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The principles behind success
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phy sic s wor Contents: July 2012

Quanta 3
iStockphoto/Chris Bernard

Frontiers 4
Putting the shine on spin quantum memories Combing the spectra of exoplanets
Floating drops and vapour clouds Why harlequin mantis shrimp pack a punch
Invisibility-cloak array emerges from the shadows

News & Analysis 6

Pressure rises for UK and US to move to open access NuSTAR X-ray telescope
takes off Plastic Logic pulls out of e-reader manufacturing Strathclyde
welcomes Fraunhofer lab SpaceX supplies the International Space Station
US nuclear boss quits SuperB laser plan for Rome lab UK closes Hawaiian
telescopes Japans KEKB facility eyes super upgrade Square Kilometre Array
adopts dual site

In theory skateboarders and physics 19 Comment 15

Physics and sport

Forum 17

An impaired cosmic vision Paul Nandra

Critical Point 19
Sporting knowledge Robert P Crease

Feedback 20
Geoengineering, energy politics and green economics, plus comments from on the amazing harlequin mantis shrimp

Physics and sport

The fastest man on no legs 22
Oscar Pistorius, also known as the blade runner, is the poster boy of sports
Comic turn the Great Physics Games 52
prostheses with his two J-shaped leg attachments. James Poskett explains the
science behind these and other anatomical additions that are helping disabled
athletes to excel

Material advantage? 26
On the cover In sports it is hard to say objectively how much a special piece of equipment
Physics and sport 2234 enhances performance or some rule change decreases it that is, unless you use
(clockwise from top left: Shutterstock/
mast3r; iStockphoto/technotr; iStockphoto/ a method like the one described here by Steve Haake
technotr; iStockphoto/Bob Thomas;
iStockphoto/MichaelSvoboda; iStockphoto/ Balance, angular momentum and sport 31
technotr; Randy Faris/Corbis) Elite gymnasts, divers and long jumpers are not the only people who use simple
physics principles to perform amazing balancing acts. Roland Ennos describes
how they and we do it

Reviews 36
Keeping the lights on after 2100 The puzzles of quantum field theory
Web life: Engineering Sport

Physics World is published monthly as 12 issues per annual

Careers 42
volume by IOP Publishing Ltd, Temple Circus, Temple Way, Technology for life Giulia Thompson Once a physicist: Crispin Duenas
Bristol BS1 6HG, UK

United States Postal Identification Statement

Physics World (ISSN 0953-8585) is published monthly by
Recruitment 45
IOP Publishing Ltd, Temple Circus, Temple Way, Bristol BS1 6BE,
UK. Air freight and mailing in the USA by Publications Expediting,
Inc., 200 Meacham Ave, Elmont NY 11003. Periodicals postage
Lateral Thoughts 52
at Jamaica NY 11431. The Great Physics Games Kate Oliver
US Postmaster: send address changes to Physics World,
American Institute of Physics, Suite 1NO1,
2 Huntington Quadrangle, Melville, NY 11747-4502

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 1

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phy sic s wor

For the record Seen and heard
Experiencing the accident convinced
when his vehicle was stolen. Curiously,

me that the best way to make nuclear though, the driver did not report the theft
plants safe is not to rely on them, but of the truck to the local police, with his
rather to get rid of them phone later having been found in a fast-
Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan food restaurant. The mystery deepens.
quoted in the New York Times
Kan, who has a degree in applied physics from Alien hunter retires
the Tokyo Institute of Technology, says that the Often the aliens of science fiction
prospect of losing Tokyo made him realize that say more about us than they do about
nuclear power is too risky. themselves, declared astronomer
Jill Tarter, director of research at the
The president just called to say Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
(SETI) Institute in Mountain View,
congrats. Caller ID was blocked, so at To infin-knity and beyond California. Tarter was speaking after
first I thought it was a telemarketer NASA has revealed its faith in British announcing in late May that she would
Entrepreneur and former physicist Elon Musk knitwear after the US space agency be retiring as SETI director, using the
writing on Twitter launched a space-faring rubber chicken opportunity to take aim at Hollywood and
Musk, who founded the space company SpaceX, in a meteorological balloon to catch the its portrayal of aliens. We should look at
celebrated in late May as the company launched recent solar eclipse. Sue Drage from films such as Men in Black III, Prometheus
its first rocket to the International Space Station. Rugby had the honour of knitting a and Battleship as great entertainment
jumper for Camilla the rubber chicken and metaphors for our own fears, but we
I have a leftover bottle of champagne the mascot of NASAs Solar Dynamics should not consider them harbingers of
Observatory. The 62-year-old housewife alien visitation, she noted. Tarter also had
from Christmas, but I havent yet put was recommended to the space agency by some words of warning for Cambridge
it in the fridge. the BBC after she took part in a charity theorist Stephen Hawking: While Sir [sic]
Theorist Peter Higgs speaking at the Festival of knitathon in her home town. Yet with Stephen Hawking warned that alien life
Ideas in Bristol in May only a couple of photos of Camilla to go might try to conquer or colonize Earth, I
Higgs was asked how he would celebrate if on, it wasnt all plain sailing as it took respectfully disagree. Maybe she knows
conclusive evidence for the Higgs boson is found Drage three attempts to complete the suit. something we dont about the Queens
at CERNs Large Hadron Collider, as is widely The only way I could get it right was to next Birthday Honours.
expected to happen later this year. go and buy a rubber chicken, she told the
BBC. You will be relieved to know that A ringing endorsement
IBM Research

NASA is a shuttlecock theyre hitting Camilla survived the two-hour flight and, In what seemed like
according to its Twitter account, was back an impeccably well-
back and forth in time to bag some photos of last months timed research finding,
Former astronaut Neil Armstrong speaking to transit of Venus. researchers at the Royal
the Certified Practicing Accountants of Australia Society of Chemistry, the
Armstrong, who rarely gives interviews, bemoans Lost and found University of Warwick in the UK and IBM
that Congress and the White House are Still on balloons, there were more Research in Zurich released an image
constantly at odds over the future direction of questions than answers in late May when in late May of a new molecule they had
the space agency. it emerged that a NASA stratospheric synthesized that had an uncanny likeness
balloon had gone missing only to be to the five rings reminiscent of an event
A female Brian Cox is the Holy Grail found in a truck at a car wash three happening in London this month (no
Radio presenter Ian Peacock quoted in days later. The NASA-funded EBEX prizes for guessing which one). Given the
the Guardian experiment is designed to measure the resemblance, the press were all over it:
Peacock was commenting on plans to get more intensity and polarization of the cosmic- Scientists create smallest ever version
academics, and in particular women, to present microwave-background radiation when of Olympics logo screamed a headline
TV shows on science, adding that good it launches from Antarctica in October. in the Daily Mail. However, the team, led
communicators should not worry about their peers. However, after leaving the University by David Fox from Warwick, had already
of Minnesota, the balloon mysteriously synthesized the compound, which is
Lovely new baby. Its parents must be failed to arrive on schedule at NASAs dubbed Olympicene and has the chemical
Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in formula C19H12 , back in 2011. What the
very proud Palestine, Texas. After a three-day search, researchers did that was new was to make
Nobel laureate Eric Cornell quoted on the truck was finally tracked down to a car an image of Olympicene with the help of
AlphaGalileo wash in Hutchins, Texas, around 150 km an atomic force microscope at the IBM
Cornell was remarking on the new results from from Palestine. Researchers were relieved labs. We are pleased with the level of
a team of researchers at the University of that the seal on the trailer remained intact coverage, Fox told Physics World. But
Innsbruck in Austria, which announced in May so nobody had ventured into the cargo and given that the International Olympic
that it had made the first ever BoseEinstein damaged the equipment. The driver of Committee can be rather protective of its
condensate of erbium atoms. the truck later revealed that he had been image rights, will the scientists be forced
staying at a motel in Hutchins for the night to change the compounds name?

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 3

phy sic swor

In brief
DNA tiles pave the way
New spin on quantum memories
A pioneering technique for engineering complex transfer it to a more accessible qubit to be

Element Six
nanoscale structures from a set of DNA tiles quickly processed, before returning it to
has been developed by researchers in the US. the safety of isolation.
While nanoscale structures have been fashioned The advantage of using nuclear spin to
before from individual strands of DNA using store quantum information is that it is per-
the DNA origami method developed in 2006, haps the most isolated system in a solid.
it is expensive and time-consuming. In the The information can be stored in the spin
new technique, single strands are folded into state of the nucleus whether it is pointing
150 150 nm tiles that are mixed together in an up or down with respect to an applied mag-
environment where each tile is only attracted to netic field, for example.
one other complementary tile, depending on its The new silicon memory was made by an
base sequence. This allows researchers to create international team led by Mike Thewalt of
the different shapes letters, smiley faces and Shiny memories Qubits can be stored in a diamond. Simon Fraser University in Canada using
astronomical signs through the selection of the nuclear spin of a phosphorus-31 nucleus
sequences, which are controlled by their local Two independent teams of physicists embedded in silicon. The diamond memory
interactions (Nature 485 623). have created nuclear-spin-based quan- was created at Harvard University in the
tum memories that push the limits of how US by Mikhail Lukin and his international
Seabed carpet to harness wave energy long quantum information can be stored team. Their device uses a carbon-13 nuclear
A synthetic seabed carpet that mimics the in solid-state devices. One device based spin near an NV in diamond. Silicon-28
wave-damping effect of a muddy seafloor could on a doped crystal of ultrapure silicon-28 and carbon-12 were chosen because both
be used to extract energy from waves passing is able to store data for more than 3 min, nuclei have zero nuclear spin and therefore
over it, according to an engineer in the US. when cooled to a temperature of below will not interact with the phosphorus-31
The idea is to make a viscoelastic sheet that 2 K. The other memory based on nitro- and carbon-13 nuclear spins, respectively.
would be placed over a network of vertically gen vacancies (NVs) in an isotopically pure Both schemes use electron spin as a
oriented springs and generators on the coastal carbon-12 diamond crystal achieved a qubit that can be manipulated externally to
seafloor. The flexible carpet responds just like shorter storage time of 1.4 s, but did so at exchange quantum information. In the sili-
mud: as waves pass overhead, they induce room temperature. con memory, the electron spin is associated
dynamic ripples in its sprung surface, and these These results could prove insights into with the phosphorus atom itself, whereas
perturbations can be used to generate electricity. how quantum information (qubits) can the diamond memory uses an electron
Modelling the interaction of ocean waves with best be stored and manipulated. For a from the NV. In both cases the connection
the proposed carpet shows that the system could qubit to maintain its quantum nature and between electron and nuclear spin comes
easily absorb 50% of incident wave energy over not decohere, it must be isolated from its via the hyperfine interaction between
short distances of about 10 m. The carpet surroundings. But to manipulate quantum the spin magnetic moments of the electron
which has not yet been built could also be used information, a qubit must be controlled and nucleus. The result is a tiny splitting
to protect coastal areas against strong waves externally which ultimately leads to deco- of electron energy levels, which affects
and provide safe areas for boats in stormy seas herence. One solution is to first store the how the material absorbs and emits light
(Proc. R. Soc. A 10.1098/rspa.2012.0193). information in a very isolated qubit, then (Science 336 1283, 1280).

Tuna carry isotopes to California

Pacific bluefin tuna off the California coast
have been found to contain levels of radioactive
Combing for planets colleagues in Germany and Spain, along
with ESO scientists, used the comb to
calibrate HARPS over two test runs car-
caesium isotopes that are around 10 times A method that uses laser frequency combs ried out in November 2010 and January
higher than expected. Researchers from the to calibrate astronomical spectrographs 2011. The comb delivers a series of equally
US believe that the fish ingested the caesium to unprecedented accuracies has been spaced spectral lines that act as a fre-
following a discharge of radioactive material into developed by European researchers. They quency ruler against which the light emit-
the ocean near the earthquake- and tsunami- tested the comb on the European South- ted from distant stars can be measured. In
damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant ern Observatorys (ESO) High Accuracy the technique, two fibres send light to the
in March 2011. They found caesium-134 and Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) spectrograph one guiding the calibration
caesium-137 in 15 two-year-old Pacific bluefin spectrograph at the La Silla Observatory in light and the other the starlight. The emerg-
tuna. Although the total caesium concentrations Chile. The added accuracy that this method ing light is detected by a CCD camera and a
in the post-Fukushima fish were higher than allows could help in the search for Earth- very high-resolution spectrum is seen.
before, the levels were low compared with sized exoplanets by detecting their tiny Although the comb can currently only be
naturally occurring radioactive isotopes, and influence on the motions of their compan- used for a few days at a time, more dura-
an order of magnitude less than the Japanese ion stars. Currently, the best spectrographs, ble combs should be ready for use in a
safety limit of about 400 Bq/kg dry weight for such as HARPS, are not precise enough to years time as they are being developed by
human consumption (PNAS 109 9483). detect the tiny shifts in the wavelength of Menlo a spin-off company from the Max
starlight that could be caused by an Earth- Plank Institute. The combs could also help
Read these articles in full and sign up for free sized planet orbiting a Sun-like star. astronomers to design a new generation of
e-mail news alerts at Tobias Wilken of the Max Planck Insti- more accurate and stable spectrographs
tute for Quantum Optics in Munich and (Nature 485 611).

4 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Frontiers

Baptiste Darbois-Texier and Key van Piroird

Cloak-on-a-chip comes
out of the shadows
An invisibility-cloak array that is made up of more
than 25 000 individual minuscule cloaks and
operates in the visible frequency range has been
built by researchers in the US. Individual cloaks
could be used as biosensors, and the entire
array could thus be used to study on-chip
light manipulation.
While researchers have often used
metamaterials to create cloaks, a simpler way
might be to use a structure, such as an optical
fibre, that guides optical waves by total internal
reflection, also known as an optical waveguide.
Indeed, Vera Smolyaninova at Towson University,
US, and colleagues did precisely this for the
first time in 2009, by placing a gold-coated lens
on top of a gold-coated glass slide, where the
area between the two surfaces acted as the
Levitating drops and winged clouds waveguide light travelled around the space
where the two surfaces touched. These cloaks,
If you are wondering what the ethereal image above is showing, you are in fact looking at levitating drops of the researchers realized, could be used to slow
liquid oxygen, known as Leidenfrost drops, floating above glass plates at room temperature. The the light down, or even stop it, creating what
Leidenfrost effect named after the 18th-century German researcher Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost is seen is known as a trapped rainbow. The trapped
when a liquid comes into contact with a surface that is at a significantly higher temperature than the liquids rainbow is created as different wavelengths of
boiling point, producing an insulating layer of vapour that keeps the drop from evaporating rapidly. As there is light in other words, different colours are
no contact between the drop and the surface, the friction of the system is reduced dramatically, which makes stopped at slightly different radii within the lens.
the drops highly mobile and difficult to control. The images are part of a study conducted by David Qur and Now the team has made thousands of these
colleagues at cole Polytechnique near Paris, where they show that it is possible to control a paramagnetic lenses each about 30 m in diameter that
liquid drop using a magnetic field. The team looked into the forces that drive liquid-oxygen drops and created are laid out together on a gold sheet. Each
methods to control the motion of the drops. The top image shows the magnet below the glass plate and a microlens bends light around itself, effectively
cloud above the liquid-oxygen drop, which is at 183 C. Water vapour in the air around the drop hiding the area it contains. The cloak array was
condenses, forming these clouds that sometimes reveal the ambient air flows. The haze seen within the built using a commercially available microlens
close-up drop images (below) is caused by ice crystals. array that was coated with a gold film 30 nm
thick. This was placed, gold-side down, onto a

Super shrimp secrets force, air bubbles are trapped between the
club and the creatures shell, which then col-
lapse to create regions of great local stress.
gold-coated glass slide and a laser beam was
directed into the array to test the performance of
the cloaks at different angles.
A colourful shrimp that can smash through The shrimp can repeat this process thou- One of the main aims of this study was to see
aquarium glass, without doing any signifi- sands of times without damaging its club. how multiple cloaks interfere with each other.
cant damage to its pair of dactyl clubs, is James Weaver of Harvard University, The array worked well when light was shone along
sure to make researchers take notice. Scien- US, and colleagues used X-ray and micros- the rows of microcloaks, but if it was shone at an
tists in the US now say the harlequin mantis copy techniques to study the structure and angle to the array or if there were any symmetry
shrimp can generate the enormous force composition of the shrimps club and found flaws in the design, shadows seemed to appear,
in its clubs, which are normally used by the that the striking face of the club is made of revealing any imperfections. This apparent
shrimp to crack open tough shellfish, thanks a 60 m thick layer of very hard calcium- disadvantage could be put to good use as it
to a combination of materials with very dif- phosphate ceramic material. Behind this offers a way of checking for cloak imperfections.
ferent properties. Indeed, their measure- are much thicker layers of fibres made from Another application could be in the field of
ments reveal that the clubs have a much a much more elastic material that is com- biosensors that use fluorescence spectroscopy
higher specific strength and toughness than monly found in shrimps exoskeletons. The identifying substances based on the amount
any synthetic composite material a finding club is held together at the edges by a third of light absorbed and then emitted by them.
that could lead to stronger materials, includ- structure made from chitosan fibres. Researchers could do spectroscopy-on-a-chip
ing those for use in body armour. The team believes that it is the layered and simultaneously examine fluorescence
Measuring just 318 cm in length, the helicoidal structure that gives the club its at thousands of points. You could test for
harlequin mantis shrimp can accelerate its extreme resistance to fracturing. Any crack multiple genetic conditions in a persons DNA by
clubs to reach speeds in excess of 80 km/hr, propagating through the material would attaching different dyes to different conditions,
allowing it to deliver an instantaneous force have to continually change direction mak- says Smolyaninova (New J. Phys. 14 053029).
of more than 700 N. In addition to this blunt ing fracture unlikely (Science 336 1275).

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 5

phy sic swor

News & Analysis

UK should lead on open access
A new report commissioned by the UK government says that all research journals should be free for
anyone to read but the transition will come at a price, as Hamish Johnston reports
The UK should lead the way in trans- of papers met this criterion in 2010

forming scientific publishing from a and a clear policy would have to be
reader pays model to an author put in place to decide who pays for
pays model. That is the main con- what and what to do if foreign fund-
clusion of a 140-page report released ing agencies refuse to pay their share.
last month by an independent work- David Willetts, the UKs minister
ing group of academics, publishers, for universities and science, says the
librarians and representatives from report will shape the governments
learned societies. Led by the British forthcoming policy on open-access
sociologist Janet Finch, the 15-strong journals. Opening up access to pub-
working group included Steven Hall, licly funded research findings is a key
managing director of IOP Publish- commitment for this government,
ing, which publishes Physics World. he says. It would foster innovation,
Commissioned by the UK gov- drive growth and open up a new area
ernment, the report notes that of academic discovery.
the Internet has had a profound cessing charge (APC) before a paper Click to read David Hoole, marketing director
impact on how scientists access is published. Switching to open of Nature Publishing Group, which
peer-reviewed research papers, with The report calls on UK research access could cost publishes the Nature suite of jour-
nearly all articles now being avail- councils to establish more effec- the UK up to 60m nals, says that the company wel-
able online. However, many journals tive and flexible arrangements to per year. comes the balanced approach of the
are subscription-based, which means meet the cost of publishing in open- Finch report, and its recognition of
that they can be accessed only by access and hybrid journals. Based the need for a mixed economy, of
researchers working at institutions on an APC of about 1750, the group licensing subscription content, self-
that have taken out a subscription or believes that a move to open access archiving and open-access publica-
by those who are willing to pay a one- would cost the UK an additional tion. However, Hoole warns that the
off fee to access individual articles 38m per year. The report also says small number of papers published
on a pay-per-view basis. that the UK government must spend in highly selective journals such as
Some researchers therefore feel an extra 10m per year to extend its Nature will require APCs higher than
that subscription-based journals current licences on reader-pays jour- those acknowledged in the report.
are preventing the results of govern- nals to provide wider access to this Timothy Gowers, a mathematician
ment-funded research from being material in the higher-education and at the University of Cambridge who
more widely disseminated, arguing health sectors, with publishers also is involved in a boycott of the pub-
that it should be freely accessible providing walk in access at public lisher Elsevier, told Physics World
in the public domain a view that libraries at no charge. that while he welcomes the general
the report describes as both com- A further 35m per year, the direction suggested by the report, he
pelling and fundamentally unan- report argues, would need to be does not think it sufficiently acknow-
swerable. Proponents of this open spent on open repositories of sci- ledges the very large profits that he
access model say it would not only entific reports that have not been says publishers make. I would have
benefit researchers in smaller uni- subject to peer review. Such reposi- liked to have seen a bolder report
versities and poorer nations that tories, it suggests, could contain that also recommended taking steps
cannot afford subscriptions, but also work done at a university or institute to move to a cheaper system that cov-
help inventors and small businesses or done UK-wide in a specific disci- The challenge ers the costs of publishers but signifi-
by giving non-academics access to pline. The report also cites a one-off will be to cantly reduces their profits, he says.
scientific and technical knowledge. transition cost of 5m, putting the Any move to open access will also
The challenge in making the tran- total cost of the move to full open decide who affect learned societies such as the
sition to full open-access publishing access at about 5060m per year. should pay the Royal Society, the Institute of Phys-
will be to decide who should pay the This, it says, is modest compared cost of running ics and the Royal Society of Chemis-
not-insubstantial cost of running with the 10.4bn that the UK govern- peer review, try, all of which publish journals on
peer-review systems, publishing the ment spends every year on research. a not-for-profit basis. With more
papers, and maintaining and upgrad- One challenge facing the UK publishing than two-thirds of the Institutes
ing the complex online systems that is how to apportion APCs when papers and charit able projects funded by the
underpin most modern journals. The research is published by an inter- maintaining gift-aided profits from IOP Publish-
Finch group has come down firmly in national collaboration that includes ing, its crucial to us that the shift is
support of the author pays model, one or more UK-based scientists.
the complex managed carefully, says IOP Presi-
whereby scientists pay an article pro- According to the report, about 46% online systems dent Peter Knight.

6 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor News & Analysis


Support rises for public access to US-funded research

A petition calling for US govern- Free for all which scientific peer review disap-
ment-funded research to be freely A petition to make pears. That is important to the sci-
available online has been signed by US government- entists, but even more important for
more than 27 000 people. Filed under funded research the public.
an initiative from the US govern- open access has Just how the Obama administra-
ments Office of Public Engagement, been signed by more tion will react to the petition remains
the petition calls for free, timely than 27 000 people. unclear. However, it has already
access over the Internet to jour- called on research-related govern-
nal articles arising from taxpayer- ment agencies to develop their own
funded research. Having received public-access policies under the 2010
more than 25 000 signatories, the US America COMPETES Act. The
government must now respond to the publishes several of its own jour- APS already makes all its publica-
petition, which as Physics World went nals, thinks that the NIH mandate tions available free of charge online
to press, it had yet to do. would not work for different types through public libraries that have
The petition calls for all govern- of research. He is even more criti- signed up with it and to high schools.
ment agencies that support research cal of legislation now in Congress We also allow all authors to post
to adopt the publication policy of the that would require public access their papers on their websites free of
National Institutes of Health (NIH). within six months of publication. It charge, Lubell adds.
Since 2007 researchers have been wouldnt work in social science and Those behind Access2Research
obliged to deposit papers that have mathematics, which have very little have no plans to relax. We were
come from NIH funding in the insti- grant funding and very long articles, hopeful of success [with the peti-
tutes PubMed archive within a year he says. No one size fits all solutions. tion] but we were really surprised
of publication. The NIH policy is an I prefer working with a variety of by its speed, says Heather Joseph,
unqualified success, claims Michael mechanisms for public access rather executive director of the Schol-
Carroll of American Universitys than one dissemination model. arly Publishing and Academic
Washington College of Law and an Michael Lubell, director of pub- Resources Coalition and an organ-
organizer of the Access2Research lic affairs at the American Physical izer of Access2Research. We want
group, which is behind the peti- Society (APS), meanwhile, points to keep the pressure on and we plan
tion. He says the NIH policy has not out that the scientific peer-review to gather signatures, push the story
harmed any scientific publisher so process is not cheap. The voluntary out to the media and make sure that
extending it ought to be a no-brainer. work captures only a part of what allies in Congress are sponsoring
But Frederick Dylla, executive goes on. Managing the review system public access to federal research.
director and chief executive of the is costly, Lubell says. What we are Peter Gwynne
American Institute of Physics, which very concerned about is a model in Boston, MA

Astronomy tory that can obtain much deeper and

crisper images than before.

X-ray telescope is primed for first measurements NuSTAR is meant to work with
other telescopes already in space,
including Chandra, so that the
NASAs Nuclear Spectroscopic Tele- remnant material to understand how combined information will provide
VAFB/Randy Beaudoin

scope Array (NuSTAR) successfully stars and elements are created; and to the best and most complete picture
took off from Kwajalein Atoll in the understand what powers the relativ- of some of the most energetic and
Pacific Ocean last month. NuSTAR, istic particle jets streaming from the exotic objects in the universe.
which is in orbit about 600 km above most extreme active galaxies hosting Paul Hertz, NASAs astrophysics
the Earth, is primed to hunt for supermassive black holes. NuSTAR division director, points out that the
black holes and other celestial bod- will also be able to investigate the ori- $170m NuSTAR mission has taken
ies, scanning the sky in the high- gins of cosmic rays, look at superno- just over four years from approval
energy X-ray region. The crafts vae and gamma-ray bursts, and study to launch, and uses technology
10 m long arm which contains its the surface of the Sun. developed in some of NASAs basic-
main mirrors at the end has now Shining bright The NuSTAR mission was first research programmes. The result
been unfurled, making the telescope The NuSTAR conceived by Fiona Harrison of the is a small telescope that will provide
ready for measurements. spacecraft California Institute of Technology, world-class science in an important
NuSTARs two-year primary mis- undergoes who is its principal investigator. She but relatively unexplored band of the
sion has three main objectives: to preparations before says that astronomers will now be able spectrum, he says.
count the number of collapsed stars its successful launch to see the hottest, densest and most Tushna Commissariat
and black holes in different regions last month. energetic objects with a fundamen- See also An impaired cosmic
of the sky; to study young supernova- tally new, high-energy X-ray observa- vision on p17

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 7

News & Analysis phy sic swor

Industry companies and the firm is optimis-

tic that it can establish partnerships

Plastic Logic quits e-reader market

with device manufacturers to realize
the full potential of the technology.
Despite the apparent setback,
Plastic Logic insists that its new
A UK firm spun out from the Uni- strategy will let it gain greater bene-

Plastic Logic
versity of Cambridge that sought to fit from its technology. Were very
be a world leader in flexible organic excited about the future for Plas-
electronic circuits and displays tic Logic and the plastic electron-
has pulled out of the competitive ics industry, chief executive Indro
e-reader market as it struggles to Mukerjee told Physics World. As a
find a commercial outlet for its tech- result of the groundbreaking work
nology. Plastic Logic announced in weve done, the plastic-electronics
May that it is to close its development industry has now reached a level of
facility in Mountain View, Califor- maturity where many alternative
nia, with the loss of around 40 jobs. uses, such as large-area sensors, cir-
An unspecified number of employ- cuitry and displays on smart cards,
ees at the companys offices in the are beginning to emerge.
UK, Germany and Russia are also Mukerjee adds that the use of their
likely to be affected. technology across many businesses
The company was founded in 2000 polymers are lighter, more flexible Lights out will lead to the long-term viability
by physicists Henning Sirringhaus and in principle cheaper than UK spin-off firm of the plastic-electronics industry as
and Richard Friend to exploit the inorganic conductors. Plastic Logic has well as more applications and devel-
flexible-display technology they had Although Plastic Logic has report- announced it is to opments in the future. Indeed, the
developed at the universitys Caven- edly raised more than $500m, it has pull out of UK governments Technology Strat-
dish Laboratory. This allowed them struggled to turn its technology into manufacturing egy Board has already said that Plas-
to print transistors made from marketable products. In 2010 it tried e-readers and will tic Logic will share in a 19m fund
an organic semiconductor onto a to introduce its own e-reader, called instead sell its to promote collaborative research
flexible plastic substrate. Organic the Que, which was quickly aban- technology to in electronics and photonics, par-
electronics technology uses carbon- doned in the face of stiff competition other firms. ticularly concerning ideas that have
based polymers instead of the cop- from Apples iPad and Amazons not yet got specific applications in
per and silicon that form the basis of Kindle. Plastic Logic instead plans recognized markets.
traditional electronics. Conducting to license its technology to other Simon Perks

Applied research Tim Holt, who is the institutes cur-

rent chief executive, has been named

Fraunhofer moves into the UK executive director of Fraunhofer UK

Research Ltd. He told Physics World
that the new Fraunhofer centre is
expected to be operational by August
Germanys Fraunhofer Society The photonics centre in Glasgow with a founding director in place.
Univer sity of Strathclyde

has announced it is to open its first will begin with a handful of staff Holt adds that about two-thirds of
research centre in the UK. The members in temporary offices but the initial start-up funding will come
Fraunhofer Centre for Applied in 2014 will move into the univer- from Scottish partners such as Scot-
Photonics will be based at the Uni- sitys Technology and Innovation tish Enterprise, the Scottish Funding
versity of Strathclyde in Glasgow Centre, which is currently being Council, the Scottish Government
and will focus on industry-relevant built. By 2017 the centre will have and Strathclyde University, with the
and industry-driven laser research Focus on the future about 2000 m 2 of space housing 50 rest from Fraunhofer.
and technology. It will have a budget The new Fraunhofer staff members and 30 postgraduate Ambacher says that the new
during the first five years of 8.8m. Centre for Applied research students. Fraunhofer centre will provide the
The society has also founded Fraun- Photonics will be Photonics activity is particularly UK and international industry part-
hofer UK Research Ltd, which will based at the UKs strong in the UK, and especially in ners with expertise, skills and facili-
be based at the university and will University of Scotland, says Oliver Ambacher, ties in photonics technologies, with
co-ordinate any future UK-based Strathclyde. director of the Fraunhofer Insti- the focus being on optical sensors
Fraunhofer research centres. tute for Applied Solid State Physics and sensor systems as well as optical
Fraunhofer, with headquarters in in Freiburg, a partnering institute devices and systems. Key markets
Munich, is Europes largest applied- of the new Glasgow centre. Ulrich will be healthcare, defence, environ-
research organization. It has more Buller, senior vice-president and mental monitoring, energy, biopho-
than 20 000 employees in Germany executive board member of the tonics, transport and IT. A number
who work at 80 research institutes Fraunhofer Society, says that Strath- of firms, including Coherent Scot-
around the country. In 1994 the clydes Institute of Photonics already land, M Squared Lasers, Edinburgh
society established its first overseas has an excellent reputation for pho- Instruments, Honeywell, Thales and
subsidiary, Fraunhofer USA, which tonics research and commercializa- Selex, have already indicated that
now has eight institutes, and there tion. Consequently, Fraunhofer has they want to collaborate with the
are more than 20 other centres scat- been eager, for some time, to create new centre.
tered across Europe, Asia, the Mid- a research centre in Glasgow in con- Ned Stafford
dle East and South America. junction with Strathclyde, he adds. Hamburg

8 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor News & Analysis

Dragon paves the way for new spaceflight era Euclid mission given go-ahead
A European Space Agency (ESA) mission
The success of the first private mis- Flying high to explore the mysteries of dark energy

sion to the International Space Sta- SpaceXs Dragon and dark matter has received final
tion (ISS) has opened up a new era capsule successfully approval from its science programme
in commercial spaceflight after returned to Earth in committee. Construction of the 7600m
SpaceXs Dragon capsule splashed late May after Euclid mission one of two selected by
down safely in the Pacific Ocean on delivering more than ESA last October as a part of its Cosmic
31 May. Launched from a SpaceX 450 kg of supplies to Vision 20152025 plan can now begin,
Falcon 9 rocket nine days earlier, the the International with launch slated for 2020. Approval
capsule delivered more than 450 kg of Space Station. was granted after the committee entered
supplies to the ISS before returning into an agreement with its member states
to Earth loaded with waste from the for funding Euclids main instruments.
station. The delivery was the start of a Earth orbit now that the US Space Euclid will use a 1.2 m diameter
series of ISS supply missions over the Shuttle programme has ended. telescope, a camera and a spectrometer
coming few years that should, if all Original plans had called for the to plot a 3D map of the distribution of
goes well, see astronauts being car- Dragon capsule to fly by the ISS in more than two billion galaxies, out to
ried to and from the station by 2015. its first venture, and to dock and redshifts of z ~ 2, and of the dark matter
Physicist Elon Musk, founder and deliver cargo in its second flight. that surrounds them. Its view will stretch
chief executive of SpaceX, says that NASA agreed last year to merge the across 10 billion light-years, revealing
the flight will be recognized as a two missions because of the incred- details of the universes structure and
significantly historical step forward ible progress that the SpaceX team its expansion.
in space travel hopefully the first had made in preparing its craft for
of many to come. Those sentiments its journey to the ISS. The upgraded NASA to reuse spy telescopes
are echoed by NASA administra- mission boasted several achieve- Two unused telescopes from the US
tor Charles Bolden, who says he is ments, including attaching a special National Reconnaissance Office part
counting on the inventiveness of module to the bottom of the Dragon of the countrys military spying system
American companies and American capsule that holds two solar arrays to have been donated to NASA. Designed
workers to make the ISS and other generate the capsules power, as well to point downwards towards Earth,
low-Earth-orbit destinations acces- as using the ISSs 9.75 m robotic arm rather than outwards into space, the
sible to all who have dreams of space to grab the Dragon capsule and pull instruments both have mirrors with a
travel. The mission was part of a US it into a docking position. diameter of 2.4 m the same as that of
strategy to rely on commercial craft Peter Gwynne the Hubble Space Telescope. The two
to carry future astronauts into low Boston, MA instruments could help to revive NASAs
faltering science programme, much of
Nuclear energy which faces sacrifice because of the
increasing costs of Hubbles successor,
US nuclear regulator chief resigns the James Webb Space Telescope. NASA
is already developing a plan to use one
of the telescopes to study dark energy,
The chairman of the US Nuclear staff that Jaczko had unilaterally and among other projects. Meanwhile, NASA

Regulatory Commission (NRC), particle illegally stopped a safety-evaluation has saved another telescope the
physicist Gregory Jaczko, has announced report on the Yucca repositorys design, orbiting Galaxy Evolution Explorer after
he is to resign. Jaczkos decision comes Hubert Bell, the NRCs inspector funding for it ran out. NASA has lent it
a year after congressional Republicans general, accused Jaczko of using to the California Institute of Technology,
objected to his leadership in phasing out forceful management techniques to which will cover its $1.2m annual
the $10bn nuclear-waste repository in accomplish his objectives, while noting operating costs.
Yucca Mountain in Nevada, funding for that he had operated within the law.
which was axed in 2011. His resignation In October 2011 Jaczkos four fellow Japan restarts nuclear reactors
will become effective when the Senate Stepping down commissioners George Apostolakis, Barely a month after Japan switched
approves his successor. The Obama Particle physicist William Magwood, William Ostendorff off its last operating nuclear reactor,
administration has already nominated Gregory Jaczko has and Kristine Svinicki wrote to the the Japanese government has allowed
geologist Allison Macfarlane from resigned as White House saying Jaczko had caused two reactors in the western Japanese
George Mason University for the position. chairman of the US serious damage to the NRC that could town of Ohi to be restarted. The decision
The NRC has five commissioners who Nuclear Regulatory affect safety at US nuclear plants. was taken despite public opposition to
regulate and license nuclear power, Commission. Svinicki the only female commissioner, the use of nuclear power following the
but the chairman has ultimate legal whose nomination for a new term as earthquake and tsunami that struck
authority. Jaczko had spent seven years commissioner the Senate will take up the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
as a commissioner, including three as along with that of Macfarlane also told plant in March 2011. The Kansai Electric
chairman, with his term set to expire in Congress last December that Jaczko had Power Company will bring the reactors
June 2013. I have decided this is the created a working environment in which back online this month, claiming that the
appropriate time to continue my efforts women felt especially threatened, a power they generate is needed to avert
to ensure public safety in a different charge that he denies. a summer power crisis in Osaka, Japans
forum, he says. Peter Gwynne, second largest city.
After allegations by commission Boston, MA

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 9

News & Analysis phy sic swor

Facilities 7250m of the core 7650m has been

approved by the Italian government

Rome looks to host X-ray laser

and it is hoped that much of the bal-
ance will be met by in kind dona-
tions of accelerator and detector
components. Roberto Petronzio,
Physicists developing a 7650m par- director of the Cabbibo Laboratory,

ticle collider on the outskirts of which is set up to host SuperB, says
Rome known as SuperB now plan that the first collisions will not take
to extend the machines scientific place before the end of 2017.
reach by incorporating a free-elec- Like other physicists contacted
tron laser (FEL) at short (or hard) by Physics World, Josef Feldhaus,
X-ray wavelengths. They say that who is in charge of experiments on
the roughly 775m addition, which the FLASH FEL at the DESY lab
has yet to be approved, would allow in Hamburg, says he knows very lit-
a wide range of research in materi- tle about the new Italian plans. It
als science, biology and medicine would be a great success for the Ital-
to be carried out, in addition to the ian scientific community, but I ques-
facilitys core studies on matter tion whether the project will garner
antimatter asymmetry. There are the necessary political support and
currently about 20 FELs around the funding, he says.
world, which emit bursts of coher- now want to add an FEL by chop- Surprise addition Ferrario and colleagues drew up
ent synchrotron radiation by pass- ping up the electron beam, so that The plans for SuperB the proposals to expand SuperBs
ing electrons through an oscillating for part of the time the linear accel- have been extended remit after a long-standing plan to
magnetic field that makes them fol- erator feeds the rings and for the rest to include a free- turn a pilot X-ray FEL at Frascati
low a sinusoidal path, but just two are it feeds an undulator to generate electron laser, into a full-scale facility fell through
hard X-ray devices. X-rays. The researchers say this will similar to the one at last year as a result of disagreements
Set to be built at the University of not compromise the performance of the DESY lab in over who would pay its running costs.
Tor Vergata, SuperB will produce the particle collider. Hamburg (illustrated The pilot FEL had been built after
beams of electrons and positrons Although a detailed cost analysis above). the Italian research ministry chose
inside a linear accelerator to an will not be ready until October, Fer- the Elettra synchrotron facility in
energy of 6.7 GeV before injecting rario estimates that the FEL will add Trieste rather than Tor Vergata
them into two rings each more than about 750m to SuperBs price tag, as the site for a full FEL. Elettras
1 km in circumference, where they with a further 725m needed to build facility, which operates at ultraviolet
will then be collided to allow the experimental stations. Constructing wavelengths, won out because it was
decay of particles such as B mesons. a comparable FEL from scratch, in cheaper, says Ferrario.
Massimo Ferrario and colleagues contrast, would cost around 7200m, Edwin Cartlidge
at the Frascati National Laboratory says Ferrario. Currently, some Rome

Astronomy the capacity of UK astronomers to

carry out world-leading science,

UK to shut down two Hawaiian telescopes says David Southwood, president

of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The UK needs to remain a credible
The UK is to close two telescopes Closing down international partner with a decent
Joint Astronomy Centre

in Hawaii the United Kingdom The UK will retire the research infrastructure. Reduction
Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) and United Kingdom in access to astronomical observato-
the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope Infrared Telescope ries...puts this at risk.
(JCMT). The 15 m JCMT operates (pictured) and the JAC director Gary Davis, mean-
in the submillimetre waveband, James Clerk Maxwell while, calls the closure a very
whereas its 3.8 m partner UKIRT is Telescope by 2014. serious setback, adding that UK
the largest infrared telescope in the astronomers will now have to go to
northern hemisphere. The decision confirmed that they would with- other nations facilities. It is inevit-
to shut the facilities was made by draw funding from the JCMT, which able that the UKs hard-won leader-
the Science and Technology Facili- would place a larger financial burden ship in these two areas of astronomy
ties Council (STFC), which said the on the UK. The STFC will, how- will lapse, he says.
money saved will be used to help ever, continue to operate the Isaac What will happen to the tele-
pay for the UKs membership of the Newton Group of Telescopes (ING) scopes and their 40-strong staff is
European Southern Observatory. in La Palma in the Canary Islands. currently unknown. One possibility
Although we had been able to Astronomers reacted with disap- is that another institution, such as
fund the [telescopes] for longer than pointment to the decision to pull out the University of Hawaii, will seize
originally anticipated, the current of the telescopes, which are run by ownership. The alternative is that
financial situation meant that we the Joint Astronomy Centre (JAC). when their science programmes are
could no longer continue doing so, [Although] I am pleased the STFC complete 2013 for UKIRT and
STFC spokesman Terry OConnor has found a solution that will allow 2014 for JCMT the observatories
told Physics World. We also had to UK scientists to continue to use the will have to be demolished in accord-
take into account that both the Neth- ING, the closure of these innova- ance with their lease.
erlands and Canada had already tive facilities will further reduce Gemma Lavender

10 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor News & Analysis

Supercharging Japans atom smasher involve replacing all the titanium-

nitride-coated beampipes. The new
beampipes will contain antecham-
bers that are structured in such
The KEKB collider in Japan is halfway through a major revamp that a way that the synchrotron radia-
tion from the accelerated electrons
may help to explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the enters these chambers. According
universe, as Michael Banks reports to SuperKEKB project manager
Masanori Yamauchi, the problem
Lying around 50 km north-east of with the previous set-up was that

Tokyo, Tsukuba is only a short 45 min synchrotron radiation from the elec-
train ride from Japans bustling capi- trons interfered with the beam as it
tal. Climbing out of Tsukubas cav- travelled, limiting the luminosity of
ernous underground central station the machine.
it is not immediately obvious why SuperK EK Bs electron beam
this city is such a hotbed of Japanese will have an energy of 7 GeV, with
science. In fact, Tsukuba was spe- the positron beam being 4 GeV. To
cifically founded in the 1960s as an increase the number of collision
international science city to attract events, physicists intend to ramp up
the best minds to live and work there. the current of the electron ring from
Today there are around 3000 for- 1.2 A to 2.6 A and the positron ring
eign students and researchers from from 1.6 A to 3.6 A. The rate will
as many as 90 countries living in the also be boosted by reducing the size
city and its success in attracting top of the electron and positron beams
research is marked by the presence Powering up more matter than antimatter. from the width of a human hair to the
of the headquarters of the Japa- Japans High Energy KEKB has already stamped its thickness of a few atomic layers, giv-
nese space agency, JAXA, and the Accelerator mark on particle physics. In 1972, ing a luminosity of 8 1035 cm 2 s 1
National Institute for Materials Sci- Research while at Nagoya University, Makoto some 50 times what was possible
ence. Indeed, more than 250 hi-tech Organization is Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa at KEKB. We are currently mak-
companies, including Hamamatsu, revamping its KEKB formulated a 3 3 matrix that ing good progress and should be on
Hitatchi and Intel, have R&D opera- B factory to describes how the strange quark target to hit the 2014 commissioning
tions based at research parks around produce around and down quark inside a kaon can date, says Yamauchi.
the city. 50 times more switch to and fro into their antipar- Also being upgraded is the BELLE
But Tsukuba is also a special place collisions. ticles and, in doing so, occasionally detector (now called BELLE-II) to
for high-energy physics, being home break CP symmetry (Progr. Theor. handle the huge increase in the col-
to Japans premier particle-physics Phys. 49 652). Moreover, the mixing lision rate and survive the radiation
lab the High Energy Accelera- in the matrix implied the existence damage caused by the flux. Key to
tor Research Organization (known of new quarks the charm, bottom this design is the inner vertex detec-
as KEK). KEKs main facility is and top. It was for this theory that in tor, which will have four layers of con-
the 3 km-circumference K EK B 2008 Kobayashi and Maskawa were ventional silicon strips as well as two
electronpositron collider, which awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics, layers made out of a relatively new
consists of two circular accelera- which they shared with fellow Japa- material called depleted P-channel
tors one carrying electrons and nese physicist Yoichiro Nambu, after field effect transistor (DEPFET).
the other positrons. These particles their theory was proved at KEKB as This material, it is hoped, will make
are smashed together at the BELLE well as at the PEP-II collider based the detector much better at pin-
detector, allowing physicists to study at what is now the SLAC National pointing where particles decay. Out-
their remnants. Accelerator Laboratory. side the vertex detector is another
Known as a B factory, KEKB However, CP violation as pre- detector, made from 2.5 m-long
has created more than a billion dicted by Kobayashi and Maskawas quartz plates, that separates muons
B mesons and their antimatter theory is still around 10 orders of from kaons. It works by detecting
counterparts anti-B mesons since it magnitude too small to account for the Cerenkov radiation flashes
was switched on in 1999. The facil- the asymmetry between matter and of light that occur when a charged
ity has led to major progress in our antimatter in the universe. There particle travels faster than the speed
understanding of chargeparity must, therefore, be so-far-undiscov- of light in its medium emitted by
(CP) violation the slight asymme- ered particles and processes that the particles.
try between the decay of such par- account for this discrepancy and that There are many new technolo-
ticles and revealed several exotic is what SuperKEKB will be hoping gies that are involved in the new
new particles. The lab is now half- We are to figure out. detector, says Peter Krian from
way through an ambitious upgrade to currently Ljubljana University and the J Ste-
give KEKB a much higher collision making good Looking for more fan Institute in Slovenia, who is
rate as well as to improve the BELLE More than 400 scientists from 15 spokesperson for BELLE-II. In all,
detector. Known as SuperKEKB, progress and different countries are involved this is going to give us a much bet-
the upgraded accelerator is designed should be in the SuperKEKB upgrade plan. ter resolution instrument one that
to pump out far more B mesons on target to Costing around 7300m, construc- will not only complement CERNs
(around 50 billion pairs), as well as hit the 2014 tion began on SuperKEKB in April Large Hadron Collider, but also be
other particles such as D mesons and 2011, one month after the Japanese able to find new particles and study
tau leptons that could shed further commissioning government gave the go-ahead. their effect much better than was
light on why the universe contains far date A major part of the upgrade will possible before.

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 11

News & Analysis phy sic swor

SKAs double site splits opinion

The decision to build the worlds biggest radio telescope the Square Kilometre Array on two
separate sites in Africa and Australasia has been praised by many. Jon Cartwright examines
whether dual sites will hamper science prospects
Two sites are better than one: that ders had expected to come out on

Matin Durrani
is the consensus among the five vot- top, the SSACs report, which was
ing members of the SKA Organisa- leaked to the press in March this
tion on the location of the worlds year, favoured South Africa. The
biggest radio telescope. Before the clinching factors were the coun-
votes were cast on 25 May, the wide- trys significantly better proposed
spread expectation had been that array of antennas, and its existing
the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) power grid, which would lower the
would be hosted in either Africa or cost of the SKAs estimated 110 MW
in Australasia. As it turned out, the power consumption, needed to run
voters plumped for both. the array and the supercomputer to
Double the site, double the prides churn through data. Yet it was a close
left intact. After an escalating bid- call: on a scale of 0 to 20, which was
ding war that has lasted almost a derived from votes of SSAC mem-
decade, neither Africa nor Australa- bers, there was less than one point
sia will be able to boast a lions share Outback science will be able to survey the sky 10 000 difference between the South Afri-
of the 71.5bn telescope. Come 2024, The Australian times faster than any existing radio can and Australian proposals (10.40
when the telescope is slated for com- Square Kilometre telescope, at a sensitivity 50 times versus 9.60).
pletion, Africa will host most of the Array Pathfinder, greater. To put the latter figure in As a result of this near-tie, the SKA
mid-frequency dishes, which provide currently being built perspective, it means that SKA would Organisation formed a Site Options
high sensitivity, while Australasia in Murchison, be able to detect an airport radar on Working Group (SOWG) on 4 April
will host the equally important low- Western Australia, a planet 50 light-years away assum- to see if a dual site would be possible.
frequency antennas, which provide a will now form part of ing that there are alien civilizations The SOWG had to consider the two
broad field of view. But some observ- the SKA project. within that distance, of course. phases of the SKAs construction.
ers have been left wondering if it will But SKA is not only being built Phase one, which is due to begin in
be possible to have a dual site without to search for extraterrestrial life. 2016, will see 1015% of the low-
subtracting from SKAs design goals. Astronomers have a host of other frequency (0.070.45 GHz) antennas
I am troubled by this decision topics they would like to explore, and mid-frequency (0.4510 GHz)
to split the bid, says Dale Frail, including the origin of cosmic mag- dishes being built. Phase two, due to
an astronomer at the USs National netism, possible deviations from start in 2018, involves the addition of
Radio Astronomy Observatory Einsteins general theory of relativ- mid-frequency aperture arrays and
(NRAO) in Socorro. Frail, who is ity and the nature of dark energy. the remaining dishes and antennas.
not associated with the SKA Organ- This is one of the great astronomy The SOWGs report found that for
isation, refers to the first photon projects for this century, without any phase two a dual site had no identi-
problem, namely that a big chunk doubt, says Paul Alexander, a UK fied scientific advantage over a sin-
of any observatorys construction director of the SKA Organisation. gle site. For phase one, however, the
budget must be spent on site-specific Its consistently been ranked by the report noted that a dual site had a dis-
infrastructure and personnel before astronomy community in Europe as tinct scientific advantage because
the first data can be collected. So one of the two massively important of precursor telescopes already
the issue for me is that SKA will now projects the other being the Euro- being built in the two countries.
split this infrastructure cost among pean Extremely Large Telescope, a In South Africa this is MeerKAT,
two sites, he says. As there is a complementary, optical-infrared an array of radio receivers being
finite amount of money, I fear that telescope that will be built in Chile. built in the Northern Cape. In Aus-
the remaining dollars will just build tralia, the precursor is the Australian
less scientific capability. Raising the stakes Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder
With such high expectations, it is no (ASKAP), a smaller array being built
Data deluge wonder that countries have expressed in the countrys mid-west. Together,
Certainly, the planned scientific a strong interest in the facility. Ini- the SOWG report concluded, these
capability is unprecedented. SKA tially, bids to host the telescope came precursors offered 7300m worth of
will consist of more than 3000 receiv- from South Africa (backed by eight ready infrastructure to give phase
ers fanning out from a central, dense This is one other African countries), Australia one a kick-start.
zone over thousands of kilometres, (backed by New Zealand), Brazil It was this temptation that led
making up a total collecting area of of the great (backed by Argentina) and China. the five non-bidding members of
1 km 2 . So much information will be astronomy Having shortlisted the South Afri- the SKA Organisation Canada,
collected that the combined signals projects for can and Australian proposals for the China, Italy, the Netherlands and
from these receivers will deliver data site in 2006, the SKA Organisation the UK to vote for a dual site, shar-
100 times faster than the current
this century, formed a SKA Site Advisory Com- ing the receivers between Africa
global Internet traffic. But once the without any mittee (SSAC) to evaluate each. and Australasia (see box). The deci-
numbers are crunched, astronomers doubt Although the Australian bid- sion initially saw mixed responses

12 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor News & Analysis

from the bidders. Australias science Phase one Phase two

and research minister Chris Evans
dubbed it outstanding, saying that Frequency Number Site Frequency Number Site
sharing the project means research- (GHz) (GHz)
ers will get the best possible results by Low-frequency 0.070.45 50 Australasia Low-frequency 0.070.45 250 Australasia
capitalizing on the respective infra- antenna antenna
structure and strengths of both sites. stations stations
However, South Africas minister
of science and technology, Naledi Mid-frequency 0.453 190 (+64) Africa Mid-frequency 0.4510 3000 Africa
Pandor, called the decision unex- dishes dishes
pected, adding that her project team Mid-frequency 0.453 60 (+36) Australasia Mid-frequency 0.41.4 250 Africa
would nonetheless accept the com- survey dishes aperture arrays
promise in the interest of science.
Speaking later to Physics World, This table shows the intended number, frequency and location of the receivers that will make up the giant
Pandor says that the science itself Square Kilometre Array. The figures in brackets refer to the additional receivers in South Africas MeerKAT and
will not be compromised. Its a Australias ASKAP precursor telescopes, which are already being built.
compromise in the sense of it being
a joint decision, she says. We were connected across the Indian Ocean decision for a dual site but points
always told the search was for a sin- because each site functions at differ- out that the 100 separation in lon-
gle site, and both bidders had worked ent frequencies. Nevertheless, there gitude between the two sites means
on that basis. If they had known a are some construction jobs that will the amount of sky simultaneously
dual site was an option, she adds, have to double up, explains Joseph observable will be reduced to about
they might have bid differently. Lazio, chair of SKAs Science Work- 15%. This will not hinder studies of
Some observers have suggested ing Group. These include mapping slowly changing astrophysical phe-
the dual-site decision should not out existing power and network nomena, such as neutral hydrogen,
have been unexpected; it would cables and hiring additional staff. since observations using the Aus-
have been difficult to let down either The SOWG report estimates that tralasian site could (if necessary)
side after what had become a fierce the additional cost for phase one be followed up at the African site
contest. In the early stages the bid- will be about 8% of the SKA budget. several hours later. But the split site
ders had emphasized their sites However, the report could only haz- could be inconvenient for broadband
scientific benefits for Australia itsard a guess at the toll on phase two, studies of transient phenomena,
radio-quietness in the barren and stating that the dominant costs for particularly pulsars.
sparsely populated outback, and for instruments and infrastructure for The rapid pulses of these celestial
South Africa its existing infrastruc- a single or dual site appear to be lighthouses are of interest to astron-
ture. Later, it turned bitter. Evans, the same to first order (i.e. to one omers because they are potentially
for instance, complained the SKA significant figure). a way of testing general relativity
Organisation was being swayed by a Brian Schmidt, an astronomer at further. Radio astronomer Andrew
sympathy for doing more in Africa. the Australian National University Lyne at the University of Manches-
In response, Pandor lambasted who shared the 2011 Nobel Prize ter in the UK says that although
Evanss outworn Afro-pessimism. for Physics for finding evidence that limited observable-sky overlap will
Looking from inside, the deci- the universes expansion is acceler- not affect such timing (the mid- and
sion was not too surprising, says ating, thinks the additional cost for low-frequency observations can be
Raffaella Morganti from the Nether- phase two could be about 30% of done separately), certain studies of
lands Institute for Radio Astronomy the SKA budget. [That figure] has pulsar radio-emission physics might
and a member of the European SKA been murmured by people I think require both sites at the same time.
science working group. I am sure should know, he says. Its due As long as there is some common-
there has been a political component because the existing infrastructure view area of sky at every declination,
how can this be avoided in such a is not adequate. And so we will have appropriate scheduling would allow
big and expensive project?. Fred to have beefed-up Internet, beefed- these experiments to be conducted
Chaffee, a former director of the up power, beefed-up computational satisfactorily, he says.
optical Gemini Observatory, which facilities. These things are easier to Chris Carilli, another radio
also runs from two separate sites, put in one site than double up. astronomer based at the USs NRAO
in Hawaii and Chile, agrees. Such However, Michiel van Haarlem, in Socorro, remains sanguine about
decisions, especially such complex interim director general of the SKA the choice, They made a decision
SK A/ TDP/DRAO/Swinburne Astronomy Productions

ones, are rarely based purely on the Organisation, says he does not know they had to make. He thinks the
scientific merits, and I feel certain where the 30% figure comes from. use of the MeerKAT and ASKAP
that SKA was no exception, he says. It is hard to judge the absolute cost precursor arrays will bring forward
of SKA, he adds. The numbers... the completion of phase one, and not
More cost are targets, and it remains to be seen leave the radio-astronomy commu-
The dual site will not mean any what we can do. nity drifting for another five years.
physical link has to be made between It will also encourage other coun-
Africa and Australasia. Although A line in the sand tries to decide whether they want
the receivers will have to be con- Nevertheless, the sheer fact that the in, he says. Currently, the US is not
nected with fibre optics in each telescope has two locations could All spread out a member. The most important
continent to perform radio interfer- affect the scientific capability, albeit Artists impression point is that a line has been drawn
ometry a technique that combines in a minor way. Phil Charles, former of the planned SKA in the sand, Carilli adds. Its fish
the receivers into one great virtual director of the South African Astro- low-frequency or cut bait time for the rest of the
receiver they will not have to be nomical Observatory, supports the aperture arrays. international community.

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 13


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Bibliographic codes ISSN: 0953-8585 Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthesis a J-shaped carbon-fibre leg made famous by
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P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 15

phy sic s wor Comment: Forum

An impaired cosmic vision

mined any other way. Without an advanced
The European Space Agency

X-ray observatory, our view of the universe
recently picked a probe to Jupiter in the 2020s will be seriously incomplete.
as its next large-class mission. Facing extinction?
Paul Nandra says the decision So what went wrong? That is the question
ATHENA scientists have been asking
could devastate astronomy themselves ever since ESAs decision and,
arguably, we may never know. The report
This is a golden age for astronomers who of the key body that recommended the
look at the universe using X-ray telescopes. selection ESAs Space Science Advisory
They have three major facilities to choose Committee did not give any reasoning for
from: NASAs Chandra X-ray Observa- why it selected JUICE. It was faced with
tory; XMM-Newton, built by the European an almost impossible apples-to-oranges
Space Agency (ESA); and Japans Suzaku comparison between a planetary explora-
satellite. These missions have already Shelved The ATHENA X-ray mission has been axed. tion mission, an astrophysical observatory
helped to solve a range of astrophysics and a fundamental-physics experiment.
problems, such as resolving the X-ray going head to head for the launch slot in All were judged exciting, and worthy of
background radiation into discrete sources,2022: the New Gravitational-wave Obser- the 71bn price tag of an ESA large mis-
mostly growing supermassive black holes, vatory (NGO), a next-generation X-ray sion, but an objective comparison between
and providing new constraints on cosmic observatory called the Advanced Telescope the science is almost impossible given that
expansion and dark energy using clusters for High Energy Astrophysics (ATHENA) they are so different. Rumours suggest
of galaxies. They have also led to new ques-
and the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer that the final choice between ATHENA
tions, such as how and why feedback (JUICE). ESA eventually plumped for and JUICE was made on the slimmest of
from supermassive black holes affects the JUICE, with the two casualties being NGO margins. For the ATHENA team, it feels
large-scale structure of the universe. and ATHENA. While it was always known almost as if we lost a billion-euro poker
This enormous success has come not that two missions would go by the wayside, game on the turn of one card.
only from dedicated X-ray studies of cos- ATHENAs non-selection has left the There are some glimmers of hope. The
mic sources, but also through high-energy astronomical community stunned. most promising suggestion is that ESA
observatories working with space- and The grim reality is that there will now might pull back from the brutal winner
ground-based facilities that operate in most likely be no operating X-ray observa- takes all approach of the Cosmic Vision
other parts of the electromagnetic spec- tory in the 2020s, plans for which had been programme, which was always going to
trum. This multi-wavelength approach has ongoing for more than 15 years. All of these result in two big losers. Instead, it is appar-
become essential to modern astronomy efforts culminated in the ATHENA con- ently considering adopting a cornerstone
and in fact about 20% of all publications cept the last hope of realizing the needs approach for the large missions, defined in
in astronomy now feature X-ray observa- of high-energy astronomy in the 2020s. advance and staying in the ESA programme
tions prominently. ATHENA would have worked perfectly until they are ready to be implemented.
Yet the feast of X-ray data we are cur- alongside the suite of major telescopes ATHENA now needs to be one of these
rently enjoying only goes to emphasize planned at other wavebands in that time- cornerstones. This would allow the high-
the famine we are about to face. Chandra, frame. These include the European energy astrophysics community to plan
XMM and Suzaku have already exceeded Extremely Large Telescope in the optical sensibly for the future, and avoid the risk
their expected lifetimes and could stop and near infrared, the James Webb Space we have now: years of work and millions of
operating at any time. Some smaller X-ray Telescope in the near and mid infrared, the euros in technology developments ending
probes are planned for the coming few Atacama Large Millimetre/sub-millimetre up being thrown away, and an entire branch
years such as NASAs NuSTAR (which Array in the sub-millimetre region, as well of science getting stranded in the process.
was launched last month) as well as the as the Square Kilometre Array in the radio Unlike most areas of astronomy and
Russian/German Spektrum-RG satellite. and the Cerenkov Telescope Array in high- astrophysics, X-ray observations are
Japans ASTRO-H, with a launch date in energy gamma rays. completely dependent on space-based
2014, comes closest to fitting the bill of a That opportunity is now lost. In about observatories and the ATHENA team is
multipurpose X-ray observatory, but it 10 years from now, astronomers vision will determined to fight for a place in the ESA
has a nominal lifetime of only three impaired in the X-ray region, with no programme for the next large-mission
Moreover, all of these new missions are high-quality information obtainable about slot. Until ATHENA happens, we face the
expected to stop operating by around 2020 astrophysics at high energies and high tem- prospect of suffering a decade of impaired
and NASA and the Japanese space agency peratures. The large community of instru- cosmic vision.
JAXA currently have no plans to launch ment builders, optics experts and scientists
any X-ray observatory after that date. that would have realized and exploited Paul Nandra is a director at the
And now ESA has no such plans either. ATHENA faces uncertainty and disarray. Max Planck Institute for
This is a disaster not just for X-ray astron- Extraterrestrial Physics in
Threes a crowd omy, but for astronomy and astrophysics as Garching, Germany, and co-chair
In early May ESA announced its first large a whole. X-ray observations make up a cru- of the ATHENA Study Team, e-mail
mission as part of its 20152025 Cosmic cial part of the astronomers toolbox and
Vision programme. Three missions were provide information that cannot be deter-

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 17

Atomic Force Microscope

phy sic s wor Comment: Robert P Crease

Critical Point Sporting knowledge

When we say that athletes the science involves knowing how abstract

iStockphoto/Chris Bernard
bodies move in abstract space and time.
know the laws of physics, Movement and motion, in short, involve
what we really mean, argues knowledge of different phenomena and are
two entirely separate expertises. It would
Robert P Crease, is that they be wrong to say that what is involved is
implicit and explicit knowledge of the same
know the laws of physics thing, or that an athlete or physicist knows
what the other knows plus something else.
Skateboarders know some righteous
physics, dude. The critical point
That lead sentence of an article in Science What troubles me is the urge to conflate
News a few months ago summarized an the two expertises in a way that implies that
experimental result by the Arizona State the one has priority over the other. It is yet
University psychologist Michael McBeath. another manifestation of the problem, dis-
McBeath and collaborators had asked sub- cussed by philosophers since ancient times,
jects to say which inclined path a rolling of the relationship between theoretical
ball would complete faster: a shorter one and practical knowledge. The French are
with a constant slope, or a longer one with wise in having two words for to know:
two steep slopes separated by a flat section. con natre, to know concretely in ones
Most subjects guessed the shorter, gentler Theory problem Do skateboarders know physics? bones and in practice; and savoir, proposi-
path. Skateboarders, however, were more tional knowledge, theoretical knowledge or
likely to say, correctly, that the ball would iar high-school gymnasium and started know-how. The French philosopher Mau-
complete the longer path with steeper sec- out badly, missing six baskets in a row. He rice Merleau-Ponty notably refers to the
tions faster. The suggestion of the Science stopped, looking discomfited, and seemed ordinary not just athletic human body
News article was that the skateboarders to be making an adjustment in his mind, as a corps connaissant, or knowing body.
thereby knew physics. recounted writer John McPhee. Then he Conflating the senses of knowing and
I would say the remark is light-hearted went up for another jump shot from the giving priority to the theoretical sense over
except that I regularly encounter similar same spot and hit it cleanly. Four more shots the practical simply reflects our adherence
comments when reading about athletes, went in without a miss. Bradley turned to to the ancient myth that true knowledge is
dancers and performers. I once read a blog McPhee and announced That basket is theoretical. We feel that knowledge is for-
by an athletics coach that said many of us about an inch and a half low. Weeks later, mulated in rules and concepts, and that it
already know physics but dont know that the fastidious McPhee returned to the same can be codified in fully linguistic, situation-
we know physics, and to confirm this cited gymnasium with a stepladder and steel tape, independent terms; practical knowledge is
examples involving levers and vectors. A climbed up and measured the basket. It was merely the conscious, instrumental appli-
gymnast who once tried to instruct me in indeed one and one-eighth of an inch below cation of theoretical knowledge. The result
trapeze moves (in vain, for Im not much the required 12 feet. is to give a bias to theoretical knowledge, a
of an athlete) meaning to be encouraging Kenneth Laws, emeritus professor of bias often manifested by the need to give
rather than provocative, said You know it physics at Dickinson College in Pennsyl- dignity to practical knowledge putting a
already its just physics! vania, has written books about the physics stamp of academic respectability on it by
Such remarks are often protected by of dance, analysing the often surprisingly asserting, even in a light-hearted way, that
implicit or explicit quotation marks complex and unexpected physics principles it is really theoretical knowledge, whether
athletes know the laws of physics to of classical ballet. The dance studio is a implicitly or in disguise.
inoculate against obsessive literalists like physics laboratory, he declares. Even the I consider McBeaths experiment which
me by suggesting that what is involved is movement of non-dancers can be used to approached its subjects in an abstract,
not really knowing. So why do I still find illustrate physics principles, he says, point- third-person way to simply illustrate how
that maddening? ing out that when we jog, we dont let our counterintuitive physics can be. If he and
arms dangle but cock them at the elbows, his co-workers had put physicists and oth-
Bodily coping reflecting simple laws of pendulum motion. ers on skateboards to see who could make
Athletes are certainly movement experts. Laws, however, carefully avoids implying it to the bottom quickest, would there be
Anyone competing in basketball, football, that this means we know such principles, anything interesting to report?
javelin, shot-put, archery, pole-vault or ten- and explicitly denies that his research pro- The right way to express the results light-
nis will seek to send themselves or various vides a how to for dancers. heartedly is not to say that athletes know
objects into carefully anticipated traject- But performing trajectories is not ballis- the laws of physics, with the quotation
ories. Rowers and swimmers, meanwhile, tics, swimming is not hydrodynamics and marks implying that real knowing is not
will strive to move as swiftly and efficiently dancing is not mechanics. One discipline involved. The right way would be to say that
as possible through a liquid medium. the art involves knowing the kinetic possi- athletes know the laws of physics.
Athletes grasp of movement is even bilities of ones own body in the world. This
sometimes quantitative. The US basketball knowledge is largely self-instructive (aided Robert P Crease is chair of the Department of
superstar Bill Bradley later a US senator by coaches) and impossible without first- Philosophy, Stony Brook University, and historian
and presidential candidate once found person experience. We dont learn to move at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, US,
himself having to practise in an unfamil- by studying anatomy. The other discipline e-mail

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 19

phy sic swor

Comments from
close to one; however, I have had squids squirt

S Baron
ink right in my face as they threaten me with
their parrot-like beaks.
Letters to the editor can be sent to Physics World, Fungus
Temple Circus, Temple Way, Bristol BS1 6HG, UK,
or to Please include your address and Well, its another surprise from this shrimp. As
a telephone number. Letters should be no more than the article states, we already knew that it can see
500 words and may be edited. Comments on articles every part of the light spectrum.
from can be posted on the NoeHernandez767
website; an edited selection appears here
What next caviar body armour?
Geo pros and cons Astounding. With a home planet like this, who
Colin Baglins article Fixing the climate The harlequin mantis shrimp (above) packs a needs starships? Everything imaginable is
(June pp1617) has a lot going for it. I have powerful punch: a strike from one of its club- already here.
long been a supporter of geoengineering like appendages can smash aquarium glass. dratman, US
as a stopgap to cool the planet and thus Recently, a group of biophysicists in the US
head off a possible crisis, and Baglin and Singapore figured out how they do it (see With a home planet like this, it makes you wonder
correctly identifies the main problem p6). We thought this was pretty amazing, and what else is out there.
with alternative solutions that focus on so did commenters on our website (Secret of jstreip
reducing greenhouse-gas emissions: super-power shrimp revealed, 7 June).
namely, governments are perfectly content
with the rise of 10% in carbon-dioxide As a recreational tuna fisherman, I am sometimes
(CO2) emissions that occurred in the warned not to touch any shrimp that looks
years 20062010. Baglin also identifies anything like this one. The results are claimed to Read these comments in full and add your own at
several of the problems connected with be a nasty gashed thumb. I have never been
unchecked greenhouse-gas emissions,
including threats to food and water
supplies, and the eventual flooding of of Washington palaeontologist Peter us not to try to mitigate the problem by
coastal cities as a result of rising sea levels. D Ward details the mechanism for this adding other emissions, or initiating
All of this sounds very familiar, and I in his book Under a Green Sky (2007 control activities. Instead, we should
would agree that, if asked, most people Smithsonian) and suggests that our target stop doing those things that caused the
would probably mention these same for CO2 concentration ought not to exceed problem in the first place. It might sound
threats. However, these threats, although 450 ppm. Below this figure, he believes it attractive to do a bit of geoengineering
real, are far from the whole story. Indeed, is likely that we are safe, since nothing in to give us time to sort ourselves out, but
they are trivial compared with the real the fossil record suggests a greenhouse there are technical as well as political risks
danger facing us: the extinction of possibly extinction occurring at these levels. Above associated with using geoengineering to
50% of all the species on Earth, including it, we are in unknown territory. limit the impact of climate change.
us, that would be initiated by the shutdown To put this in perspective, we are at For example, if research shows that
of the thermohaline conveyor. This is 390 ppm now, compared with 250 ppm in predicted temperature rises could be
the part of the global ocean circulation pre-industrial times. That does not leave limited by geoengineering, it is likely that
that oxygenates the oceans, preventing much room for manoeuvre. If we are to there will be pressure to go ahead. The
them from turning stagnant and poisoning survive, then governments had better be a result, however, will be a corresponding
the atmosphere with hydrogen sulphide. little less content with the current situation. reduction in pressure to limit emissions.
The conveyor is driven by the temperature Jim Austin Stronger and stronger geoengineering
difference between low and high latitudes. University of Keele, UK actions will then be needed in the future if
Because climate change preferentially emissions continue to grow. At some point,
warms the polar regions, this temperature life on Earth will become dependent on the
difference is being reduced, which in turn Baglin rightly recognizes some of the risks continued effectiveness of the increasingly
threatens the stability of the conveyor. associated with using geoengineering potent human interventions. This is not an
Therefore, any geoengineering project fixes to minimize risks of climate attractive way to tackle a problem involving
should be concentrated at those change. But the problem has much wider so many complex interactions.
high latitudes. implications than just limiting emissions John Chubb
Thanks to the fossil record, of carbon dioxide and methane. As I Cheltenham, UK
oceanographers and geologists have noted in a previous letter to Physics World
known for many years that most of (November 2009 p20), if the world
the mass extinctions in the geological population continues to grow and we aim
past were caused by the cessation of
the thermohaline conveyor. Forget
to provide people with fairer access to
world resources, then with the current
Energy politics
the asteroid impact that wiped out the level of action it seems unrealistic to In his review of Tyler Hamiltons book
dinosaurs and shows up in an iridium layer expect climate-changing gas emissions to Mad Like Tesla (May pp4445), Roger
at the CretaceousPaleogene boundary be controlled within the timescale needed. Bridgman writes that in energy supply,
that was just a one-off. Most extinction To the extent that the current situation obviously, companies cannot simply
events were greenhouse extinctions and the rate of climate change are caused junk huge infrastructure investments in
caused by excessive volcanism. University by the activities of humans, it is up to favour of something new, however good

20 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Feedback

it might be. But that is exactly what the use of biomass fuels and the use of Vedral misunderstands the position
Angela Merkels administration has done these agricultural by-products as fuels in of most of the religious people I come
in Germany with its anti-nuclear policy. cooking become even more attractive. across. Speaking as a religious person
The consequence of shutting down the J Clifford Jones myself, I can say that the one thing that
countrys nuclear power plants will be a University of Aberdeen, UK religion does not give us is certainty
significant increase in carbon-dioxide unless it is the certainty that we do not
emissions from electricity generation know everything, should not rush to
however damaging that might be as new form judgments and that we are in the
coal-fired stations are built.
Evidently, politics has a logic detached
Religious philosophies mire of our shortcomings for most of the
time. Even the framework that religion
from technical or economic reality. In his review of The Atheists Guide to provides for continually questioning
Augustin McEvoy Reality by Alex Rosenberg (May pp4243) those perplexities is uncertain and
Epalinges, Switzerland Vlatko Vedral argues that Rosenbergs challengeable within its own context. cold and clinical philosophy misses what What religion does give us is the means
is magical about science. To support of fostering our noble ideals to lead us to
this view, he quotes a US naturalist, new and larger moral and spiritual truths
Better than advertised John Burroughs, who wrote that the final (where did I read something like that
value of physical sciences is its capability before?). Its whole point is to enrich our
In reading Sidney Perkowitzs article to foster in us noble ideals, and to lead world view, giving us a really uplifting
on innovative cookstoves (Now were us to new and larger views of moral and feeling associated with the wonder and
cooking, June pp3538) I was struck by spiritual truths. Vedral also suggests that mystery of what lies just beyond our
his description of a particular combustion by insisting that physics can answer all vision. The old-fashioned words for this
device that uses agricultural by-products questions, Rosenberg himself is, in some uncertainty and this sense of imagination
such as corn cobs and bagasse (the residue sense, a religious person. and exploration are doubt and hope.
from crushed sugar cane). The article Elsewhere in the review, however, Just which of these two authors,
states that using such fuels in place of Vedral states that it is precisely those Rosenberg or Vedral, is displaying the
liquefied gas reduces fuel costs by 50%. who are unable to suspend judgment, who characteristics of a religious person? Or is
In fact, materials such as corn cobs and cannot wait or are scared to live without a one just like a religious literalist and the
bagasse can have negative financial value; definitive answer to every question, who other just like a religious liberal?
that is, a cost is incurred by their disposal need some kind of religion to give them Lucy Harris
if they are not put to use as fuel. Add to comfort. While this may be true of a Salisbury, UK
this the carbon credits accruing from proportion of literalist religious people,




P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 21

Physics and sport: Pr os t he se s phy sic swor

The fastest man on no legs

Prostheses remained unchanged for thousands of years, but that all changed once amputee athletes
got involved in the design process. James Poskett explores the stories behind the elite sports
prostheses we see today
James Poskett is a Youre not disabled by the disabilities you have, you and Pistorius could begin training for events such as
freelance science are able by the abilities you have. Oscar Pistorius the 2011 IAAF World Championships and the 2012
writer based in takes this motto very seriously. Aged only 11 months, Olympic Games.
Cambridge, UK, having been born without lower leg bones, Pistorius Prostheses have not always been particularly hi-
specializing in the underwent a double below-the-knee amputation. tech. In fact, their history stretches back to before
history of science,
Since then, he has concentrated on his abilities rather even the original Games held in Olympia in 776 BC.
e-mail james.poskett
than his disabilities. As we go to press, Pistorius has A wooden prosthetic toe was discovered on the
yet to secure a place in the South African Olympic mummified remains of an ancient Egyptian noble-
team, which would allow him to be the first amputee woman dating back to 910 BC, while the Ancient
sprinter in history to compete in the Olympic Games. Romans and Greeks are also known to have devel-
What we do know is that his personal best of 45.07 s oped wooden and iron prostheses, often fitted to
for the 400 m would have been good enough to earn replace limbs lost in battle. But despite this long his-
him fifth place at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The tory, prostheses remained relatively similar for thou-
current 400 m world record of 43.18 s, set by Michael sands of years. That all changed in the 1980s when
Johnson in 1999, might look unobtainable for now, amputee athletes themselves began collaborating
but advances in prosthetic-limb technology over the with physicists, doctors and engineers, and the mod-
past 30 years have seriously levelled the playing field. ern sports prosthesis was born.
From Pistoriuss two carbon-fibre legs (for which he
is affectionately nicknamed the fastest man on no Best foot forward: Flex-Foot
legs) to Paralympic cyclist Michael Teubers artifi- Pistoriuss Cheetah Flex-Foot prostheses, made by
cial knee, sports prostheses are helping athletes to Icelandic company ssur, are the latest version of a
excel, irrespective of disability. design developed in the early 1980s by a biomedical
In fact, the effectiveness of sports prostheses engineer called Van Phillips. Originally intending
caught the international athletics community by to pursue a career in broadcasting, Phillips involve-
surprise. When Pistorius started running times ment in biomedicine can be traced back to the day
comparable with able-bodied athletes, the Interna- in 1976 when he was water-skiing with friends and a
tional Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) motorboat tore past him, severing his leg just above
banned him from competing in the Beijing Olym- the ankle. Thankfully Phillips survived the accident,
pics. In its 2008 judgement, the IAAF claimed that but he was left with a prosthetic limb that he found
Pistorius required 25% less energy than able-bodied extremely frustrating. It was made of balsa wood,
athletes to run at the same speed. But Pistorius, a which was light but was nothing like a human foot
staunch defender of disabled sport, did not see why mechanically. In fact, it was not really so different
he should be allowed to run only in the Paralympics from the wooden prosthesis found on the 3000-year-
and not the Olympics if he could meet the quali- old Egyptian mummy. Phillips soon realized that
fying time to run alongside able-bodied athletes. The the problem with his wooden foot was that it did not
resulting legal and scientific wrangling was eventu- store and release energy like a normal human limb:
ally brought to an end when the International Court he had literally lost the spring in his step.
of Arbitration for Sport delivered its verdict: overall The prostheses at the time might have been okay
Pistorius had no net advantage. The ban was reversed for walking, but they were no use for more athletic
activities such as running or jumping. Phillips, not
content to sit back and wait for the engineering
Van Phillips abandoned the faux-limb world to catch up, took matters into his own hands.
He switched degrees and enrolled in the biomedical-
aesthetics, and gave the sporting engineering programme at Northwestern University
in Illinois. After completing his degree, he started

world a prosthesis that could return work as an engineer at the University of Utah, where
he came up with the design that would become the
precursor to the prostheses that Pistorius uses in
the energy of each stride to the body sprint events.
Phillips launched the Flex-Foot in 1984 and his
of the leg-amputee athlete hard work soon paid off. In the 1988 Paralympic
Games the USs Dennis Oehler broke the Paralym-

22 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Pr os t he se s

Liao Yujie/Xinhua Press/Corbis

Blade runner Oscar Pistorius runs at the 2011 World

Athletics Championships in Daegu, South Korea the
first time a double-amputee athlete competed against
able-bodied opponents at a major championship.

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 23

Physics and sport: Pr os t he se s phy sic swor

1 Pedal power


Able-bodied cyclists naturally change their foots tilt when pedalling,

to apply a constant efficient circular force. Until recently, the only
below-the-knee cycling prostheses were low-tech and did not tilt,
producing an awkward upward and downward motion. But Seth
Astle designed the Cadence prosthesis (see image opposite) to
move much more naturally and efficiently, with a foot that not only
tilts but also stores energy in the downward stroke that is released
J-shaped British athlete Jonnie Peacock wears a Flex-Foot Cheetah as the foot rises.
prosthesis and will compete in this years Paralympic Games.

pic 100 m record by 1.5 s using the Flex-Foot. At Knee-jerk reaction: amputee cyclists
11.73 s he was only 1.81 s behind the able-bodied 1988 Cycling is another hugely popular sport but, for
Olympic record. prosthetics designers, it has presented new set of
The Flex-Foot is a J-shaped carbon-fibre leg pros- problems. The big challenge stems from the fact that
thesis and its success has been a classic tale of putting efficient pedalling requires applying a force in a cir-
existing knowledge of physics and materials to good cular motion, not just up and down. When an able-
use. Whereas other designers had concentrated on bodied athlete pushes on the pedals, they tilt their
life-like aesthetics, Phillips focused on getting that feet slightly in order to maintain the circular motion.
spring back in the athletes step, turning to carbon Amputees have difficulty doing this as everyday
fibre, which had been around in its modern form prostheses rarely pivot at the ankle. Introducing a
since the 1950s. Other prosthetics designers were pivot is relatively easy, but the challenge for designers
well aware that carbon fibre is strong and light, but is to give the amputee some way to control it.
Phillips saw the utility of one of its lesser-known One of the most promising cycling prosthesis
properties: it is anisotropic, meaning its properties designs emerged from the 2011 James Dyson Award.
depend on the direction in which a force is applied to Seth Astles Cadence is a below-the-knee prosthe-
it. Critically, carbon fibres elasticity varies depend- sis that pivots at the ankle. The really clever thing
ing on whether a force is applied parallel or perpen- about this prosthesis is not the pivot but rather how
Efficient dicular to the grain of the fibres. Phillips took this it is controlled. Between the artificial heel and the
knowledge, abandoned the faux-limb aesthetics, and limb is an elasticated tube. As the amputee cyclist
pedalling gave the sporting world a prosthesis that could return pushes down on the pedal at the top of the rotation,
requires the energy of each stride to the body of the leg- the artificial foot pivots at the ankle with the toe
applying a amputee athlete. moving upwards and the heel moving downwards.
force in a The J-shape is key. At the microscopic scale, the This stretches the elasticated tube, storing energy.
circular motion, carbon fibres are aligned parallel to the curve of the As the pedal moves towards the bottom of the rota-
not just up J. This means that, at the top of the J, the Flex-Foot tion, the stored elastic energy is released. This pulls
is very rigid because the force of the athletes down- the heel upwards and, with the pivot located at the
and down, ward stride is parallel to the grain of the fibres. But ankle, brings the toe down again. In this way the toe
but amputees then, through the curve of the J, the downward force pivots up in the first quarter of the rotation and is
have difficulty is closer to being perpendicular to the fibres. As pulled back down again in the second quarter, just as
doing this the athlete pushes down into their stride, the curve an able-bodied athlete would do when pedalling (fig-
as everyday bends. The athlete then pushes off and the elastic ure 1). What is clever about all this is that it does not
energy stored in the curve is released back into the require any special sensors: the build-up and release
prostheses body through the rigid upper section of the J. From of elastic energy is enough to control the pivot of
rarely pivot at Oehler in 1988 to Pistorius in 2012, the Flex-Foot the foot to ensure a constant circular motion for
the ankle has allowed sprinters to spring off from every stride. amputee cyclists.

24 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Pr os t he se s

2 Optical force sensor

Seth Astle

laser light source

laser light
deformable silicon layer

detector area

light-sensing photodiode

This small and flexible sensor could be used in future prostheses to create feedback loops,
such as a joint becoming more rigid as it detects a greater force. In this sensor, with no
shear force applied, the photodiode detects all of the lasers light. But when a shear force is
Whip around This award-winning prosthesis designed by Seth Astle
applied (blue arrows), the detector is displaced laterally and detects less light. The resulting
allows below-the-knee amputees to cycle efficiently, delivering force
change in signal response can then be used to tell the prosthesis how to react.
throughout each pedal rotation (see figure 1).

This technology should work well for below-the- ics afresh. In fact, Jeroen Missinne and colleagues
knee amputees but for those missing a knee, cycling at Ghent University in Belgium have abandoned
can prove an additional challenge. The circular electrical sensors and are instead working on opti-
motion of pedalling requires a knee joint that can cal force sensors. These consist of three ultrathin
pivot freely yet stay rigid enough to transmit force layers stacked one on top of another. The first layer
to the pedals. To solve this problem, the latest pros- contains a laser light source, the second is a deform-
thetic knees combine sensors, fluid mechanics and able sheet of silicon and the third contains a light-
electromagnets. One such example, the ssur Rheo sensing photodiode. Together, they form a sheet only
Knee, comprises a chamber filled with a semi-vis- 180 m thick. The principle is simple: when the sen-
cous fluid containing tiny iron particles. The joint is sor is unperturbed, the laser light source is perfectly
formed from a number of metal blades hinged within aligned with the photodiode. As a shear stress is
this chamber. The blades cut through the fluid rela- applied, however, the sheet of silicon deforms, caus-
tively easily and so the joint pivots well. However, ing the laser-source and photodiode layers to become
when sensors detect a force increase on the joint, the laterally displaced (figure 2). As this happens, the
magnetic field in the chamber rises too. This causes photodiode captures less of the light emitted by the
the tiny iron particles to align in the direction of the laser, and its electrical output changes in propor-
field, forming chains and impeding the movement of tion to the stresses applied. This output can then be
the blades through the fluid. So as the amputee ath- used to tune prosthetic limb responses just like in the
lete pushes through the pedal, their knee becomes magnetic knee.
slightly more rigid, just like in the human body. In addition to being an innovative use of laser
technology, these optical sensors are exciting
Sixth sense: the future of prostheses because they solve some of the big problems holding
So what does the future hold for sports prostheses? current prostheses back. Being thin is really impor-
Unfortunately, the magnetic knee technology thus tant but being flexible is more so. In the case of the
far developed is rarely used by amputee cyclists. The optical force sensor, flexibility is built into the very
principles behind it are certainly sound enough, but mechanism of sensing: it is the deformable middle
the sensors required to monitor the forces within the layer that allows for the displacement of the laser
knee are just not up to scratch. The current breed of and photodiode. Moreover, these sensors avoid
electrical sensors are fine for recreational sport but some of the problems of electromagnetic interfer-
they are not small or flexible enough to withstand an ence by measuring forces based on optics. We might
elite cyclist belting around a velodrome at 65 km/h. not see them this year, but the future for amputee
Electrical sensors are also troublesome because, athletes may lie in smart prostheses incorporat-
within the media circus surrounding large sporting ing new optical sensors. Maybe even the Flex-Foot
events, they are easily impeded by electromagnetic could benefit from a sensor-based feedback loop, a
interference. The challenge for the future is clear: to bit like those present in the reflexes of the nervous
develop a new type of sensor that is flexible, strong system? With the future looking bright for the devel-
and avoids the problem of interference. opment of sports prostheses, there may come a day
Much like the original Flex-Foot, the solution may when the fastest man on no legs is simply the fast-
lie in looking at well-known materials and phys- est man on Earth. n

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 25

Physics and sport: Elite per for mance phy sic swor

Sprinters are running faster than ever before, but why are
javelin throwers not throwing further and swimmers not
swimming faster? Steve Haake explains the effects of
technology and rule change on sporting performance
Steve Haake is We can be seduced into thinking that the only
director of the requirements for a good sporting performance are
Centre for Sports sleek bikes, golden running shoes and hydrophobic
Engineering swimsuits. I have often heard people say Its all
Research at about the equipment these days. But how much does
Sheffield Hallam
technology actually affect sport? We can test the lat-
University, UK,
est equipment in the lab, on a running track or in a
e-mail s.j.haake@
wind tunnel to prove that one design is better than
another. But to understand its effect on real perfor-
mances, the proof is in the outcome the results we
see at tournaments throughout the years. If a sport-
ing technology really does make a difference, then
surely it will be visible in the results.
One way of finding out how exactly technology
affects sporting performance is to examine the phys-
ics involved. We can then try to quantify the effect of
technology on sporting events and find out whether
it really is all about the equipment.
don), or false-start disqualifications can mean that
Results matter the results do not faithfully represent performance
Many researchers including me start investigat- during that four-year period.
ing sporting performance by looking at world records In 2010 Leon Foster, then a sports-engineering
or Olympic results. The problem with world records, PhD student at Sheffield Hallam University in the
though, is that there can be decades between results UK, used the mean of the top 25 performances in
and they only ever improve, so you cannot tell if some each year going back to 1891 to look at the effects
technology or intervention has made things worse in of technology on various sports. Foster used the top
the gaps. Olympic results are marginally better data performance of 25 different athletes so that each
because they occur (mostly) every four years. Olym- athlete was used only once. There are three advan-
pic data, however, are very tournament specific; a tages of these data: they minimize the chance of out-
windy or rainy day (very possible this year in Lon- liers, which could appear if only the best individual
is studied; there are 120 or so consecutive years of
At a Glance: Elite performance data; and they can reveal the deterioration as well
as improvement in performance. What Foster found
Sporting performance has improved over time because of population increase, was that from 1891 to 2010 the mens 100 m sprint
improved nutrition, coaching and access to facilities times have got faster by about 1 s (figure 1a), while
In addition, there have been step-changes and blips in performance caused the mens javelin has improved by 60 m (figure 1b).
by new technologies, rule changes and more abstract causes such as the Figure 1c shows the best available data for swim-
Usain Bolt effect ming the average of the top three times in the
The amount by which these steps and blips affect performance can be womens 100 m freestyle from 1948 to 2010, which
quantified using the performance improvement index (PII) has decreased by around 13 s over that period. Com-
The PII can also be used to compare performances within and across sports, mon to all three sports are that performance tends
and to predict in which events to look out for new world records to get better over time but also appears to be level-
ling off; and that the First and Second World Wars

26 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Elite per for mance

Bet tmann/Corbis; Olivier Prevosto/Photo & Co./Corbis

reduced performance dramatically. 100 m sprint Then and now
A significant step forward in understanding the So, what of technological improvements specific to Olympian Arthur W
general underlying improvement in these three sports running? There is an obvious step-change in the Sager in 1928 and
(ignoring for now the blips and step-changes) came in statistics for the mens 100 m in the mid-1970s. It is new rules World
Record holder
2008 when Mark Denny, a professor of biomechan- caused by technology, but perhaps not the one you
Jan elezn in 2003.
ics at Stanford University in the US, examined the might have expected: it is down to the introduction of
effects of population increase on running speeds in fully automated timing and it lengthened recorded
greyhounds, racehorses and humans. He started with running times by about 0.2 s.
the principle that the larger a population, the likelier In previous years sprint times had been measured
it is that exceptional performances will be found by by judges, who started their stopwatch when the pis-
chance alone. He showed that although running per- tol fired and stopped it when the athlete crossed the
formance increased as global population increased, finish line. However, the natural reaction time of the
the performance of greyhounds and racehorses has human body meant that there was a delay between
reached a plateau, which Denny put down to inten- the gun going off and the judge starting their stop-
sive selective breeding having already produced the watch, while at the end of the race the judges could
optimum performance qualities in these species. But be more accurate as they could anticipate when
the performance of humans has not yet levelled off, an athlete would cross the finish line. Overall, this
indicating that there is further improvement yet to be caused recorded times to be shorter than the sprint-
seen. The effect of the First and Second World Wars ers actual times.
seen in figure 1, then, was to decrease the popula- Fully automated timing does away with judge error
tion available to compete (as well as the number of as it records the time between the bang of the starter
competitions), so that performance declined. The pistol and the finish, using a light beam across the
general improvements in nutrition, coaching, access finish line, to an accuracy of 0.01 s. Instrumented
to facilities as well as population increase produce starting blocks are used so that a false start is reg-
an underlying improvement that exists in all sports. istered if the athlete moves within 0.1 s of the pis-

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 27

Physics and sport: Elite per for mance phy sic swor

1 Essential evidence The average of the top 25 times for 1968 of 10.04 s
stands out as an exception: it is shorter than that for
1967 or 1969 by 0.1 s. Looking in the record books,
a the most obvious explanation is that the Olympics
First Second took place that year in Mexico City at a height of
World World
11.2 War War around 2300 m above sea level. To understand the
consequence of this it is useful to know that the drag
11.0 fully force on a body moving through a fluid of density
automated at speed v is ACdv2/2, where A is the cross-sectional
10.8 timing area of the body presented to the air and Cd is the
drag coefficient of the athlete. The air density at
time (s)

Usain Bolt Mexico Citys altitude is about 80% that at sea level,
10.4 which means that the drag force would reduce pro-
portionately, leading to a faster run. (Sprinters run
10.2 aerobically so they are relatively unaffected by the
lowered oxygen levels of high altitude during the
10.0 Mexico
1968 race.) Although the Olympics was only one of the
9.8 competitions held in 1968, athletes trained and com-
1984 1916 1948 1980 2012 peted at altitude in preparation for it, so that of the
100 top 25 performances, a third were at altitude, leading
First Second to a distinct improvement in the 100 m performance
World World
90 War War
for the whole of 1968.
There is also a sustained step-change in average
80 performance in the 100 m of 0.06 s in 2008 the year
when Jamaicas Usain Bolt stormed onto the scene.
distance thrown (m)

rule rule It is tempting to guess that this effect is all down to
change change Usain Bolts extraordinary time of 9.69 s in Beijing,
1986 1992
60 but if his time is removed so that the average is taken
of the remaining 24 athletes, then the step-change is
50 almost the same. It appears, then, that these tremen-
dous athletes suddenly competed at an even higher
40 level than before because of the dramatic perfor-
mance of their peer Usain Bolt.
1984 1916 1948 1980 2012 Javelin throw
c 68 The most obvious feature of the mens javelin is the
downward step-change in the mid-1980s. Around
66 this time, average distances thrown were more than
90 m, with one astounding throw of 104.8 m by Uwe
Hohn in 1984. However, there was an issue at the
62 time that made the event difficult to adjudicate: the
javelin would seemingly float to the ground and land
time (s)

flat, so that it was hard to tell whether the tip had
58 landed first the main requirement in javelin com-
swimsuit petitions. To solve this, the IAAF decided to change
56 ban the specifications of the javelin itself by moving its
54 centre of mass towards the tip by 4 cm. The effect
of this was to keep the nose down, reduce lift while
52 it was in the air and force the javelin to land tip first
50 about 9 m shorter than previously. Given that throws
1948 1964 1980 1996 2012 over 100 m were potentially endangering spectators
with javelins being hurled almost the full length
The average of the top 25 performances since 1891 in (a) the mens 100 m sprint and (b)
of a sports stadium this was seen as a success by
javelin; (c) the average of the top three performances in the womens 100 m freestyle
swimming since 1948 (fewer data are available for this event). Features common to all of
the IAAF.
the sports are improved performance with time, with significant decreases in performance Following this rule change, alternative javelin
during the two world wars. Within each sport, changes in altitude, mind set, equipment and designs appeared in the early 1990s with roughening
rules have led to significant step-changes in performance. or dimples (similar to those on a golf ball) on the
tail to change the drag characteristics. This helped
improve performances and counter the previous rule
tol being fired, which is deemed to be the limit of change, but ultimately a ban on these tail features
human reactions. In fact, the International Associa- was imposed at the end of 1991 (just visible in fig-
tion of Athletics Federations (IAAF) now adds on ure 1b). Performances have now levelled off at a top-
0.24 s to hand-timed 100 m results when comparing 25 average of around 84.5 m, which clearly falls short
them with times measured electronically. of the distances achieved before the rule change.

28 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Elite per for mance

Christophe Karaba/epa/Corbis
Performance enhancing The now outlawed tight-fitting full-body Speed demon Usain Bolt powered to his 100 m world record of 9.58 s at the 2009 World
swimsuits used from 2008 to 2009 reduced the cross-sectional area Athletics Championships in Berlin, knocking 0.11 s off his previous world record, achieved at
and the drag coefficient of the swimmer, leading to reduced drag the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. His record has not been beaten yet, but could it be one
through the water and improved performances. to keep an eye on?

The authorities handled the issue of world records allows the swimmer to float higher and more hori-
by having a new rules world record for throws after zontally in the water.
the 1986 rule change and they even nullified some On 1 January 2010 FINA (the ruling body of swim-
records between 1986 and 1991 rather than creat- ming) banned the full-body polyurethane swimsuits
ing a new-new-rules world record in this period, a feature clearly seen in the data. As a consequence
when increasingly aerodynamic surfaces were being some records may not be broken for quite some time.
used. The pre-rule-change world record of 104.8 m is Perhaps FINA should have created a new rules
unlikely ever to be beaten. world record, as the IAAF did with the javelin.

100 m freestyle Quantifying performance

Swimming went through a tricky period between One obvious problem with comparing performance
2008 and 2010: an unprecedented 25 and 47 world across events is that the units of measurement are dif-
records were broken in 2008 and 2009, respectively, ferent, being either in metres or seconds, for example.
with new technologies seen as the main cause. So The 100 m sprint time, for example, has decreased by
although times in the womens 100 m freestyle had about 10% in 120 years, while the javelin distance has
gradually dropped by 12.6 s between 1948 and 2008, increased by 165%. But these numbers are not neces-
there was a sudden fall in 2009. This coincided sarily valid comparisons. It is difficult to fairly com-
with the introduction of full-body swimsuits with pare two performances within a single sport, let alone
polyurethane panels. compare performances across different sports, or
The formula for drag force, mentioned earlier, quantify the effects of technologies or rule changes.
can be used to understand how the new swimsuits To tackle this dilemma, in 2009 I came up with the
might have improved performance. They were rela- idea of the performance improvement index (PII).
tively tight and reduced the cross-sectional area of This works on the principle of using simple equations
the body, A, by pulling it into a more cylindrical to determine the useful work done in a performance.
shape, thus reducing drag. Also, the polyurethane For instance, the performance measure in the pole-
affected the way the water flowed over the body and
effectively reduced Cd by reducing skin friction, as
evident in the reduced size of the wake. A further It is difficult to fairly compare
effect was on the dynamics of the human body itself:
the stiff suits stopped the relatively soft tissues wob- performances across different sports,
bling, which reduced any transient changes in A or Cd
during the swimming action. A further claim is that or quantify the effects of rule changes
the suit trapped air, which increases buoyancy and

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 29

Physics and sport: Elite per for mance phy sic swor

2 Performance quantified In running, the dominant retarding force is the

ubiquitous drag force. The PII here a ratio of work
done (force distance) for two events simplifies
1.60 to the square of the inverse ratio of the times taken
womens 100m swimming freestyle to run the race: (t1 /t2)2. This assumes fixed air den-
1.55 sity and distance, and that the top-25 average ACd
is a constant over time. As an example, the top-25
average of the mens 100 m sprint in 1948 was 10.42 s.
Comparing this with the average of 9.96 s in 2010
gives a PII of 1.10 (or a 10% increase).
1.45 The same PII equation can be used for swimming,
where hydrodynamic drag is also the dominant
1.40 retarding force. In the womens 100 m freestyle, the
12.4 s decrease between 1948 and 2010 equates to a
PII of 1.52 (or a 52% increase).
performance improvement index


mens javelin One to watch

1.30 These PII equations can be used to compare perfor-
mance change within or across sports and to quantify
1.25 the effect of technologies or any other effect visible
in the data. For example, figure 2 compares the PII
for the mens 100 m sprint and javelin, and the wom-
ens 100 m freestyle swimming, using the post-war
performances of 1948 as a baseline.
1.15 PII values for the 100 m sprint can be seen to have
increased by around 10% by 2010, with fully auto-
1.10 mated timing causing a decrease of 2.8% in 1974.
mens 100m sprint The year 1968 saw a transient 2.2% improvement
caused by performances at altitude, while the Usain
Bolt effect since 2008 has caused a boost of 1.4%.
The 1986 javelin rule change moving the centre of
1.00 mass reduced performance by about 13%, while
the 1991 rule change about aerodynamics further
0.95 reduced it by 2.4%. The 2010 ban on full-body poly-
1948 1956 1964 1972 1980 1988 1996 2004 2012 urethane swimsuits lowered the PII in the womens
100 m freestyle by around 6.1%, showing the approxi-
mate gain they must have given. There is also a steep
The performance-improvement index for the mens 100 m sprint and javelin, and the womens
100 m freestyle swimming. The index for each sport, based on simple physics equations of
rise of more than 10% between 1970 and 1976, which
the work done by the athlete, allows a single performance to be compared with a baseline is likely caused by something that is less controversial
performance here, the mean top performances in each sport in 1948. This allows these days the introduction of hats and goggles, and
comparison between sports, getting around the fact that, for example, it does not make much the concept of shaving off body hair to reduce drag.
sense to compare a 16 m improvement in javelin throw to a 0.5 s reduction in sprint time. So what can we expect this summer? Of the sports
studied here, the javelin is the least likely to show sig-
nificant improvement, as it appears to have reached a
vault is the height of the bar, so an approximation to plateau. In swimming, there will be few world records
the potential energy in the jump is mgh for an athlete in the sprint events because of the swimsuit ban. If
of mass m. If we take a baseline performance h1 for there are any records in swimming, they are likely
our comparison, then the height of any other jump h2 to be in the long-distance events where the suits had
can be compared using less effect (possibly because their stiffness caused an
^workh2 ^mgh h2 increase in fatigue).
^workh1 ^mgh h1 . The data point toward the mens 100 m sprint being
one event not to miss. The top-25 average coming
If we use an average of the top 25 athletes, then the into 2012 is already consistently below 10 s, so expect
average mass is not likely to change too much so that fast performances and extreme rivalry. Weather per-
the PII is the ratio h2 /h1. For example, comparing mitting, of course. n
the top-25 average performance in the pole vault in
2010 of 5.76 m to the 4.26 m average for 1948 gives an More about: Elite performance
index of 1.23 (equating to an improvement of 23%). M W Denny 2008 Limits to running speed in dogs, horses
For a throwing event such as the javelin, the PII and humans J. Exp. Biol. 211 3836
works out as d2 /d1, where a throw of distance d2 is L Foster, D James and S J Haake 2010 Understanding
compared with a baseline performance d1. Compar- the influence of population size on athletic performance
ing the top-25 average of the mens javelin in 2010 Procedia Engineering 2 3183
of 84.78 m with that in 1948 of 68.81 m gives a PII of S Haake 2009 The impact of technology on sporting
1.35 (equating to an improvement of 35%). performance in Olympic sports J. Sports Sci. 27 1421

30 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Balance

Balance, angular
momentum and sport
Roland Ennos describes how elite athletes and the rest of us use simple physics principles to
perform amazing balancing acts

This summer the eyes of the sporting world will be Human beings are, of course, bipeds, and because Roland Ennos is a
on London, where once again we will have the oppor- we stand straight-legged on relatively small feet, our biomechanic in the
tunity to marvel at the almost superhuman feats of bodies act as inverted pendulums. This means that Faculty of Life
the worlds greatest athletes. The strength and skill we are inherently unstable: if we lean over just a lit- Sciences at the
of weightlifters and boxers, the speed of track stars, tle, we should topple over. Fortunately, when we are University of
Manchester, UK,
the ball skills of footballers and tennis players, and standing quietly and undisturbed we can compensate
e-mail roland.ennos
perhaps most amazing of all the balance and acro- for any small swaying movements that push us away
batics of gymnasts and divers can, at times, almost from equilibrium by using our ankle and leg muscles.
seem to defy the laws of motion. Understanding the
mechanics of their actions provides a challenge to Balancing acts
even the most thoughtful of physicists. To understand how this balancing mechanism works,
But gymnasts, divers and other athletes are not suppose we regard the human body as a rigid object
alone in doing nearly miraculous things with their with its centre of mass somewhere near our stom-
bodies. In fact, most of us do it every day, simply by achs. If the centre of mass is deflected to the left, our
standing upright and walking around. Even though reflexes will cause our left foot to press down harder
the structure of the human body and our upright than the right. Similarly, if it is deflected forwards,
stance means that we should be among the worlds our reflexes will cause our toes to press down harder
most unstable animals, we manage in our daily lives than our heels. Doing this moves the so-called centre
by manipulating the same basic physical law that elite of pressure the spot at which the force would be
athletes use to perform their magnificent acts the concentrated if it acted at a single spot even further
law of conservation of angular momentum. out, producing a torque that pushes the body back

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 31

Physics and sport: Balance phy sic swor

Starting to walk since we would not be able to move the centre of

pressure without falling off. Yet gymnasts and tight-
rope artists can balance on thin beams and wires,
ballerinas can balance on just a single pointed shoe,
maximum B C and even those of us without such talents can stand
centre of swing toe off on tiptoe without falling over forwards or backwards
pressure despite the fact that the distance from the ball of
our feet to the tip of our toes is just a few centimetres.
To balance in these more challenging circum-
stances we have to use another method, one that
A relies on the fact that our bodies are not really rigid
swing heel objects but jointed structures. To understand how
being jointed helps us keep our balance, try standing
on the tips of your toes, and then allow yourself to tip
stance toe off forwards. How did you stop yourself from falling flat
D on your face? If you are like most people, the appar-
ently puzzling answer is that you flexed at the hip,
swing foot stance foot leaning your upper body further forward.
How does this help you balance? The answer is
related to the law of the conservation of angular
momentum. To be more precise, pushing your upper
body forward gives it forward angular momentum;
however, since your toes cannot produce any torque
direction of travel on the ground when you are on tiptoe and the total
centre of pressure angular momentum of your body must be conserved,
this means the lower part of your body must move
backwards. The consequence is that your centre of
centre of mass mass also moves slightly backwards until it is behind
your toes once again. This gives gravity time to pull
At first glance, the act of beginning to walk seems almost absurdly easy. Surely your body backwards before you have to straighten
all we need to do is to raise one leg and plant it in front of us? But the truth is up again, reversing the effect.
that if we did that, the force on the foot that remained on the ground known This process becomes trickier as our support base
as the stance foot would produce a moment that pushed our body to the gets smaller as we rise up further on our toes, for
other side, and we would fall over. What we really do when we take our first example, or stand on just a single toe and we have
step is actually quite complicated. Initially and counterintuively we have to to rely on fast, precise reflexes to be successful. It is
reduce the pressure on the stance foot, which moves the centre of pressure therefore not surprising that we have also developed
backwards and towards the moving or swing foot (point B on the diagram). additional mechanisms for keeping our balance. In
Moving the centre of pressure in this way causes our centre of mass to begin to extreme circumstances we may spin our arms for-
move forwards and towards the stance foot; once this process has begun, we wards to stop ourselves toppling forwards, or back-
then gradually shift the centre of pressure towards the stance foot (point C) until wards to stop ourselves falling backwards, in the
the swing foot can be lifted and moved forwards (point D). But if you try thinking time-honoured comedy tradition of cartoon charac-
about this while you are moving off from a standing start, it becomes almost ters or the Keystone Kops. Just like tilting the top
impossible to actually move, and the balancing process becomes even more half of our bodies, the spinning of our arms produces
complicated when you add arm motions (see Physics World January 2010 pp28 angular momentum in one direction, which causes
31). It is therefore no surprise that it takes toddlers weeks or even months to take our bodies to tilt in the other.
their first steps after they have mastered standing up: they need to build up an
unconscious pattern of muscle activation to perform the process automatically. Making it look easy
Of course, flailing about in this fashion looks a bit
silly, and is not very controlled, so competitive gym-
into position. nasts use a more precise (but conceptually similar)
This balance mechanism seems to be perfectly ade- technique to improve their side-to-side balance: they
quate for most purposes and, in fact, when we start to hold their arms outwards like the balance pole of a
walk, we also deliberately shift the centre of pressure tightrope walker. This increases the moment of iner-
from one foot to the other to initiate the movement tia of their arms about the body, so that if they move
(see box above). However, there are many occasions them asymmetrically, up and down, even by small
when the simple mechanism of moving the centre distances, they can produce large torques to right
of pressure simply cannot produce a strong enough their bodies. And because these arm movements are
reaction to return us to equilibrium. For example, if vertical, they produce no horizontal reaction forces,
we receive a sudden jolt, our ankle and leg muscles so the gymnasts bodies do not sway. Better still, the
are just not stiff enough to shift the centre of pres- arm movements can even be disguised as graceful
sure far enough away to produce an adequate restor- arty gestures.
ing torque. And if our leg and ankle muscles were If gymnasts suffer an extreme loss of balance
the only mechanism we had available for balancing, during their routine, they have one final desperate
we would not be able to balance on narrow supports, manoeuvre they can perform: they raise one leg,

32 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Physics and sport: Balance

1 The hitch-kick technique


Long-jumpers keep both of their legs moving in a running motion during their jump (right) so that the net forward angular momentum in their
lower body is not transferred to the upper body (which would cause them to pitch forwards). At the end of the jump, the athletes cease the
running motion and bring their legs forward to meet the body, maximizing the distance of the jump (left).

rotating it in the direction of fall, which causes their Long-jumpers face a particularly interesting balance
body to tilt in the other direction. Whichever tech- problem: they need to keep their bodies upright as
nique gymnasts use to balance, the key to success they fly through the air. This is a far from simple
is to perform the corrective movements as early as task. As a long jumper takes off, the foot that strikes
possible. The quicker their reactions are, the smaller the take-off board tends to produce a force point-
the balancing movements they need to make and the ing upwards and slightly backwards, and thus acts
better balanced and more controlled their perfor- behind the athletes centre of mass. The force there-
mances will appear to the judges. fore tends to rotate their body forwards, so if they
But gymnasts are not the only athletes who need did nothing to compensate for it, they might plough
excellent balance. Tests on many different types of head-first into the landing pit.
sports people including judo experts and surfers To prevent this from happening, most elite jump-
as well as gymnasts by Thierry Paillard and col- ers use a technique called the hitch-kick: after
leagues at the University of Pau and Pays de lAdour they leave the ground, they keep both legs moving
in France have shown that elite athletes have far in a running or cycling motion. This means that,
better balance than other people. When balancing together, the two legs maintain a net forward angular
on small seesaws, for instance, international-class momentum (figure 1), which prevents the upper body
surfers need to move their centre of pressure much pitching forwards. The jumpers only stop hitch-kick-
less than average surfers. Curiously, the differences ing at the end of the jump, when they contract their
between the two groups were even greater when the stomach muscles to bring both legs forward to meet
surfers were blindfolded: the international-class their body, so they hit the sand further forwards, thus
surfers had to move their centres of pressure less maximizing the distance of the jump.
than half as much as the local-level ones. This ability
to balance without visual cues should enable expert Spins and somersaults
surfers to stay on their surfboards better, even when For physicists and spectators alike, the most amaz-
they are speeding down the middle of a wave. ing and counterintuitive uses of the law of conserva-
There is even good evidence that balance plays a tion of angular momentum in sport are found in the
crucial role in ball games, in which one might naively aerial gyrations of gymnasts and divers, who use the
expect that endurance, strength or sport-specific law not only to stay upright, but also to roll, twist The most
skills (such as shooting baskets or dribbling a foot- and spin in an apparently baffling fashion. The easi- amazing and
ball) would be more important. But using the same est manoeuvres both to carry out and to explain counterintuitive
techniques, Paillard has shown that elite footballers are the simple forward and backward somersaults
also have better balance than Sunday league qual- they perform in mid-air. To perform even a double
uses of the law
ity players. A study by Robbie Wilson of the Uni- or triple somersault, the performer simply takes off of conservation
versity of Queensland in Australia even showed that with their body extended and with a relatively slow of angular
within a semi-professional football club, the relative forward or backward rotation. When they then pull momentum in
ability of the players as measured by the outcome their body into a tuck position, their moment of sport are found
of one-on-one games was more closely correlated inertia is reduced, and conservation of angular in the aerial
with their ability in a balance task than their power momentum means they spin faster just as ice skat-
or endurance. ers do when they pull their arms in during spins, or as gyrations of
If balancing when standing on the ground is tricky, the air in hurricanes does as it is drawn towards the gymnasts
balancing when you are in mid-air is even worse. eye of the storm. The process requires energy input and divers

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 33

Physics and sport: Balance phy sic swor

2 Do the twist
a b move arms out c

untwist body

body twist body twisted

A gymnast rotating 180 while in the straddle position. move legs down
The upper body is first twisted before the arms are moved
outwards and the legs lowered and twisted round.

3 Arm movements their body, move their arms outwards to increase the
moment of inertia of the upper body around its long
twist axis axis, and twist back to bring their legs around and
reaction all before catching the bars again but facing the other
way. Many physicists will probably have noticed that
this is exactly the same method that cats which
= 5 = angle of often seem to make a guest appearance in lectures
action body tilt on mechanics can use to twist round to land upright
even if they are dropped upside-down.
action somersault axis Divers are capable of even more spectacular and
somersault axis rapid spins, often performing two or three complete
rotations around the long axis of their body before
they hit the water. These spins are produced by a
quite different mechanism compared with that used
reaction by non-aquatic gymnasts. Although the diver starts
spinning well after take-off, before that they have to
jump off the board so that they are rotating forwards
or backwards. To start spinning around the long axis
of their body, they simply move their arms asymmet-
rically, raising one up above their head and lower-

Divers use asymmetric arm movements to develop ing the other down along their side (figure 3). This
spins by precession. produces a torque that would tend to alter the axis of
the body. Since they are already rotating around the
hips, however, their body acts as a gyroscope, resist-
from the athletes muscles, which pull body segments ing the tilt, and the torque instead causes the body to
inwards with a strong centripetal force. At the end of precess, making it spin rapidly around its long axis.
the somersault, all the performer has to do is to let The spin is only stopped just before entry into the
their body straighten again, reducing their angular water, when the diver reverses their arm movements.
velocity. This allows gymnasts to land without falling
over and divers to enter the water head first and with Dont try this at home
the smallest of splashes. The take-home message is that as bipeds, we are
The more complex aerial twists and spins that elite all unconscious masters of manipulating angular
athletes can perform are even more spectacular and momentum. But while understanding the physics
seem far more mysterious. Take the 180 rotation behind balance and angular momentum can help
that gymnasts can accomplish in mid-air even after us better to appreciate the agility of footballers, the
they have released their hold on the horizontal or grace of gymnasts and the aerial prowess of divers,
uneven bars. This manoeuvre usually involves them it will not really help us to emulate them. Their feats
moving into the pike position, where the legs are are the result of innate ability and years of training;
held at a right angle in front of the body, or strad- they repeat their movements endlessly to generate
dle position with their legs held out sideways as if automatic neuromuscular responses that make their
they were doing the splits (figure 2). In these posi- reactions faster and more precise. So while non-
tions, the gymnast can use the very high moment of sporty types can enjoy watching these feats of athlet-
inertia of their legs around the long axis of the body ics live or on TV this summer, they should not try
to keep their hips immobile as they twist their upper repeating them at home. It seems that all bipeds are
body around. They then move their legs into line with equal, but some are more equal than others. n

34 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

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phy sic swor

Paul Michael Grant

Keeping the lights on after 2100

physicist to someone concerned
iStockphoto/ TommL

with energy and the environment.

Determining the direction of the
energy enterprise is not like creat-
ing the market behind the next iToy,
where scientific and technical mat-
ters are paramount. With energy,
science plays at best a 50% role, the
remainder being driven by raw eco-
nomics skewed by political and social
perceptions. Realizing this was an
epiphany indeed.
Laughlin gives readers a great
example of such an energy epiphany
in his chapter on Carbon fever.
Seven decades ago, Linus Pauling
taught us the marvels of the 2s2p
hybridization of carbons outer shell,
which lie behind all of the elements
subsequent manifestations, from
life to locomotion. Laughlin points
out that the economics and physics
of energy production from loosely
bound carbon in whatever form
it is found, whether mineral, gase-
ous or organic is overwhelmingly
Bright-light city As the presidential election cam- mentally nonlinear physics problem, favourable compared with those
Robert Laughlins paign hots up here in the US, it is the devil is always in the details. For- of other alternatives. Because of
new book looks at inevitable that energy issues will tunately, Bob Laughlin is a details this simple fact, it is very likely that
the options for loom large on the political agenda. kind of guy. His subtitle, How we we humans will continue to oxidize
fuelling our energy Being Americans, our focus will Will (Eventually) Solve the Energy pretty much every atom of available
consumption. inevitably be local and short term, Crisis and Fuel the Civilization of number six we can find.
although I admit to hoping that Tomorrow, tells us who that devil is, Fortunately, there is a lot of min-
Powering the maybe just maybe this time and that he or she resides within the eral and organic carbon around, and
Future: How we Will around, politicians on both sides parenthetical remark eventually. this is likely to remain true at least for
(Eventually) Solve will finally tell the public what they Through 11 chapters and accompa- a while. A problem may arise in deal-
the Energy Crisis mean by clean energy. Right now, nying notes (which make up half of ing with the elements greenhouse-
and Fuel the I havent got a clue. the books total 224 pages), Laughlin gas form, carbon dioxide, although
Civilization of Putting such limited optimism guides us through the jungle of the some economists have argued that
Tomorrow aside, however, it is clear that energy energy economy: from coal to its the wealth created and banked by
Robert B Laughlin strategies for the future will pose combustion; gas to gasoline (petrol); using fossil fuels to their limit could
2011 Basic Books challenges far beyond the next elec- fission dynamite to deuterium fusion; underwrite whatever climate-change
$24.99hb 224pp tion (and the next, and the next), the transport of energy by electrons adaptation technologies may be
and not only for those of us living in and protons; the possible future gen- needed in the next century. Regard-
North America. By the year 2100 our eration of electricity and fuels from less of your views on carbon dioxide
planets population will exceed 10 waste substances such as manure and climate change, though, we are
billion souls, all striving for a North and maize husks; and prospects for likely to run out of the useful forms
American or European standard of exploiting sources of energy that of cheaply available carbon some-
living, with its attendant thirst for stem from cosmic radiation or pres- time in the next 4060 years. Then
energy. This is a staggering (and sures from within the ocean depths. what? The first half of this book
likely unsustainable) prospect, but it All of these processes are gov- provides some hints of the answers,
is just this scenario that the Stanford erned by a Jungle Law, the title of and for that reason alone, it should
University physicist and Nobel laur- Laughlins third chapter. This chap- be mandatory reading for the next
eate Robert Laughlin addresses in ter resonated with me personally, as president of the US and their cabi-
his book Powering the Future. it reflects my own metamorphosis net, and for those who follow even
As with any complex and funda- from an industrial basic-research if one or more of them does possess

36 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Reviews

a Nobel Prize for Physics. cial airline crash is approximately Laughlins Inspiring mammoths
For readers who do not have twice that of the confirmed number chapter, fusion could indeed be the
enough time for the entire book, of radiation-exposure deaths from energy of the future but it will likely
let alone Laughlins extensive end- every nuclear-plant disaster to date, remain so for a long time.
notes (which, though great for including Chernobyl and Fukushima. Those of us who are person-
physicists, can be tedious for non- As far as we know, the toll from the ally acquainted with Bob Laughlin
specialists), I strongly recommend at latter remains zero (May pp2528). know him as a colourful character.
least perusing the chapter Inspiring Concerns about running out of In New York, where I grew up, we
mammoths. The title is a Laughlin- burnable fission material for would call him, warmly, a wise guy.
euphemism for nuclear energy of any example uranium and thorium ore It is just this delightful attitude that
origin, and in the chapter he explains seem likewise overblown based makes his book so readable, and I
that the chief economic barrier to a on Laughlins analysis, which also can think of no better way to illus-
renaissance of nuclear-fission power covers issues of waste, reprocessing trate this than to quote his words in
is the expanding availability of coal and breeding fissile material in the books closing sentences. After
and natural-gas reserves worldwide. specialist reactors. Given the vast thoroughly exploring present and
There are other hurdles too, but they amounts of uranium and thorium in foreseeable energy resources for
are mostly political and environmen- the earth and the sea, the extension humanity, Laughlin ends with a
tal in origin. The political argument of such supplies through deployment prosaic, but most profound, warn-
against nuclear fission encompasses of the above technologies, and the ing that The most terrible cosmic
some sound concerns, such as weap- economic drivers that will come into explosion of all will occur if I show
ons proliferation, and Laughlin sug- play with the soaring costs of exploit- up late again for dinner. It might be a
gests that these should be addressed ing disappearing fossil reserves, my good idea to stop worrying about the
by international enforcement, not take home message from Powering universe and hustle home.
just agreement. The environmental the Future is that uranium and tho-
arguments, in contrast, essentially rium nuclei will probably be the Paul Michael Grant is head of W2AGZ
stem from a lack of proper perspec- source of the parenthetical even- Technologies, a private energy-consultancy
tive. It is instructive to point out that tually in the books subtitle. What company based in San Jose, California,
the death toll from a single commer- about fusion? Well, judging from e-mail

Next month

CERN, for the benefit of the CMS Collaboration

in Physics World
Long road to the Higgs
With the discovery of the Higgs boson seemingly
imminent, why has the search for the particle first
predicted almost 50 years ago been such a long and
tortuous affair?

Charged-particle beams
Laser cooling and trapping techniques have revolutionized
the field of atomic physics over the past quarter century,
but they could have a similar effect on nanoscale science

Cosmic centenary
The mysterious ionizing radiation detected on Earth
became known as cosmic rays after Victor Hesss famous
hot-air-balloon flight of August 1912 showed that they
must come from beyond our atmosphere

Plus News & Analysis, Forum, Critical Point, Feedback,

Reviews, Careers and much more

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 37

Reviews phy sic swor

Davide Castelvecchi and still is unparalleled by that of

any other scientific theory.

Those puzzling infinities

However, as Steven Weinberg
would later write, it was not long
before there was another collapse
in confidence, when shares in
quantum field theory tumbled at
the physics bourse. The reasons
Victor de Schwanberg /Science Photo Librar y

went beyond peoples qualms about

cooking the books in their calcula-
tions. The real problem came when
physicists turned their attention to
the weak interaction, and realized to
their horror that this force resisted
being renormalized at all. Instead,
its infinities remained untamed
hence the puzzle referred to in the
books title.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s,
researchers kept trying to fix quan-
tum field theory and to expand it to
include the weak force. It was during
this period that theorists proposed
ways to unify the electromagnetic
and weak force, to apply gauge
invariance to the weak force, and to
show that this could be done while
keeping the weak force short range,
as experiment says it should be. The
latter effort led to what is now known
as the Higgs mechanism, and its saga
rightfully occupies a substantial part
of the book.
But as long as infinities kept
Search for answers Since it opened for business a cou- equations seemed unable to account popping up, all these efforts were
The Higgs boson is ple of years back, CERNs Large for such self-interaction. Theo- doomed. Some theorists, such as
just one of the Hadron Collider (LHC) has been rists fears were confirmed in 1947 Lev Landau, proposed scrapping
subjects covered in confirming the validity of the Stand- when Willis Lamb announced that the entire framework of quantum
this historical ard Model of particle physics to ever- he had found a small deviation from field theory and focusing instead
overview of quantum greater precision and accuracy. In the predictions of Diracs theory in only on the things one can actually
field theory. the process, it has been causing ever- the hydrogen spectrum. observe: the inputs and outputs of
greater frustration among theorists, Fortunately, the theoretical phys- particle collisions. This back-to-
The Infinity Puzzle: many of whom had hoped that the ics community was full of creative basics approach led to ideas known
Quantum Field collider would quickly uncover new sparks with plenty of time on their as quantum democracy and the boot-
Theory and the Hunt physics. Given the Standard Models hands, as the Second World War and strap model, as well as ambitious
for an Orderly current robust status, it is easy to for- the Manhattan Project had finished. proposals to abandon the notions of
Universe get that during the 20th century, its Before the end of the 1940s, Rich- elementary particles and wavefunc-
Frank Close theoretical bedrock quantum field ard Feynman, Julian Schwinger, tions. Closes account does not really
2011 Basic Books theory was left for dead at least Shinichiro Tomonaga and Freeman delve into these alternative attempts,
16.99/$28.99hb twice by its own creators. Frank Dyson had created quantum elec- focusing instead on how even the
448pp Closes book The Infinity Puzzle con- trodynamics, or QED, in its modern creators of the electroweak unified
tains a timely reminder of these near- form. The new quantum field theory theory which is now an integral part
death experiences. modelled the interactions of the of the Standard Model seemed to
The first convincing quantum electron with its own field and also lose hope that quantum field theory
description of a field, the reader with the sea of virtual particles that would survive. Weinbergs paper
learns, arrived in 1928, in the form pop in and out of existence in the of 1967 on electroweak symmetry
of Paul Diracs theory of the electron vacuum, as required by the Heisen- breaking is now one of the most
and of the electromagnetic interac- berg uncertainty principle. Whereas widely cited physics papers in history,
tion. Diracs equations had some simple-minded calculations of these but it went practically unnoticed at
indisputable successes: they fitted interactions gave paradoxical results the time of publication. For several
spectroscopic data, explained pho- in which quantities added up to years, Close reminds us, no-one cited
tons and quantum spin, and even infinity, QED made the infinities go it at all not even Weinberg himself.
foresaw the existence of the positron. away thanks to an accounting trick Everything changed in 1971, when
But his theory seemed incomplete. called renormalization. Although Gerard t Hooft showed how to tame
If a field is supposed to be a thing most theorists, beginning with Dirac the infinities of the electroweak inter-
with a quantum life of its own, then it himself, saw renormalization as con- action. In one fell swoop, the Dutch-
surely should interact with the elec- trived and probably wrong, QEDs man rescued years of work by many
tron that generated it yet Diracs agreement with experiment was of his older colleagues, and put quan-

38 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Reviews

tum field theory back onto its feet. imagination. He interviewed virtu- people can share the prize each year.
The day of t Hoofts breakthrough is, ally all surviving protagonists and, For all its qualities, however,
appropriately, what Close a noted when possible, went back to their The Infinity Puzzle is hardly a safe
science writer and a theoretical par- private letters and lecture notes. choice for beach reading. Its subject
ticle physicist himself chose as the The result is a much more nuanced is inherently weighty, and the read-
opening scene of his book. As Close picture of history. For example, we ers task is complicated by Closes
recounts, the subsequent gauge- learn that Tom Kibble and John highly nonlinear style of narration.
field revolution included the devel- Ward may have had as much to do His story keeps bifurcating into
opment of the theory of the strong with the development of the elec- rivulets and eddying backwards in
force, called quantum chromody- troweak theory as Weinberg and his time; often, one wonders whether
namics, and was crowned by some of fellow Nobel laureates Abdus Salam the author is recapitulating an ear-
the most heroic experimental discov- and Sheldon Glashow. In Salams lier chapter or telling the same story
eries in high-energy physics, culmi- case, in particular, the reader is left anew. One section contains no fewer
nating in 1983 with the discovery of with the impression that the commit- than six repetitions of the sentence
the W and Z bosons. tee rewarded a physicist widely seen hardly anyone at the time believed
Close deserves praise simply for as being of Nobel calibre, but that it that quarks were real and varia-
picking quantum field theory as the may have picked the wrong reason to tions thereof. Readers with a passing
topic of a popular book. This is as do so. We also learn how, in the late interest in the Higgs will probably
hard a topic as they come, and he 1960s, James B J Bjorken taught get more out of a smoother, more
doesnt cut too many corners when physicists how to demonstrate the focused and more accessible treat-
it comes to conceptual depth. Just as existence of quarks thus leaving ment, such as Ian Samples book
important, though, is the fact that he his footprint on much of the experi- Massive (November 2010 pp4243).
does not hide the complexities of the mental particle physics that followed Serious physics-history buffs, on
historical development of the theory. but has yet to receive due recog- the other hand, will find The Infinity
Scientists rarely, if ever, come out nition. Similarly, the Higgs mecha- Puzzle invaluable. Meanwhile, LHC
with fully formed ideas, and Close nism and the Higgs boson were (as physicists are confident that they
demonstrates how science proceeds Peter Higgs himself acknowledges) will finally settle the question of the
through false starts, strokes of luck, the product of at least seven minds: existence of the Higgs boson by the
missed opportunities and, as he puts Philip Anderson, Gerry Guralnik, end of 2012. If it does turn up, some
it, comedies of errors. Carl Hagen, Tom Kibble, Franois people in Stockholm will likely be
Close is especially diligent in Englert and the late Robert Brout as among the books most avid readers.
investigating the priority of ideas well as Higgs. If and when the par-
and in crediting researchers who ticle is found, this notorious issue Davide Castelvecchi is a freelance science
may have been left behind, either by will no doubt make the Nobel com- writer based in Rome, e-mail castel@
the Nobel committee or by popular mittees life very hard, as only three, Twitter @dcastelvecchi

Web life: Engineering Sport

What topics does it cover? fans of all types will find it fascinating to read
All of the worlds most popular sports, from track about the interplay between these two competing
athletics to cricket, appear in at least one post, goals of sports engineering.
but there are also a few entries on less widely
known events such as the skeleton bobsled Can you give me a sample quote?
and jai alai, a tennis-like game with its origins in From a post by Haake about running around the
Spains Basque region. Other posts involve topics hills of Sheffield on a windy day: The formula for
such as aerodynamics that have applications drag force tells you that force is proportional to
across multiple sports. One particularly popular the density of the air, the presented area of the
entry, entitled How far could Usain Bolt jump?, runner, the drag coefficient of the runner and the
calculates that if the Jamaican sprinter ever speed squared. So, all things being equal, if you
decides to take up long-jumping, he might be double your speed, the drag force quadruples.
able to beat the current record in his new event by For example, if youre running at 10 km h1 and
URL: an astonishing 1.55 m. you have an extra headwind of 1 km h1 (i.e. 10%),
then the drag force goes up by 21%. If the wind
So what is the site about? Why should I visit? turns and it is now behind you, the drag force
Engineering Sport is a multi-author blog launched According to Choppin, sports engineers play drops by only 19%. This difference gets worse
three years ago by members of the Sports on both teams. On the one hand, they are as the wind speed increases. The only time you
Engineering Research Group at the UKs Sheffield heavily involved in efforts to improve athletes get respite of any sort is when the wind speed is
Hallam University. It aims to provide a scientific performances for example by contributing to the same as your running speed; in this case the
perspective on current sporting events, and also the technological arms race that produces drag force is quadrupled when its against you,
to explain how engineers influence the world of unsliceable golf balls, super-spin tennis rackets but reduces to zero when it is behind you (which
sport. Its editor and most prolific contributor or hydrodynamic swimming suits. But they also happens more often than you might think on the
is Simon Choppin, a researcher in the group use their understanding of the physics behind fells around Sheffield). So, yes, windy conditions
who specializes in high-speed data and video such technologies to ensure that the rules of the are only ever a bad thing if youre changing
modelling. Other contributors include the physicist game keep pace with the changes. The result, direction a lot (such as fell running or running
Steve Haake (see pp2630), several Sheffield ideally, is that no competitor has an unfair around a track), and what you gain from the wind
Hallam PhD students and a handful of guest advantage and the fundamentals of the sport behind you is never as much as you lose when it
authors from outside the group. remain intact. This is pretty important, and sports is against you.

P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 39

Reviews phy sic swor

Between the lines

Sporting questions answered 25 C, air has a density of around lattice type, its properties are still
CC BY-SA 2.5 Depor tes

Is it easier to score with a penalty 1.185 kg m3, but at 20 C, the not fully understood. Despite our
shot in football or in handball? density increases to 1.205 kg m3. incomplete knowledge, though, it
How much of an advantage did That may not sound like a big is still possible to make a number
elite swimmers gain by wearing difference, and indeed even at a of interesting observations about
the (now-banned) one-piece velocity of 20 m s 1 (a typical value sports played on icy surfaces. In the
hydrophobic suits in competitions? for the sprint finish in many books first section, for example,
And how can it be that headwinds cycling events) the corresponding Denny shows that speed skaters
are bad news for runners and change in drag force amounts to must move their bodies in ways
Track sense long-jumpers but good for discus around 1% of the total drag each that differ dramatically from those
Why headwinds are throwers? The answers to these cyclist experiences. But as Barrow adopted by runners, thanks to the
bad news for runners questions and many more can be repeatedly shows, small differences almost uniquely slippery nature of
but good for discus found in 100 Essential Things You can have big effects on the record ice and the design of their skates.
throwers is just one Didnt Know You Didnt Know book, and over the 4 km distance The pay-off is that the skaters are
of the science About Sport, a timely if somewhat of the pursuit event, raising the air considerably speedier: the best of
questions covered unoriginal book by the veteran temperature by 5 C should knock them can achieve average speeds
by 100 Essential science writer and University of about 1.5 s off the racers times. of more than 14 m s 1 over a 500 m
Things You Didnt Cambridge mathematician John With most (though not all) of the track some 38% faster than Usain
Know You Didnt Barrow. Although the book will essays focused on Olympic events, Bolt over 100 m. As for snow, our
Know About Sport. induce severe dj vu among the book should prove popular understanding of its behaviour is,
fans of Barrows writing he has among spectators this summer. if anything, even less complete; as
recycled its title, its format and at 2012 Bodley Head 10.00hb Denny puts it, to a physicist, snow
least one of its jokes from his 2008 320pp is ice with complications. For the
book 100 Essential Things You most part, Denny deals with such
Didnt Know You Didnt Know the Some like it cold complications by first creating
counter-argument if it aint broke, If the current burst of media toy models that ignore them,
dont fix it is a compelling one. As attention on summertime sport then introducing sliding friction,
with its predecessor, each of the leaves you, well, cold, then Gliding air resistance, athlete fatigue
100 essentials in Barrows latest for Gold: the Physics of Winter et al. to show how they affect the
book is explained in the form of an Sports may be the perfect antidote. results of calculations. This is a
easily digestible essay on some topic Written by the science writer and classic physics trick, but Denny is
related to physics, mathematics or former theoretical physicist Mark careful not to push it into assume
both. A good example is #98 Some Denny, the book begins with a short a spherical cow territory. Physicist
Like It Hot, in which Barrow draws introduction to the surprisingly readers will also appreciate the
on material from a post on the complicated physics of ice. At the books appendices, which include
Engineering Sport blog (see p39) to time of writing, Denny reports that a technical notes section
explain why trackside temperatures materials scientists had identified containing detailed derivations
in the velodrome at the forthcoming at least 15 different forms of the of results presented earlier in
Olympic Games will be kept at a stuff, and although nearly all of the book.
cosy 25 C. The key consideration, the ice on the Earths surface is of 2011 Johns Hopkins University
Barrow observes, is air drag. At the relatively simple hexagonal- Press 15.50/$30.00pb 200pp

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phy sic swor


Elek ta
for life
The fight against cancer offers
rewarding career opportunities
for medical physicists as well as
healthcare professionals, as
Giulia Thompson describes
Most people have a friend, colleague or
family member who has experienced can-
cer at some point in their life. Anyone who
has supported someone through treatment
knows that a wide variety of healthcare
professionals are involved in helping those
affected by the disease. Naturally, the most
visible of these professionals are the clini- Advanced machines Giulia Thompson uses physics to design and test systems used in radiotherapy.
cians, nurses, radiographers, life scientists
and medical physicists who operate within the research and development cycle, from industry, medicine and archeology.
the hospital environment. However, there defining product requirements and pro- I have very fond memories of my early
are also many scientists and engineers viding input to new designs (for example by research. Bologna is my home town and is
who design, develop and manufacture the computer modelling and prototype testing) famous for its medieval towers, its gourmet
equipment and tools used in cancer treat- to the final phase, when intensive testing is food, its terracotta red-tiled roofs and,
ment. This is the area where I have chosen carried out in dedicated radiation bunkers of course, the university itself, which is
to make my career. before the equipment is released for use. among the oldest academic institutions in
I work at Elekta, a global company that the world. However, I was always aware that
delivers clinical solutions for cancer care, Research and mobility to grow as a scientist I would need to experi-
including image-guided radiation therapy, I received my undergraduate degree in phys- ence new research environments, ideally by
stereotactic radiotherapy and radiosurgery, ics at the University of Bologna, Italy, where working abroad. So after I earned my Mas-
in which beams of radiation are accurately I did my thesis project on gamma-ray spec- ters degree in medical physics, I applied
focused in a 3D coordinate system to treat troscopy, using Monte Carlo techniques to for a Marie Curie Fellowship under the
small target areas. The company has about model charge-trapping effects in semicon- EUs Training and Mobility of Researchers
3300 staff, and every day at least 100 000 ductor detectors. But I had always been scheme. Winning this fellowship allowed
patients at more than 5000 hospitals interested in applied radiation physics, and me to move to the UK, where I joined the
around the world receive diagnosis, treat- after graduation I got involved in a research Department of Medical Physics and Bio-
ment or follow-up care with the help of a project that used reactor-based neutron engineering at University College London.
solution from Elekta. beams in cancer therapy. During this time I For my PhD in radiation physics, I
The companys corporate headquarters was part of a close-knit research group that worked on the design and experimental
are located in Stockholm, Sweden, but I am studied applications of radiation physics in development of a novel imaging system
based in Crawley, UK, which is the main for nuclear-medicine applications using a
manufacturing site for Elektas radiother-
apy linear accelerators. My role there is I was always aware Compton camera. It was the perfect project
for me, combining my interests in radiation
to lead the physics team that works in the
firms oncology product area, which cov-
ers both the hardware and software related
that to grow as a detector technology, computer-simulation
techniques and medical physics. This work
was carried out in collaboration with Mid-
to the linear accelerators used for patient
treatment, and also the X-ray systems for
scientist I would dlesex Hospital and also with the high-
energy physics group at Imperial College
patient imaging. This means that we help to
develop the systems that generate, monitor need to experience London, since the prototype system used
an electronic chip originally designed for
and shape the beams used to treat patients,
and we also contribute to development pro-
jects for the cone-beam computed tomog-
new research CERNs Large Hadron Collider. Work-
ing with these different groups was a great
experience and gave me the opportunity to
raphy unit that is used for image guidance.
The physics team is involved throughout
environments develop new technical knowledge, as well
as to enhance my team work, task co-ordi-

42 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

phy sic s wor Careers


nation and planning skills. the first patient was treated with Agility (at
I enjoyed my PhD research, but after St Jamess University Hospital in Leeds)
spending quite a long time in academia, I was very special for me.
felt ready for a change. I had always been While I am still very much involved with
attracted by the idea of working in industry, the technical aspects of Elektas physics
and I wanted to join a company where inno- programme, for the past two years I have
Noise @ 0 pF: 670 eV FWHM (Si)
vative technology and team work resulted also been the leader of the companys UK ~76 electrons RMS
in a real-life product. I applied for a posi- R&D physics team. This means that I am Noise Slope: 13 eV/pF with Low Ciss FET
tion with Elekta in 2000 and I was offered responsible for resource and task manage- 11.5 eV/pF with High Ciss FET
a job in its development team. ment within a team of 14 people on a daily Fast Rise Time: 2.5 ns
basis. In addition, I work on developing
Career progression the skills and capabilities within the group FEATURES
As a physicist working in R&D, I was for example by introducing new com- Thermoelectrically Cooled FET
quickly given the opportunity to make use puter-modelling tools and experimental 3 internal FETs to match detector
of my experience with Monte Carlo mod- equipment, and by identifying appropriate Lowest Noise and Noise Slope
elling techniques, while also applying my training for staff. Finally, our group is still AC or DC coupling to the detector
knowledge of radiation physics and my expanding and I am actively involved in the Both Energy and Timing outputs
experimental skills to contribute to the recruitment process. Optional input protection
Powered by AC adaptor
design of new oncology-related products.
These included an improved collimation Getting into the industry
system for electron beams, which reduced I am often asked whether a PhD is neces- A250
the radiation dose outside the area being sary to work as an R&D physicist in the STATE-OF-THE-ART
targeted for treatment, as well as different oncology industry. Looking at my own
versions of X-ray beam-shaping devices experience, I think that my PhD certainly
called multi-leaf collimators, which use a equipped me with many useful skills, and
series of tungsten blades (leaves) that can most members of my current team also have
move independently to generate irregular a PhD or Masters degree in fields such as
beam shapes. radiation physics, medical physics, nuclear
As my experience level grew, I also or particle physics. Others have come from
started to manage a number of physics test the fields of laser plasma physics, radio-
programmes, in which new products are frequency physics and imaging detector
thoroughly assessed before being released technology, while a few have a special-
for clinical use. These assessments are done ized background in beam generation and
to verify product safety and performance, accelerator technology.
and to ensure compliance with the stringent However, there are also alternative routes
requirements in the international standards into commercial R&D, including intern- External FET
FET can be cooled
that regulate the medical-device industry. ships, industrial placements and appren-
Noise: <100 e- RMS (Room Temp.)
Elekta has a very collaborative approach ticeships. These routes offer a fast track <20 e- RMS (Cooled FET)
to R&D, which means that our products are not only to learning the practical aspects of Gain-Bandwidth fT>1.5 GHz
developed together with customers work- the technical job, but also to understanding Power: 19 mW typical
ing in research, university clinics and other how a large commercial organization oper- Slew rate: >475 V/s
institutions. For example, a few years ago ates. Indeed, Elekta has recently launched
I co-supervised a PhD project at the Joint
Department of Physics of the Institute of
a two-year graduate programme, and is
planning to train about 10 physics and engi-
Cancer Research and Royal Marsden neering graduates each year via a series of THE INDUSTRY STANDARD
Hospital, where we investigated an alter- placements in departments spread across
native system for patient imaging. Doing the key business processes of the company.
projects like this allowed me to maintain The programme will include technical and
contact with academic research and, later personal skills training, along with a sup-
on, to become a senior research physicist port network of mentors and coaches. A Microchannel
at Elekta. My studies in physics have allowed me Plate (MCP) Array
I have worked on many great projects to pursue a very interesting career, work- Connected to Mul-
over the years, but the one that stands out ing with innovative technology that helps tiple A111s
for me is our latest beam-shaping device, peoples lives. The work environment at
Agility. This device consists of 160 tungsten Elekta is also very good: the expertise of
leaves that move independently at unprece- staff members is valued, I am surrounded
dented speed, producing dose distributions by talented colleagues, and the company
that accurately conform to the tumours really listens to customers and strives to
volume while shortening the treatment provide what they need. There are more
delivery time to as little as a couple of min- exciting developments on the horizon and I
utes for patients with head and neck can- look forward to being a part of them.
cers. I have been involved with the project AMPTEK Inc.
since it began more than five years ago, and Giulia Thompson leads the R&D physics team at
the moment in early April this year when Elekta, e-mail e-mail:
P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012 43
Careers phy sic swor

Once a physicist: Crispin Duenas

extremely educational more often than not. that I am one of the best archers in the world and
Rolando Duenas

However, early in my university life I was not great I am now able to compete at the highest level and
at managing my time between studying, training do what others can only dream of doing.
and competitions. I went through some rough
times where I had to focus only on studying or run How if at all has your background in physics
the risk of getting removed from my programme, helped you?
but I learned my lessons and taught myself how My background in physics has been crucial in
to study and live the elite athlete life at the my understanding of how my equipment works.
same time. It helped that my professors and the Every bow has to be tuned to the archer using it,
science faculty became very lenient with things and without tuning knowledge this task can seem
like granting me permission to write my exams impossible to most. Knowing classical mechanics
off-campus while I was away at a tournament or has helped me devise alternative methods of
training in fact, I wrote my final three exams in helping me tune my bow that other archers would
Florida while I was at a training camp. I hold the not have thought about. My physics background
University of Toronto in the highest of regards in has also helped me to understand why certain
terms of their dedication and support to all of things happen to my arrow while it is in flight
Crispin Duenas is a member of Canadas their elite-level athletes. and how to detect whether any deviations were
Olympic archery team equipment-related or caused by environment
How did you get interested in archery? changes such as humidity or air pressure.
What sparked your interest in physics? My interest in archery can be dated back to
I had always been interested in science as a when I was a child and watched Robin Hood on You list The Big Bang Theory as one of your
child reading books about astronomy, trying TV. Obviously, I didnt view it as a sport back favourite TV shows. Why?
my own chemistry experiments, and so on and then, but the act of shooting an arrow was very Its a great show for unwinding. One thing that
I had a high interest in mathematics as well, appealing to me and it was high on my things I really admire about the show is the fact that
so finding a science that could be explained to do in life list. Fortunately, I had a teacher they use real equations on the whiteboards and
using mathematics was the real hook for me. in elementary school who gave me a pamphlet chalkboards that are seen in the background. A
When I actually started studying physics in high about his archery club when I mentioned a desire great example of this came when I was taking an
school, I was like most teenagers: I didnt really to try archery, and thats how my career began. optics course in my fourth year at university, and
understand it. But I still had a desire to try to I started with Saturday morning lessons, moved several equations that I had used in problem sets
conquer it, as opposed to my peers who just on to competing at the local level, and one thing and tests appeared on the whiteboards in the
neglected it, so that set me apart. led to another until now, when I am going to my show at the same time I was studying them. It just
second Olympic Games. shows that the writers are vigilant about these
Did you enjoy studying it at the University minor details.
of Toronto? What has been the highlight of your archery
Yes, I did. The programme was very well designed, career so far? Any plans for a future career outside archery?
covering everything from classical mechanics The real highlight for me did not actually take Eventually I would like to become a high-school
to the latest studies in quantum mechanics, place on an archery range. Instead, it came when physics teacher, and I have already taken steps
relativity and string theory. The professors were I marched into the Olympic stadium in Beijing in towards applying to teachers college. However, I
also experts in their fields, which made lectures 2008 at my first Games. Thats when it hit me have put this on hold until 2013.

Careers and people

Spotlight on: David Jewitt and Luu began their award- reached the same conclusion about the
Univer sity of California

Jewitt and Jane Luu winning hunt for objects beyond the orbit work he had performed with Luu, adding
What happens when you of Neptune in 1986, when Jewitt was that it had triggered an explosion of
win two major scientific working at the Massachusetts Institute of interest in planet formation and the
prizes in a week? Ask Technology and Luu was a PhD student evolution of the outer solar system.
the astronomers David looking for a new research project. At
Jewitt and Jane Luu. On the end of August 1992 they finally found Movers and shakers
29 May the pair learned their first Kuiper-belt object (KBO), Materials scientist Mildred Dresselhaus

that they had been awarded which they named Smiley after the of MIT has won the $1m 2012 Kavli Prize
this years Shaw Prize master spy in John le Carrs novels. in Nanoscience for her work on phonons,
for Astronomy for their Subsequent observations carried out electronphonon interactions and thermal
discovery of the Kuiper by Jewitt, Luu and others showed that transport in nanostructures.
belt of small, icy objects Smiley (later officially designated Sylvia McLain of the University of
in the outer solar system. 1992 QB1) has plenty of company, with Oxford, UK, has won the B T M Willis
Then, barely two days later, their work more than 1000 KBOs now known to Prize for her studies of the interactions
was honoured again, when the Kavli exist. Among them is the Pluto-sized body between molecules in cell membranes,
Foundation announced that Jewitt and Luu known as Eris, which Brown discovered using neutron-scattering techniques.
together with a third astronomer, Michael in 2005. Astronomer Xander Tielens of Leiden
Brown had also won one of its major Jewitt, who is now an astronomer at the University has won the Netherlands
awards, the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. University of California, Los Angeles, told highest scientific honour, a Spinoza
Both honours carry a cash prize of $1m, to Physics World that it was very flattering prize, for his research on large, complex
be divided equally among the winners. that two independent prize committees molecules found in interstellar space.

44 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012

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The place for physicists and engineers to find Jobs, Studentships, Courses, Calls for Proposals and Announcements

Physics Product Manager, Crawley

45,000 55,000 per annum plus bonus & excellent benefits.

As part of a key recruitment drive in response to significant business growth, Elekta

( is seeking a Physics Product Manager to join our Business Line Development
team in Crawley.

Product Manager with responsibility to support the Linac Beam Generation and QA portfolio.
Perform all product management duties on assigned products in order to maximise their
profitability throughout their life-cycle and to promote assigned products in order to increase
market share in accordance with company goals and objectives.
Provide Physics support for the Product Management team as required.
To generate the ongoing strategy for the designated product portfolio that enables the business to
meet its goals and objectives.
Degree level or equivalent in Medical Physics or related subject.
Experience in Radiation Therapy Medical Physics.
Previous product management and/or sales and marketing experience in the medical field is
Excellent skills in verbal and written communication.
Must be a good motivator and be able to interact and communicate well with all levels of the
Must be able to use Microsoft Office applications.
This role involves some domestic and international travel.
For a full job description please apply today and quote your salary expectations. For further
details please apply today by sending your CV to and quote
Physics Product Manager.
Elekta ( is a human care company pioneering significant innovations and clinical
solutions for treating cancer and brain disorders. The company develops sophisticated state of
the art tools and treatment planning systems for radiation therapy and radiosurgery, as well as
workflow enhancing software systems across the spectrum of cancer care.

Physics World July 2012 45

In radiotherapy MAASTRO is one of the leaders in physics, biological and
translational research, both nationally in the Netherlands and internationally. THEUNIVERSITYOFBIRMINGHAM
Research successes in the lab or physics are translated to the clinic and are
often applied here in clinical trials for the first time worldwide. This enables
MAASTRO to improve the concept of individualized radiotherapy. Decision
support systems developed by the research department of Knowledge MSc in Physics and Technology
Engineering help physicians to choose the best treatment for each individual
patient. of Nuclear Reactors
Physics research is performed on a wide range of topics in radiotherapy. Contact: Dr Paul Norman,
Many of the topics are related to improving patient imaging by conducting School of Physics & Astronomy, University of Birmingham,
research into PET-CT imaging, ultrasound imaging, novel CT imaging and
small animal pre-clinical imaging. Other topics include brachytherapy Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 2TT
dose calculations and particle beam radiotherapy. The research facilities Email: Phone: 0121 414 4660
include clinical linear accelerators, treatment planning systems, a small
animal radiotherapy system, CT and PET-CT scanners, ultrasound imaging
equipment, various devices for measuring radiation dose, simulation software l One year taught postgrad MSc. Next year starts 24/09/2012.
for dose calculations and imaging, and an electronic brachytherapy source. Course structure refined over the 50 years the MSc has run.
Several times a year MAASTRO has new positions for PhDs and l Fully integrated labs and tutorials every week to bring together
Postdocs. At this moment MAASTRO has an open position for a PhD- the wide range of subjects and provide practical and written
student in multi-modality imaging combined with precision radiotherapy for examples and guidance in person.
small animals and a Postdoc position in Modeling of Dose Distributions and
Biological Outcome in Particle Therapy. Examples of other vacancies that l Study courses on Reactor Systems, Reactor Physics and
have been recently posted are: Kinetics, Radiation Transport, Thermal Hydraulics, Reactor
l Postdoc position in Modeling of Dose Distributions and Biological Materials and more. PhD programs also possible.
Outcome in Particle Therapy. l Summer project, usually taken in industry and in many cases
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l (Bio) medical engineer or Medical Doctor with an interest for clinical
research in molecular imaging of tumor hypoxia. PLACES/FUNDING CURRENTLY AVAILABLE
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ng (Nanofabrication Specialist)
latestfor theand
physics latest
engineering Salary: 38,140 - 44,166 p.a. Ref: A414

positions for the latest

You will be an experienced and enthusiastic nanofabrication specialist

physics and with experience in clean room processing and development of photonic

physics and
and electronic nanostructures and devices. We are expanding in this
area building on top ranking achievement in the 2008 Research

engineering positions Assessment Exercise, recent appointments and substantial investment

in new clean room facilities as part of a newly formed Quantum

engineering positions
Technology Centre. Any area of experience in nanotechnology will be
considered but preference is given for expertise in dry plasma etching,
plasma deposition and electron beam lithography as this will utilise and
its build upon our existing research strengths and infrastructure. Informal enquiries may be addressed to Prof. A. Krier,

Closing date: 20 August.
To apply, access further information or register for email job alerts
please visit our website.

46 Physics World July 2012

Associate Research Fellow
(Ref: R11277/P43353)
College of Engineering, Mathematics
Shaped by the past, creating the future and Physical Sciences
Functional Materials
D E PA R T M E N T O F P H Y S I C S 24,520 - 27,578 per annum
LECTURER IN EXPERIMENTAL CONDENSED The College wishes to recruit an Associate Research Fellow to support the work of
MATTER PHYSICS - 1751 Dr Geoff Nash in the development of new electromagnetic structures. This EPSRC

LECTURER IN COMPUTATIONAL CONDENSED funded post is available from 1st November 2012 to 31st October 2014. The aim
of this exciting new project is to investigate novel photonic and plasmonic
MATTER PHYSICS -1752 structures which can be integrated onto the emitting facet of
Salary: 37,012 - 44,166 pa laser diodes to control their properties. The project is in collaboration with
Prof. John Rarity and Dr Martin Cryan at the University of Bristol.
Two Lectureship posts are available: Experimental Condensed Matter Physics
The successful applicant will focus on the development of structures in the
(Ref 1751) and Computational Condensed Matter Physics (Ref 1752).
mid-infrared wavelength range, and the post will involve the setting-up of a laser
Applications for the experimental position are welcome from candidates that
have research experience that is aligned with the existing experimental based measurement system and the design, fabrication, characterisation and
strengths in the Centre for Materials Physics. For the computational position, modelling of different structures.
particular consideration will be given to candidates who have an excellent The successful applicant will be able to present information on research progress
programme of international research in the area of developing and applying and outcomes, communicate complex information, orally, in writing and
electronic structure techniques to the Physics of Materials. Candidates must electronically and prepare proposals and applications to external bodies.
be able to demonstrate outstanding research potential in areas that will
enhance the Centre for Materials Physics in Durham. Applicants will possess a relevant PhD and be able to demonstrate sufficient
knowledge in the discipline and of research methods and techniques to work
The applicants must provide strong evidence for world-class research with
within established research programmes. The ideal applicant will have experience
published work in leading international peer-reviewed journals and academic
of electromagnetic modelling and optical characterisation techniques.
leadership. Candidates will be expected to teach Physics at both
undergraduate and postgraduate level. The full range of necessary skills and experience can be found
Informal enquiries are welcome in confidence with Prof. Damian in the Job Description and Person Specification document

Closing date: 10 August 2012 Ref: 1751 & 1752 Interviews are expected to take place in July of 2012.
The closing date for completed applications is 11 July 2012.
Further details of the post and an application form are
available on our website ( For further information please contact Dr Geoff Nash, email:
or telephone 0191 334 6499; fax 0191 334 6504 or telephone (01392) 725867.
Please complete an application form, equal opportunities form, your CV, covering
letter and the details of three referees to Dr Geoff Nash, email:
quoting the reference number R11277/P43353 in any correspondence.
To download the application and equal opportunities form please follow the
below links;

European XFEL is a is a multi-national non-profit company that is currently The University of Exeter is an equal opportunity employer which is
building an X-ray free-electron laser facility that will open up new areas of Positive About Disabled People: if you have a disability, you should
scientific research. When this facility is completed in 2015, its ultrashort mention this in your application. Whilst all applicants will be judged on
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scheme, generous relocation package and support, international allowance for
non-German candidates hired from abroad, training opportunities etc.

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Join our network of international research institutions, programmes and The University of Liverpool in partnership with A*STAR, the leading
collaborations. Discuss problems and solutions with colleagues from all over research institute in Singapore, is offering two exciting PhD
the world. studentship opportunities for October 2012 start. One studentship
COME TO HAMBURG relates to Thin film materials for GaN-on-silicon technology and
Economically and culturally, Hamburg is the centre of Northern Germany. With the second to Soft matter fluid dynamics. The successful
its long history in trade, Hamburg has always been an outward-looking city applicants will have the opportunity to spend up to 2 years in
and one of Germanys gateways to the world. Work and live in Hamburg, one
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degree (a high 2:1 or above); UK/EU residents; highly motivated.
European XFEL GmbH, Albert-Einstein-Ring 19, 22761 Hamburg, Germany
Mailing address: Notkestr. 85, 22607 Hamburg, Germany CLOSING DATE: 31/7/2012 For more information:

Physics World July 2012 47

Laboratory Head
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an independent United Nations organization headquartered in Vienna, Austria, with
more than 150 Member States and a staff of 2300, serving as the global focal point for international cooperation in the safe and peaceful use
of nuclear technology, is seeking a Laboratory Head for its Physics Section. This individual will be: (1) a team leader ensuring the efficient
and effective development and implementation of the Nuclear Spectrometry and Applications Laboratorys (NSAL) research, training and
service activities; (2) a scientific leader of the NSALs research and development activities; (3) a manager of human resources and key
activities of the NSAL; (4) an advisor to the Head of the Physics Section and the Director of the Division in programmatic, scientific and
technical matters.

The successful candidate should have at the minimum:

l PhD in nuclear physics or a closely related field

l Minimum of 10 years of postdoctorate experience in experimental nuclear physics research and in the development of nuclear

instrumentation or radiation detectors

l Strong publication record in peer reviewed journals and at international conference

l Experience with accelerator-based experiments, specifically experiments at synchrotrons and/or experiments at ion beam accelerators.

To apply for this position, please submit an on-line application at before August 17th 2012, selecting
vacancy notice no. 2012/0697.
Benefits: The IAEA offers a stimulating multicultural working environment. The post offers: tax free remuneration; diplomatic status;
rental subsidy; 6 weeks annual leave; medical insurance coverage; a staff retirement plan; full coverage of removal expenses for staff
member, family, and personal effects; additional allowance for installation expenses; assistance with finding housing and schools in the local
area; financial assistance with the education of dependent children; and paid travel to the home country for the staff member and family
every other year.

Our Goal: to facilitate the safe contribution of nuclear technologies to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world, while
ensuring that no technology or material under our oversight or provided with our assistance is used to further any military

School of Engineering and Physical Sciences

Selex Galileo Chair in Laser Device

Physics and Engineering
Salary on the Professorial Scale (minimum 54,283)
We require a senior member of academic staff, to drive forward important
research activities in Laser Device Physics and Engineering, as part of a
Strategic Alliance between Heriot-Watt University and Selex Galileo. The
Chair will be pivotal to the success of this partnership. You must have the
knowledge, drive and breadth of vision to provide the leadership necessary
for the achievement of high impact research in laser device physics and
engineering. You must therefore have a research record consistent with
the level of appointment, evidenced by quality research publications and
by a track record in securing research grant/contract awards. With research
interests that will help to further cement the relationship between Heriot-
Watt and Selex Galileo, specifically in novel solid state lasers and their
applications, you will also be expected to develop broader research interests
independent of Selex Galileos requirements.
In addition to research activity, you will be expected to contribute fully

to all aspects of School activity, in particular the Physics Bachelors and

Masters teaching programmes. In suitable circumstances, there may be the www

opportunity for linked academic appointments.


Download an application pack from our website or

contact the Human Resources Office, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh EH14

4AS tel 0131 451 3022 (24 hours) or email quoting Ref: 99/12.
Closing date: 31 August 2012.

Heriot-Watt University is a Charity

registered in Scotland, SC000278

From software engineers to administrators, from fire fighters to

health and safety officers every kind of thinking is welcome here.
Take your career somewhere special. Ta k a r t
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163769c (CERN) A5 Portrait.indd 1 07/11/2011 14:57

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Tel +44 (0) 117 930 1027

Physics World July 2012 49

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50 Physics World July 2012

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Lateral Thoughts: Kate Oliver phy sic swor

The Great Physics Games

The physicists slouch proudly into the arena, each

hoping to bring home a medal any medal, whether
Fields, Nobel or chocolate wrapped in shiny foil for
their respective disciplines. In ragged lines they stand
at the opening ceremony, hands placed roughly on their
chests, chins raised as they sing such rousing anthems as
God Save the Standard Model, The Equation-Span-
gled Whiteboard and Hymn to the Euler Identity.
Sleek, sinewy particle physicists and astronomers
fresh from their mountain laboratories and obser-
vatories stand shoulder to shoulder with harassed,
wild-eyed climate scientists and pale, clean-room-suited
nanotechnologists. They are all united by their fixation
upon the sacred flame, as the last of the graduate stu-
dents who have relayed it to the stadium chucks it into
the ceremonial waste-paper basket. In deference to tra-
dition, the flame is still fuelled by burnt copies of Nature
and Science despite objections from a vocal minor-
ity, who feel that flaming open-access articles would be A cynical until all but three entrants either drop out or decapi-
more in keeping with the true spirit of the thing. onlooker might tate themselves, competitors will also have the option of
Meanwhile, somewhere in the audience, a chocolate- facing only minimum-threshold hurdles to publication.
smeared child stares, awestruck, at the chubby quan- wonder how The downside of this rule change is that the winners
tum theorist who holds the world record for the number far we have podium now stretches as far as Sidcup and, after nor-
of equations named after her. Their eyes meet, and a come from the malization, the medals are the size of a lentil.
moment of understanding passes between them. How In the relay event, the fusion-power researchers look
many other children will be inspired to take up a pro-
original spirit to provide a strong performance as usual, thanks to
pelling pencil and wrestle with trigonometric identities of physics, all the practice they get in passing the buck for why
before these games are over? which pitted we dont have a working fusion plant yet. However, the
Excitation builds among the spectators as the motley man against particle-accelerator guys have also put up some great
clump of physicists undergoes fission, and each daughter qualification times recently, especially when running
mob sets out for the specialized arena where competitors primordial around like Leidenfrost-levitated droplets looking
will test their mettle. There are too many events occur- nature for superconducting-cable ruptures. Early reports of
ring to name or care about them all, but perhaps we can record-breaking times by neutrino researchers will,
take a flying visit around this intellectual smorgasbord. no doubt, be explained by finding a loose wire in their
The first stop is the aquatic centre, where the vast stopwatches at some point next week.
pool (normally kept as the international prototype unit Watching this incredible spectacle, a cynical onlooker
of volume, but specially released from its French vault might wonder how far we have come from the original
for the occasion) hosts attempts at watery excellence. spirit of physics, which pitted man against primordial
The best swimming times are made by the freestylers nature. Once we sought to solve things faster, to attain
who, after splashing along at a leisurely pace, make up higher levels of precision and to place even stronger limi-
their speed by clambering out and settling on the pool- tations on the nature of reality. Now we aspire to spend
side with a notebook to redefine the concepts of space, every hour of the day working on one specific task, fun-
time and, indeed, victory. However, the 200 m butterfly- nelling our time, energy and cash into challenges we
effect calculation is the gamblers favourite: since the have made up. Just think what else we could have bought
jury is out on whether it is possible to predict the winner, with the money poured into the games! For every super-
the odds are excellent and it is definitely worth a flutter. collider built and operated for just a few weeks before
The teams making synchronized grant applications are being turned into a little-used underground roller-skat-
perhaps a more niche interest, yet it would be hard not ing rink, how many deprived youngsters could have been
to admire their graceful flexibility as they brandish dis- given a regular few hours on a supercomputer?
ciplinary buzzwords in perfect unison. For sheer irony, In the end, fans of the physics games counter that it is
though, viewers should watch the divers, who produce not about the spectacle, the cost or even the mathletes
high-level papers, full of elaborate conclusions, and themselves. The true purpose of this extravaganza
then exit with the smallest media splash possible. in which ordinary human beings demonstrate how far
Outside on the athletic fields, tickets for the tenure- evolutionary fluke, compounded by years of myopic
track events have, as ever, been much sought after. Of skill-honing, can get them is to show what our species
particular note are the peer-reviewing hurdles, where can achieve. After all, arent these the very intellectual
each scientist must make a mad dash to the submission achievements that make us more than overexcited pri-
deadline, breaking through cavils about methodology mates jumping up and down in designer shell-suits?
and knee-high piles of previous work. This year will be
the first to feature the controversial new many-paths Kate Oliver is the communications, marketing and events manager
interpretation of the event. Instead of a single high- for University College London Engineering, e-mail kate.oliver@
quality hurdle route, where the bars are raised steadily

52 P hy sic s Wor ld July 2012