Archive

Topic of the Moment introduces the physics behind some topical stories in the news. Here's our previous Topic of the Moments:

  • Antimatter
    What is antimatter, how can it be used – and is it dangerous?
  • Archaeology
    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
  • Baryogenesis
    Researchers at CERN have observed particles ‘flipping’ between matter and antimatter. But why is the universe made of one and not the other?
  • Christmas
    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?
  • Cryptography
    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?
  • DNA
    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.
  • Exoplanets
    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
    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?
  • Graphene
    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
  • 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.
  • Metamaterials
    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
  • Navigation
    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
  • Pitch
    With computer programmes like Auto-Tune becoming increasingly popular in music, we look at the science behind pitch correction
  • Radioactivity
    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
  • SETI
    The search for extra-terrestrial intelligence
  • Space
    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
  • Supernovae
    A new supernova has been spotted in the galaxy M82. What are they, and why are they important?
  • Television
    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.