Topic of the Moment introduces the physics behind some topical stories in the news. Here's our previous Topic of the Moments:
What is antimatter, how can it be used – and is it dangerous?
After human remains found in a Leicester car park were confirmed to be those of King Richard III, we take a look at how physics is used in archaeology
- Artificial heart
A patient heading home after being given an artificial heart has made news headlines. How do they work?
- Astronaut training
The opportunity to experience part of what it’s like to train as an astronaut is up for grabs as part of UK celebrations for World Space Week
Researchers at CERN have observed particles ‘flipping’ between matter and antimatter. But why is the universe made of one and not the other?
As the festive season approaches, we look at some of the physical challenges faced by Santa as he distributes presents across the globe
- Cloud seeding
With the UK’s current drought expected to last until Christmas, we look at one possible way to bring the rain
- Cosmic distance ladder
Astronomers have identified the most distant quasar yet to be discovered. But how do they know how far away objects are?
- Cosmic inflation
The discovery of gravitational waves in the echo of the Big Bang lends support to the inflation model of cosmology
Classified documents released by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have revealed that spy organisations have cracked the encryption used to protect the privacy of emails and medical records, and the security of online financial transactions. Can physics stop snoops where maths fails?
After the acquittal of Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito, we look at how physics underpinned the discovery of the structure of DNA
- End of the world
The world didn't end of 21 December 2012. Here we look at some of the ways it could
Extra-solar planets (or exoplanets) are planets orbiting stars other than the Sun
- From fiction to fact
The DNA of the late science-fiction writer Arthur C Clarke is set to be placed aboard a spacecraft named after one of his short stories, based on a race between craft driven by solar sails
- Fuel cells
What are fuel cells, and how do they work?
Geolocation is about much more than finding your way to obscure pubs down backalleys using your phone
- Goalline technology
The new football season will see the Premier League trialling goalline technology. How does it work?
What exactly is it and what could it be used for?
- Herschel Space Observatory
With the Herschel Space Observatory believed to have entered its final year of operation, we take a look back at the telescope’s short life
- The Higgs boson
After physicists at CERN reveal “tantalising hints” of the Higgs boson, we take a look at the particle that's expected to be finally found in 2012
- Hydrogen fuel cells
Research published in Nature shows that ‘wonder material’ graphene is permeable to protons, suggesting it may have applications for hydrogen-based technologies such as fuel cells
As the US Navy demonstrates a ship-mounted laser capable of disabling drones and small boats, we recap the history of the laser and its various uses
Three scientists in Japan and the US have been awarded the Nobel Prize for their invention of a blue LED
- Long-duration space travel
The Mars500 experiment aimed at testing human resilience in the isolation of long space journeys has concluded after almost 18 months of solitude for the group of six men
After another news story about a “Harry Potter invisibility cloak”, we take a look at the science behind metamaterials
- Meteor and asteroid impacts
After an orange fireball was reportedly seen across Britain, we take a look at how meteors and asteroids can affect life on Earth
The traditional nativity story tells of three wise men making their way from the East to Bethlehem guided by an unusually bright star – later postulated to have been Halley’s comet
- Northern lights and the solar wind
The aurora borealis - more commonly known as the northern lights – became visible from parts of southern England at the end of February
- No-fly zones
After calls for the international community to consider imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, we look at some of the physics-based technology involved in enforcing them
- Particle detection
With CERN’s Large Hadron Collider having reached a data milestone and amid reports of the possible discovery of previously unknown particles by the Tevatron, we take a look at the physics of particle detection
- Physics and sport
With this being a busy year for sport, we look at the various contributions of physics to sport
- The physics of espionage
As the 23rd Bond movie, Skyfall, hits cinemas, we take a look at the physics behind spying
With computer programmes like Auto-Tune becoming increasingly popular in music, we look at the science behind pitch correction
- Proton therapy
As Ashya King begins to receive proton beam therapy for a brain tumour, we look at what the treatment is and how it works
With radioactivity making news headlines, we look at what it is and what the risks are
- Reaching for the stars
As a proposal to build a real-life Starship Enterprise gains attention online, we look at previous engineering studies of how we can go boldly where no-one has gone before
- The Rosetta comet mission
In August, the European Space Agency’s probe Rosetta made its final approach to Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko, entering the last stage of a mission a decade in the making that aims to be the first to land a spacecraft on a comet
The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence
After the launch of a new US spaceplane and plans for a mission to Mars within the next few decades, we take a look at outer space
- Solar storms
Physicists in the US claim that a solar storm would have knocked out everything electrical on Earth had it hit the planet. But what are they anyway?
A new supernova has been spotted in the galaxy M82. What are they, and why are they important?
What makes television work?
- Transit of Venus
On 6 June Venus crossed the face of the Sun. We take a look at an event that was once crucial in working out our place in the universe
- The Apollo programme
Neil Armstrong, the first person to set foot on the moon, died on 25 August
- The career of Stephen Hawking
The world celebrated Prof. Stephen Hawking’s 70th birthday on 8 January 2012. We take a look back over his life and work
- Volcanic ash
How and why does volcanic ash affect flights?
- Weights and measures
If you’ve found yourself having put on a little “holiday weight” after a bit too much festive indulgence, you’re not alone – the block of platinum used to define the kilogram is also getting heavier
- When a planet is not a planet
On the anniversary of the naming of Pluto, and shortly after the discovery of a new body in the outer solar system, we look at the planets that didn’t quite make the grade