Quanta Physics World  July 2017

Seen and heard

Weird and wonderful stories from the world of physics

(Igor Chirikov)

A monumental effort

You may remember a campaign to create a monument dedicated to those hard-working people who peer review research papers (November 2017). Last year, Igor Chirikov – a sociologist from the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow –raised $2521 on Kickstarter to turn an “ugly” block of concrete outside the university’s Institute of Education into a die that reads “accept”, “minor changes”, “major changes”, “revise and resubmit” and “reject” on its five visible sides. The monument has finally been unveiled in a ceremony at the institution that was attended by over 100 backers. Chirikov, who is also based at the Center for Studies in Higher Education at the University of California, Berkeley, US, told Physics World that he has received positive feedback about the monument. “Most understand the sarcastic nature of the monument and love it,” he says. “Many also wonder what’s on the bottom side.” Chirikov adds there are no plans to update the sculpture, except to “maybe hang a small mirror on the nearby tree so that everyone can see what’s on the top”. Sounds like “minor changes” then.

Superhero science

Still on fundraising campaigns, the Marie Curie Alumni Association is planning an illustrated book series for kids aged between five and nine called My Super Science Heroes. The first one – Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence – aims to introduce children to Curie and her key accomplishments in a “fun and engaging way”. To get the project off the ground, the association has taken to Indiegogo to raise 15,000. While only the first book has been announced, each scientist in the series will have a certain “superpower”, which in the case of Curie is her persistence. “Unlike being bitten by a radioactive spider, scientific achievement is a realistic goal, and celebrating these real-life heroes will encourage kids to explore the many possibilities a [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] programme offers,” the association writes. As Physics World went to press more than 9000 had been pledged. If the project raises the cash then the book is expected to be released by mid-October.

3D visions of the future

How about getting your hands on the world’s first 3D-printed book? Well, soon you can thanks to a project started last year by the Israeli-born designer Ron Arad. The book – Genius: 100 Visions of the Future – will contain articles by 100 leading lights including Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and the Nobel laureates Steven Chu and Harry Kroto. Set to be unveiled at an event in Montreal, Canada on 9 September, it is part of the Einstein Legacy project that celebrates 100 years since the publication of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. The latest contributor to be announced is Hitoshi Murayama, director of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics of the Universe in Tokyo, Japan, who says it is an “incredible honour” to be part of the project. “I need to think hard and long about my own vision of the future of the society in 100 years, focusing on the place for humans in the era of [artificial intelligence] and robotics based on cross-pollination of science, humanities, and arts,” he adds.


(CC BY-SA / The Royal Society)

Facial awareness

Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but a new study suggests that people do judge scientists by their looks (Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. 114 5970). William Skylark – a psychologist from the University of Cambridge, UK, and his colleagues asked more than 3700 people between the ages of 18 and 81 to evaluate the facial traits of scientists from US and UK universities. It turns out that people think good-looking scientists are less competent than researchers of ordinary appearance. The team also discovered that facial traits associated with trustworthiness and honesty led to a higher perception of the quality of a scientist’s work. The authors add that as outreach is increasingly important to career progression such biases may influence what work gains popularity or acceptance among the public or even what work is funded. Time to touch up your work mugshot.