In this month’s Physics World: Extremes…

30 October 2015 | Source: Physics World

Physicists – in fact all of us – love extremes. We’re captivated by the search for the longest, highest, fastest, smallest or brightest. There’s something intrinsically appealing about pushing boundaries to break records and establish new limits for what’s physically possible.

Physics World

Reaching new extremes is healthy for science too, driving researchers to outperform their rivals to be the first in their field. This kind of work at the frontiers of science also makes for great stories, which is why we’re highlighting a triple-feature of stories this month.

The quest for the blackest black...

For many years, NASA used a black paint that reflects just 3.5% of incoming light, daubing the Hubble Space Telescope and other instruments in it to cut out stray light. But when NASA scientist John Hagopian discovered a way of growing carbon nanotubes with a much better reflectivity of 0.5%, the battle for the blackest substance was only just beginning.

Living on the edge of existence…

Physics techniques are increasingly being used to study tough life forms living in some of the most extreme environments on Earth. Perhaps most impressive of these extremophiles is Deinococcus radiodurans, which seems able to survive everything you can possibly imagine: low temperatures, low pressures, low waters levels and low pH. It can even withstand a dose of ionising radiation 1000 times high than the lethal limit for a human.

It came from the deep…

Hiding in the depths of space lies a special kind of star. First proposed in the 1990s, magnetars are a special kind of neutron star that are the strongest magnets in the universe. Only 23 have so far been discovered, but with a magnetic field nearly a billion times stronger than that ever created in the lab, these magnetars have overwhelmed some of the most powerful space telescopes.

Also in this month’s Physics World:

  • Cooking Bacon – why scientist and statesman Francis Bacon still remains so vilified
  • Ant-Man and the quantum realm – how one physicist ended up as a Hollywood consultant

The new issue of Physics World can be read in our award-winning digital edition from 30 October at or via the Physics World app. Membership of the Institute of Physics is required for access to articles.

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