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Everyday science

Happy Hedgehog Day, play like Einstein, Hawking could be in court over NHS

02 Feb 2018 Hamish Johnston
illustration of a skyrmion
Magnetic hedgehog

By Michael Banks and Hamish Johnston

Today, people are celebrating Hedgehog Day – possibly as an alternative to Groundhog Day, which is a tradition in North America. There is a nice connection between the spiny critters and physics because diagrams illustrating magnetic quasiparticles called skyrmions are sometimes referred to as hedgehogs. This is because the magnetization associated with a skyrmion can resemble the spines of the hedgehog. The above image is from a news story about skyrmion research done by Kirsten von BergmannAndré Kubetzka and Roland Wiesendanger at the University of Hamburg.

How do you fancy getting your hands on a replica set of building blocks that Albert Einstein played with when he was a boy? Well, now you can thanks to an initiative launched by the consumer goods giant Unilever, the Lego Foundation and the retailer IKEA. The trio are forming the Real Play Coalition, which aims to promote the value of playing with actual toys rather than just staring into screens all day.

The set of Anker-Steinbaukasten blocks that Einstein first played with in the 1880s was designed to help children develop their manual dexterity and tactile senses, along with stimulating creativity, imagination and perception. The original set consisted of around 160 small stone blocks in red, limestone and slate grey. The Real Play Coalition have now scanned all the pieces and released the files necessary so you can make them with a 3D printer. Indeed, it is likely to be a lot cheaper than the £62,500 that a collector paid in 2016 for Einstein’s original set. You can download the files here.

Stephen Hawking is a staunch defender of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). Indeed, he is part of a group of campaigners that has been given permission to challenge in the High Court a government policy to create accountable care organizations (ACOs) within the NHS. Hawking and colleagues say ACOs are a move towards the privatization of the public NHS, but government officials accuse the group of “irresponsible scaremongering”.

Related journal articles from IOPscience


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