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Telescopes and space missions

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Flash Physics: Physicists call for food strategy, LHC trio bag prize, cosmic rays elude geomagnetic field

21 Oct 2016 Hamish Johnston

Flash Physics is our daily pick of the latest need-to-know developments from the global physics community selected by Physics World‘s team of editors and reporters

Physicists call for UK food-manufacturing strategy

The UK should create a national industrial strategy for food manufacturing, according to a report by the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes The publication – The Health of Physics in Food Manufacturing – looks at the role that physics can play in what is one of the biggest manufacturing sectors in the country. The report, which was launched today at an event at PepsiCo in Leicester, sets out the contribution that physics can make given that the manufacturing side has become more high-tech. It lists a number of recommendations, including that the government establish an industrial strategy committee for food manufacturing chaired by a government minister. This committee would provide a “co-ordinated, strategic, raised level of investment” in scientific research and development in food manufacturing, support collaborations between academia and industry, and spread awareness of the food sector’s reliance on technological innovation. It would also inspire physics students to move into the area.

Higgs-detector trio bag particle-physics prize

Jim Virdee, Michel Della Negra and Peter Jenni have been awarded the 2017 W K H Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics by the American Physical Society. The trio share the $10,000 award “For distinguished leadership in the conception, design and construction of the ATLAS and CMS detectors, which were instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson.” Virdee is professor of physics at Imperial College London and Della Negra splits his time between Imperial and CERN. Both physicists played key roles in the design, construction and operation of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Jenni is based at the University of Freiburg in Germany and played a crucial role in the design, construction and operation of the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. Data taken by ATLAS and CMS led to the discovery of the Higgs Boson in 2012.

Cosmic rays get past Earth’s magnetic field

A burst of cosmic rays spotted by astrophysicists working on the GRAPES-3 telescope in India has been linked to a short-lived weakening of the Earth’s magnetic field caused by an eruption of matter from the surface of the Sun. The event happened on 22 June 2015 and involved GRAPES-3 detecting a burst of atmospheric muons that lasted about 2 hours. These muons are created when cosmic rays collide with nuclei in the atmosphere and the muon detection rate is a measure of the intensity of cosmic rays that reach the atmosphere. Most cosmic rays are deflected by the Earth’s magnetic field before they reach the atmosphere – which protects us from harmful radiation. However, the Earth’s magnetic field can be deformed by the huge streams of charged particles that are produced in solar eruptions. This reduces the field’s ability to deflect cosmic rays. Writing in Physical Review Letters, Sunil Gupta of the Tata Institute of Fundamental research in Mumbai and GRAPES-3 researchers in India and Japan analyse the burst using numerical simulations of how the solar eruption affects the Earth’s magnetic field. They conclude that the cosmic-ray burst is related to a solar eruption that occurred on 21 June. The discovery could lead to better forecasts of radiation levels on the International Space Station as well as a better understanding of how solar activity affects the Earth’s magnetic field.


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