Many of the most compelling physics stories emerge when physicists have a direct impact on the everyday world. In fact, physicists are increasingly applying their skills and knowledge in fields not traditionally associated with the subject. This selection of the best visual and audio stories from the past year reflects the growing confidence of physicists to translate their ideas into real-world applications
The journey of innovation
From the fun to the far more serious with our next choice. “A better way to detect landmines” is a short film that we made about how physics-based techniques can help to clear mines faster and more efficiently. It features Bill Lionheart, a mathematician at the University of Manchester in the UK, who has been working with colleagues to develop ways to reduce the number of false-positives when searching for mines. One approach taken by Lionheart and his colleagues is to develop the technology and the underlying maths of metal detectors. They are designing devices that can not only detect, but also characterize metal objects in the ground. This makes it possible to disregard the signals that relate to harmless bits of scrap metal, which would otherwise have been treated as dangerous. Lionheart’s work is supported by the charity Find a Better Way, founded by Sir Bobby Charlton, the former England and Manchester United footballer. In the film, interviews with Charlton and Lionheart are combined with photography from conflict zones to illustrate powerfully how even niche areas of physics and maths can have important and unexpected applications across the globe.
We need to talk about quantum mechanics
Finally, the end of the calendar year can bring the opportunity to reflect on the way that you are doing things in your professional lives, and we at Physics World are no exception to this. In November, Physics World reporter Tushna Commissariat presented “We need to talk about quantum mechanics”, a podcast about her experiences at a “quantum boot camp” for people involved in the communication of quantum research. The intensive crash course – held in Sweden – brought together a host of scientists and journalists from across the world to discuss the possibilities and pitfalls of communicating the ideas of quantum mechanics to a global audience. In the podcast, Tushna interviews a number of her fellow “bootcampers”, including the conference organizer, who is the blogger and physicist Sabine Hossenfelder.
So, that wraps up another year on the Physics World multimedia front. Join us in 2015, when one of our key focal points will be the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies (IYL 2015). This celebration of light and its uses will provide a great opportunity for us to provide more colourful multimedia next year. Join us then.