, whereas I couldn’t start dancing later – it was something I had to do while I was young. Now, though, I realize that if you delay starting a PhD in physics, it is also really hard to get back.

    You’re interested in reconciling art and science. What does that involve?

    Part of it is personal. I’m trying to reconcile an identity that’s been fragmented, one that people have trouble seeing as continuous. But there have also been a lot of opportunities recently for dancers to work with scientists, for example in giving classes to people with Parkinson’s disease, where the scientists want to know whether dance training is an effective therapy. In my projects I’ve often been helping dancers who don’t have training in research or science to describe what they do in a way that a scientist can understand.

    You’re also developing a font based on Albert Einstein’s handwriting.

    Yes, that’s a collaboration between myself and a designer and typographer, Harald Geisler. We wanted to figure out how a handwriting font could be produced, and one day I came across Albert Einstein’s handwriting online and thought, “Wow, I had no idea that Einstein had such rhythmic handwriting.” It’s quite evenly pulsed, symmetric, smooth and flowing. I don’t like to go too much into the psychology of it, but it charmed me to get to know how Einstein moved through his pen or pencil. So we’ve produced a functioning handwriting font – I’d call it a documentary font – based on studying actual documents from Einstein. You can’t just copy handwriting like stamps, because the ligatures, or connections, don’t come out right. So it’s about studying the penmanship and movement, reproducing something similar, and then trying to deal with variation to keep it discordant enough that it seems like real handwriting, but also flowing and similar enough so that it seems to come from the same person, on the same day, in the same mood (see

    What else are you working on now?

    I’m doing a PhD in dance studies as part of a programme that pairs artists with humanities scholars to write theoretical dissertations. I’m studying the history of partnering in the dance company that I was working for, looking at movement interactions between partners and how this relates to more philosophical questions about how people understand their sense of selves in relation to their movement. The concept does kind of relate to physics, but that’s not why it interests me.

    How (if at all) has your background in physics influenced you as an artist?

    I always feel at home when I’m talking to other physicists, which is surprising to me. Recently, when I was working on this dance and Parkinson’s programme, I sat down with a physicist at the end of the conference, and I realized that there is a style of thinking that I miss, or rather that I enjoy when I come back into contact with physicists. When I was at Harvard, they emphasized a lot of collective problem-solving, and this process of sitting down with someone and being able to identify abstract concepts is something that I’ve brought into the communities of dancers that I’ve worked with.

    Any advice for today’s physics students?

    When I was young I didn’t understand that becoming a physicist can mean working in a lot of different contexts. I didn’t have any contact with industry or non-university applications of physics, so I think it’s helpful for students to get mentorship that helps them see these options or experience them. That way, you can see where your career will end up.