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Spotting submarines from the air: the June 2018 issue of Physics World is now out

06 Jun 2018 Matin Durrani
Cover of the June 2018 issue of Physics World

How can you use sound to locate submarines from the air? That’s the question tackled in the cover story of the new issue of Physics World magazine, which is now out. Marking the centenary of the Royal Air Force (RAF), the feature has been written by Jason Furlong from the Royal Canadian Air Force and John Ryder – an RAF pilot who studied physics and is a long-standing member of the Institute of Physics (IOP), which publishes Physics World.

Much of the challenge focuses on analysing the strange and complex behaviour of sound in what is a noisy underwater world. Maritime patrol aircraft crews do this by dropping sonobuoys containing hydrophones at strategic points to record signals and send them back to a transceiver on the plane. It’s the crew’s job to then analyse the complex data using mathematical models to pinpoint a sub’s location.

Elsewhere in the issue, find out how the first trillionaire could be made in space, possibly by mining an asteroid, and discover why some cosmologists still aren’t sure if dark energy is the right explanation for the accelerating universe. Plus we look at the importance for inventors of acquiring intellectual-property rights and find out why applying for grant money is still so hard.

Remember that if you’re a member of the Institute of Physics, you can read the whole of Physics World magazine every month via our digital apps for iOSAndroid and Web browsers. Let us know what you think about the issue on TwitterFacebook or by e-mailing us at

For the record, here’s a run-down of what else is in the issue.

• Physicists target the dark photon – An Italian experiment is to hunt for hypothetical particles that could carry a fifth force, as Edwin Cartlidge reports

• New NASA boss divides opinion – Jim Bridenstine’s appointment as the next head of NASA has garnered praise and disapproval, as Peter Gwynne reports

• The power of images – Enrico Sacchetti argues that the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” is truly apt when it comes to the photography of large physics

• What is physics like? – Robert P Crease wants to know your most discerning metaphor for doing physics

• Intellectual property – James McKenzie reflects on the importance of intellectual property, which is a key part of commercializing technology

• The dark-energy deniers – The discovery that the universe is expanding with increasing speed may have bagged a Nobel prize, but some cosmologists are still not sure if dark energy is the explanation for it. Keith Cooper looks at the arguments for and against this mysterious phenomenon

• Hunting submarines from the air – Far above the ocean’s surface, aircraft hunt for an unseen enemy below the waves. To mark the centenary of the Royal Air Force, tactical co-ordinator Jason Furlong and pilot John Ryder describe how they use physics to find submarines

• The asteroid trillionaires – The race to the riches of asteroids is on, with several private companies vying for funding to become the first space miners. Andrew Glester digs into the issues involved in making money from asteroids

• Riding the gravity wave – Benjamin Skuse reviews On Gravity: a Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject by Anthony Zee

• The wow and the woo – Philip Moriarty reviews Quantum Sense and Nonsense by Jean Bricmont

• The perils of proposals – With its complex procedures, unknown evaluations and unconscious biases, applying for research funding is no mean feat. Dalmeet Singh Chawla investigates if it is time to revamp the grant-funding process

• Once a physicist – Meet Arie van ’t Riet an artist in the Netherlandswho uses X-ray equipment to create “bioramas” X-ray portraits of animals and plants

• Reality science – Jeremy Baumberg on dystopian future science funding

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