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Everyday science

Meteoroid seen from space, Nobel laureates speak their minds on group awards and keeping up with technology

17 Nov 2017 Hamish Johnston

 

By Hamish Johnston

Fix your eyes on the upper-right portion of the above video and pay particular attention about seven seconds into the footage. You will see a fireball falling through Earth’s atmosphere. The video was taken from the International Space Station by the Italian astronaut and prolific photographer Paolo Nespoli.

Was the fireball a piece of space junk, or perhaps a tiny piece of asteroid? And how fast was it moving? For an analysis of what Nespoli may have seen, go to: “The backstory: Paolo spots a meteoroid from the ISS”. There you will also find a fantastic gallery of photographs taken by Nespoli.

Winning a Nobel prize is a sure-fire way of getting people to listen to you. While some laureates have been known to espouse some rather loopy ideas, most speak with humility and grace – and try to use their platform to make the world a better place.

It’s definitely the latter for two of this year’s newly-minted physics laureates, Kip Thorne and Barry Barish. Thorne tells the Los Angeles Times that he would rather share his Nobel prize with the entire LIGO collaboration, something that he has suggested unsuccessfully to the Nobel Foundation. Thorne also laments that the American people seem to have lost their enthusiasm for science and technology and tells the Times that he is currently working on a volume of poetry.

Meanwhile over at Symmetry, Barish explains how the relationship between physics and technology has changed in his lifetime. Gone are the days when physicists were at the forefront of technological development, which he argues is now the domain of industry. “I think we need to become really aware and understand the developments of technology and how to apply those to the most basic physics questions that we have and do it in a forward-looking way,” says Barish.

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