These news items are written occasionally, usually prompted by items in the news media that have a physics story. They are also part of the magazine’s digital content on the publisher’s website and available to all subscribers.
On 15 February 2013, a large meteor fell close to Lake Chebarkul in the southern Urals of Russia. Because of the craze for video cameras in Russian cars, it was extremely well recorded, including its explosion in the atmosphere with a blast comparable to that of a nuclear bomb.
Observations of the Apophis asteroid in 2004 showed that it would come very close to Earth in April 2029. Fortunately, new observations by the Herschel Space Observatory on its close approach in January 2013 ruled out the possibility of a collision.
On 4th July 2012 experimental teams from CERN confirmed the results of a 45-year search – the Higgs boson had been found. This completes the Standard Model of particle physics, but what is the Higgs and why all the fuss?
On 14th April 1912, the ‘unsinkable’ RMS Titanic struck an icberg in the North Atlantic and sank within three hours with the loss of most of its passengers and crew. Was this disaster made more likely by a coincidence of astronomical events three months earlier or made worse by an optical illusion?
In a collaborative experiment between CERN and the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, it appeared that neutrinos could travel faster than light. If it were true, such an observation would wreck Einstein‘s special theory of relativity on which much of modern physics is based.
Hydrogen is placed in the first column in the periodic table of elements, so why is‘nt it a metal like the alkali metals in the rest of the column? The answer is that it only becomes metallic at an enormously high pressure, so the metallic form may be present in the centres of gas giant planets.
On 11 March 2011 the Fukushima nuclear power plant on Japan's north-east coast suffered a magnitude 9.0 earthquake followed, half an hour later, by a devastating tsunami. The resulting damage to the plant was catastrophic.
On 16 February 2011 the news media reported that the Sun had ejected its largest solar flare in four years. Such flares can cause huge damage to satellites and power infrastructure, but there are ways to predict them.