As a new year approaches, it is time for me to predict the events of 2018 that will most affect the physics community. It’s a challenge I set myself each year but some predictions are, thankfully, easy because they centre on events already in the calendar.

So I can declare with reasonable confidence that the European Space Agency will launch the BepiColombo mission to Mercury in October and that China intends to send the first-ever spacecraft (Chang’e 4) to the far side of the Moon. In July NASA will send a craft – the Parker Solar Probe – closer to the Sun than any that’s gone before. And barring any disasters, two asteroid-sampling missions – Japan’s Hayabusa 2 and NASA’s OSIRIS-Rex – will reach their targets in July and August respectively.

Multiple messages

Astronomers will make further exciting findings from the LIGO and Virgo detectors, which last year revealed gravitational waves from colliding neutron stars and bagged the Physics World Breakthrough of the Year award. The neutron-star observation heralded a new era in multimessenger astronomy in which gravitational-wave, electromagnetic and cosmic-ray observations will open new windows into the cosmos. LIGO and Virgo are now offline, but will switch back on in October after upgrades and – who knows? – may even see signals from a supernova. Meanwhile, data from the Event Horizon Telescope may yield the first direct image of a black hole.

In more mainstream physics, I see research into quantum technologies surging ahead with yet more money being channelled into quantum-computing start-ups. The debate about metallic hydrogen will rumble on. CERN will turn its Large Hadron Collider back on in May, while China will continue planning its own particle collider. And there will be a myriad of advances in the rest of physics, from atoms and optics to plasmas and biophysics.

Brand new website

Here at Physics World we’ll be busy too. In early 2018, we’ll be relaunching our website as well as our latest careers guide We’ve got special issues lined up on plant physics, time and SI units. We’ll be boosting our industry coverage through Focus Issues on the likes of computing, energy technologies and optics and photonics. And there’ll be two special reports on Japan and China, plus more Physics World Discovery mini-ebooks .

Sadly, I also foresee a few non-events. Donald Trump, foolishly, still won’t have appointed a presidential science adviser by year end. The Nobel Prize for Physics – yet again – won’t be given to a woman (only two female physicists have ever won the prize). And physicists in the UK and EU will still be worried about the impact of Brexit, with Britain’s role in the Horizon research programme remaining frustratingly unclear.

Moving on up

But I don’t want to end on a dud note so let’s look forward to the Institute of Physics, which publishes Physics World, moving this year to new – and very different – headquarters in London’s “knowledge quarter” at King’s Cross. Stay tuned for developments.