Physics News Viewer

ARIEL mission to reveal 'Brave New Worlds' among exoplanets

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Concept view of the ARIEL spacecraft. Credit: ESA

An ambitious European mission is being planned to answer fundamental questions about how planetary systems form and evolve. ARIEL will investigate the atmospheres of several hundreds planets orbiting distant stars. It is one of three candidate missions selected last month by the European Space Agency (ESA) for its next medium class science mission, due for launch in 2026.  The ARIEL mission concept has been developed by a consortium of more than 50 institutes from 12 countries, including UK, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Portugal.  The mission will be presented today at the Pathways 2015 conference in Bern, Switzerland, by ARIEL’s Principal Investigator, Prof Giovanna Tinetti of UCL. 

Revealed: positronium’s behaviour in particle billiards

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Positronium beam

Collision physics can be like a game of billiards. Yet in the microscopic world, the outcome of the game is hard to predict.

A new blueprint for quantum computing with photons

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Collage of photos

Quantum computers promise a step change in computational power for some important problems, such as the simulation of the properties of solid materials and chemical reactions.

Faculty teaching award winners announced

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We are delighted to announce this year's winners of the Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences Teaching Awards.

UCL scientists recognised in IOP awards

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Thornton & Pickard

Two UCL scientists, Geoff Thornton and Chris Pickard, have been recognised in this year's Institute of Physics awards.

Winners of first UCL physics hackathon announced

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PhD students from UCL Physics & Astronomy took part in the department’s first ‘hackathon’ last week. In this competition, students representing the department’s five research groups competed to complete projects in just two days.

First measurements of the differential positronium-formation cross-sections

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Positrons are the antimatter version of electrons and so their fate in a matter world is ultimately to annihilate. However, prior to this, a positron may combine with an electron to form a matter-antimatter hybrid called positronium. This is akin to a hydrogen atom with the proton replaced by a positron. Fundamental to our understanding of the physical universe, positron and positronium are these days also acknowledged as being fantastically useful in practical applications such as probing material properties and medical diagnostics. However, there is still much that we do not know for sure about the details of the interactions of these particles with ordinary matter. For example if, in a collision with an atom or molecule, a positron captures an electron, in which directions is the positronium likely to travel and with what probability?

ESA shortlists three space missions with major UCL contributions

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Mission themes

The European Space Agency has announced the shortlisted proposals for its next mid-sized science mission.

All three proposed spacecraft have significant contributions from UCL, which means the university will be guaranteed a role regardless of which is chosen. The candidates are in the areas of exoplanet science, plasma physics and X-ray observations of high-energy phenomena, with teams including academics at UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory and UCL Physics & Astronomy.

New calculations to improve carbon dioxide monitoring from space

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CO2 Satellite

How light of different colours is absorbed by carbon dioxide (CO2) can now be accurately predicted using new calculations developed by a UCL-led team of scientists. This will help climate scientists studying Earth’s greenhouse gas emissions to better interpret data collected from satellites and ground stations measuring CO2.

In memoriam: Professor Bruce Swinyard

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Professor Bruce Swinyard

May 22nd 2015

It is with great sadness that we must report the death today of Professor Bruce Swinyard. Bruce joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy's Astrophysics Group in the summer of 2010, as a joint appointment between UCL and STFC's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, spending half his time at Gower Street and half at RAL's Space Science and Technology Department, where he was Leader of the Astronomy Group.

Raman Prinja shortlisted for Royal Society book prize

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Night Sky Watcher

Raman Prinja, professor of astrophysics in UCL Physics & Astronomy, has been shortlisted for the Royal Society Young People's Book Prize.

Mapping the cosmos: Dark Energy Survey creates detailed guide to spotting dark matter

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Dark Energy Survey

Scientists on the Dark Energy Survey have released the first in a series of dark matter maps of the cosmos.

Richard Ellis to join UCL

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Richard Ellis

Astronomer Richard Ellis is to join UCL's Department of Physics & Astronomy as Professor of Astrophysics.

Ellis, who is currently the Steele Professor of Astronomy at Caltech, is an expert on the use of large telescopes, including a key role in developing the case for the forthcoming Thirty Meter Telescope. He is a world-leader in observational cosmology, including topics such as the evolution of galaxies, dark matter and the era of reionisation.

Your Universe festival held at UCL

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Your Universe panel discussion

The Your Universe festival was held at UCL between 26 and 28 March.

Since 2008, Francisco Diego (UCL Physics & Astronomy) has organised Your Universe, a celebration of astronomy and particle physics. The festival includes talks, panel discussions, demonstrations and hands-on experience with telescopes.

Nanospheres cooled with light to explore the limits of quantum physics

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Nanosphere suspended in a cavity

A team of scientists at UCL led by Peter Barker and Tania Monteiro (UCL Physics and Astronomy) has developed a new technology which could one day create quantum phenomena in objects far larger than any achieved so far.

Old lab instruments go on display

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Micrometer Reading Manometer.jpg

A display consisting of 16 items used in physics teaching at UCL in the 19th and 20th centuries has been completed on the first floor of the Physics building, outside the entrance to Lab 1 (east end). The instruments were collected over a period of several years by John O’Brien, the former Laboratory Superintendent who retired in 2013, and Derek Thomas, Lab 1 technician, who prepared them for display and procured an illuminated glass case to house them.

A brand new sky from Planck

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Polarisation of the Cosmic Microwave Background

New maps from ESA's Planck satellite, forming the second major data release (February 2015) from the project, have unveiled the polarised light from the early Universe across the entire sky, revealing that the first stars formed much later than previously thought.

UCL leading the way for gender equality in physics

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UCL Main Quad

The Department of Physics & Astronomy has been recognised as a national leader in gender equality. The Institute of Physics (IOP) has named the department as a Juno Champion, joining a handful of other physics departments around the country which have made exceptional efforts to embed gender equality in physics.


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It is with great regret that we must announce the death of Dr William (Bill) M. Glencross.

Bill was a long-standing and well-respected member of the Astrophysics group and worked in the Department from 1963 to 2002. Bill’s research focussed on infrared photometery and mapping, initially achieved by flying telescopes to the edge of space using helium balloons and later through producing, modelling and testing ground and satellite based instruments. Bill loved to teach and served as the Astronomy Tutor twice.

UCL leading the way for gender equality in physics

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UCL’s department of Physics & Astronomy has been recognised as a national leader in gender equality.

On quantum scales, there are many second laws of thermodynamics

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Watt Steam Engine

New research from UCL has uncovered additional second laws of thermodynamics which complement the ordinary second law of thermodynamics, one of the most fundamental laws of nature. These new second laws are generally not noticeable except on very small scales, at which point, they become increasingly important.

On quantum scales, there are many second laws of thermodynamics

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Cup of tea. Photo: Bernd/CC-BY

New research from UCL and the Universities of Gdansk, Singapore, and Delft has uncovered additional second laws of thermodynamics which complement the ordinary second law of thermodynamics, one of the most fundamental laws of nature.

UCL joins Graphene Flagship

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Carbon nitride graphene

A team including four UCL departments has joined the EU’s Graphene Flagship project, giving the university a foothold in one of the biggest scientific programmes currently underway.

IOP Tom Duke Prize Lecture on Biological Physics

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'Physics in biology: how to set the size of a cell' by Prof. Martin Howard, John Innes Centre

to be held Wednesday 28th January 2015 at 3pm, in the Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre,  25 Gordon Street

Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) results

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The Research Excellence Framework (REF) results were released on 18th December 2014, which determine our level of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England for the next few years.

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