Physics Today Daily Edition

Subscribe to Physics Today Daily Edition feed
Please follow the links to view the content.
Updated: 1 week 15 hours ago

Global electricity use of networked devices is growing rapidly

16 July 2014

MIT Technology Review: According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the electricity demand of networked devices, such as computers, tablets, and smartphones, was 420 TWhr in 2008 and 616 TWhr in 2013. The agency predicts that by 2025, networked devices will require 1140 TWhr and account for 6% of the world's total electricity use. Up to 80% of that total will be used simply to maintain network connections, when the devices are otherwise unused. The IEA estimates that minimizing electricity consumption when devices are in standby mode could reduce electricity use by 600 TWhr per year by 2020.

UK to announce shortlist of sites for commercial spaceport

15 July 2014

Guardian: The British government will choose one of eight sites as the location for the nation's first commercial spaceport. A few days prior to stepping down as science minister on 14 July, David Willetts said that the government had already established a regulatory system for space launches. That would allow companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR to launch space tourism flights from the spaceport, which the government hopes to have operational by 2018. The list of locations under consideration has not been made public, but sites in northern Scotland, near the cities of Bristol and Norfolk, and on the Outer Hebrides islands have previously been discussed as likely candidates. The creation of the spaceport is part of the UK's recent efforts to grow its space industry to be worth £40 billion ($68.6 billion) and employ 100 000 people by 2030.

Global warming is affecting Australian wine industry

15 July 2014

New York Times: As climate change brings higher temperatures and less rainfall to Australia, the country’s winemaking industry is being forced to adapt. Whereas some vintners have moved farther south to Tasmania, those who have chosen to remain are making changes, such as growing grape varieties that are more resistant to drought and modifying irrigation techniques to conserve water. In addition, Australian vintners are having to adjust their harvesting schedule as rising temperatures cause the fruit to ripen more quickly. To help find ways to deal with the country’s decreasing natural rainfall, the Australian government is conducting its own drought project, in which tarpaulins are put over rows of vines to test the effectiveness of drip irrigation, which wets only the plant’s roots and is intended to supplement natural rainfall.

Boron equivalent of buckyballs made for first time

15 July 2014

New Scientist: In 1985, 60-atom hollow spheres of carbon called buckyballs were created. Boron, which is adjacent to carbon on the periodic table, was considered likely to make similar structures, but it has taken nearly 30 years for someone to do so. Now, Lai-Sheng Wang of Brown University in Rhode Island and his colleagues have created a 40-atom structure from boron that duplicates the hollow cage-like shape of buckyballs. The one major difference is that whereas buckyballs are made of pentagons and hexagons, borospheres are made of triangles, hexagons, and heptagons and thus have a less spherical shape. Wang's team created the molecules by vaporizing boron with a laser and then cooling the cloud with liquid helium. They created spectra of the resulting structures and compared them with simulations to determine what shapes were created.

Carbon nanotubes used to create blackest material ever

15 July 2014

Verge: Surrey NanoSystems in the UK has announced its development of a new thin-film material that is so dark the human eye can’t see it. It's “like a hole, like there's nothing there,” according to Ben Jensen, the company’s chief technical officer. Called Vantablack, the material is composed of a lattice of carbon nanotubes that absorbs 99.96% of all incident radiation. Unlike previous carbon nanotube materials, Vantablack can be applied at low temperatures and adheres well to both flat and three-dimensional surfaces. Hence it could be used in space telescopes and other sensitive instrumentation to reduce stray light and improve their ability to detect faint objects in the universe. The company plans to present the new material this week at the Farnborough International Airshow, a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defense industries.

<em>Wall Street Journal</em> op-ed: “Corruption of peer review is harming scientific credibility”

14 July 2014
Hank Campbell, founder of Science 2.0, joins recent voices about science and research publishing.

India’s science budget falls short of inflation

14 July 2014

Nature: On 10 July the Indian government under prime minister Narendra Modi, who took office in May, announced its 2014–15 budget. Although the Department of Science and Technology received 35.44 billion rupees (US$590 million), an 11% increase over last year, most departments received funding increases less than the current inflation rate of 8%. In addition, the decision to allocate money to set up new research and education centers has been criticized because so many existing facilities need the funding. The modest budget has also raised questions about several expensive projects that have been approved but are still awaiting funding and about India’s expected contributions to international science collaborations, including the Thirty Meter Telescope in Hawaii. Researchers remain hopeful, however, that additional funds may come through when the budget is revised in September.

Greenhouse gas emissions causing less rain to fall in Australia

14 July 2014

New Scientist: Southwestern Australia is drying out because of rising human greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study published in Nature Geoscience. Using a high-resolution global climate model, Thomas Delworth and Fanrong Zeng of Princeton University ran a series of simulations of the Australian climate both with and without the inclusion of greenhouse gas emissions. They found that only by including greenhouse gas emissions were they able to reproduce the diminishing rainfall levels over the past century. Moreover, they found that if emissions are not curbed by 2100, the average annual rainfall in southwestern Australia will drop by about 40% compared with the period 1911–74. Less rain is just one problem Australia has been experiencing because of climate change: The region has also seen more megadroughts, floods, heat waves, and bush fires.

Fewer than 1% of scientists publish yearly

14 July 2014
Science: An analysis of scientific papers published between 1996 and 2011 revealed that fewer than 1% of scientists publish at least one paper per year. The analysis was conducted by John Ioannidis of Stanford University and his colleagues, who found that more than 15 million researchers authored or coauthored a paper in the 15-year period. The 150 608 scientists who published at least once per year were responsible for 41% of all of the papers published. They were also the authors of 87% of the most highly cited papers. Ioannidis suggests in the analysis that many of the scientists might be heads of labs or research groups and so get coauthor credit for the multiple projects they manage. The analysis goes on to list how many authors publish multiple papers per year, with 3269 publishing 10 or more.

Satellite gravity measurements could be used to predict terrestrial flooding

7 July 2014

Science: When the ground becomes saturated with water, the risk for flooding increases. Now researchers have shown that the strength of Earth’s gravity in the area also increases. They studied data collected by NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites in the months preceding the catastrophic 2011 flooding on the Missouri River and found that the gravity signal improved model forecasts more than measures of snowmelt and soil wetness. However, GRACE’s resolution is too low and the time it takes to retrieve and process the data is too long to make such measurements useful in current flood prediction efforts. The researchers hope to improve on that capability when a GRACE follow-on mission is launched in 2017.

Technical troubles delay data release from <em>Gaia</em> space telescope

7 July 2014

New Scientist: Launched in December 2013, the European Space Agency’s Gaia is on a mission to compile the most accurate and extensive catalog of our galaxy's stars. But fulfilling that mission has been delayed because of several problems. Most important, excessive stray light has been entering the telescope. In addition, water that was trapped in the spacecraft before launch has been outgassing and freezing on the telescope’s mirrors. Although researchers tried to deal with both potential problems before launch by installing a sunshield to keep out stray light and heaters to melt the ice, the spacecraft has taken in more light and accumulated more ice than had been anticipated. Researchers are looking into modified observing strategies and computer software to optimize the data that are collected. However, mission managers say that even if the problems can’t be fixed, only the quality of the data collected for the faintest stars will be affected.

European synchrotron to undergo €150 million upgrade

7 July 2014
BBC: The European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF) in Grenoble, France, is an 850-m-diameter synchrotron that produces x rays to create molecular- and atomic-scale images. It is now scheduled for a €150 million ($204 million) upgrade to increase its maximum intensity by a factor of 1000. Synchrotrons produce x rays by bending high-energy electron beams around circular paths and collecting and focusing the resulting x rays into beam lines. The upgrade will entail replacing the accelerator's magnets, which are used to bend the electron beam around the ring, with newer and more powerful ones. Also included in the upgrade is the addition of four new beam lines and further upgrades to instrumentation.

Pages