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Everyday science

Chiral money to be legal tender in Switzerland, the physics of wildfire-powered tornados

17 Aug 2018 Hamish Johnston
Swiss money
Chiral money: The new Swiss 200CHF note has a physics theme. (Courtesy: Swiss National Bank)

Here is an embarrassing story: when I was an undergraduate I answered all the questions on a physics quiz using the “left hand rule”. Why? Because I am right-handed and was holding my pen in that hand! Fortunately, the marker quickly realized that I was living in a mirror universe and didn’t penalize me too severely.

I was reminded of this story because Switzerland has chosen to illustrate its new 200CHF note with an image of the right hand rule. The chiral note – which is worth about $200 – will be launched on Monday and has an image of a proton-proton collision at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider on the other side. There is more about the note on the Swiss National Bank website.

It is wildfire season in the northern hemisphere, with British Columbia the latest place to declare a fire emergency. South of the Canada-US border in Montana, researchers at the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory are looking at how exceptionally powerful tornado-like winds can be created by wildfires. One such “firenado” was spotted during a wildfire in California lasted for 90 minutes as its 230 km/h winds uprooted trees and downed power lines.

The work of Missoula’s Mark Finney and colleagues is described in a nice article in The New York Times by Jim Robbins. The article was recommended by my colleague Margaret Harris, who visited the lab on what she describes as a “nerdy holiday”. She says that if you ever get an invitation to visit, grab it.

There is more about Finney’s research in the above video.

Related journal articles from IOPscience


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