transforming lives - Institute of Physics

Jun 9, 2013 - damage the sensitive electronics mounted on satellites. Physicists must .... can provide high data rates to small and remote units typically used in an initial response to ...... enough that it can recover. The particle ...... The global market for hard disk drives is currently around $38 bn. The hard drives of the ...
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Case studies prepared by IOP in partnership with EPSRC and STFC | June 2013

Physics: transforming lives

The Institute of Physics is a leading scientific society. We are a charitable organisation with a worldwide membership of more than 50,000, working together to advance physics education, research and application. We engage with policymakers and the general public to develop awareness and understanding of the value of physics and, through IOP Publishing, we are world leaders in professional scientific communications.


There are many ways of describing the beauty and elegance of physics and the incredible value that it has delivered for society, everpresent in the everyday things around us. Physics continues to help us unlock the mysteries of our universe and the world we live in, and is one of our most powerful enablers of innovation and discovery. Physics research explores and expands the boundaries of our knowledge. In July 2012, researchers at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN moved us one step closer to unlocking the mysteries of what our universe is made of when they announced the discovery of a Higgs boson – thought to be responsible for giving mass to everything in our universe. But physics is also central to everyday life. Physicists are actively collaborating with other researchers and applying their knowledge and technical skills in response to the major challenges of our time, such as sustainable sources of future energy, understanding our changing climate and global food security. Their efforts can also be found at the heart of the technologies we use each day, such as computers, smartphones and GPS devices, which would not exist without physics research. Physics also helps improve the quality of our lives through the use of high-tech equipment, such as particle accelerators, which find important application in healthcare, playing such a key role in improving the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. At the Institute of Physics, one of our objectives is to promote the fundamental importance of the discipline by showcasing how advances made by physicists in both academia and industry continue to impact upon all our lives. Physics: transforming lives is a series of short case studies reviewing how innovations as powerful as magnetic-resonance imaging, have emerged from studies in basic physics and become routine technologies. The booklet also provides some clues as to how things may develop over the next few years, coupled with numerous facts and figures which will be useful to Government and in the classroom. Professor Paul Hardaker Chief Executive The Institute of Physics

June 2013 Physics: transforming lives



The space industry Liquid-crystal displays Plastic electronics Radio-frequency identification tags Optical fibres Cancer treatment Physics and DNA Energy efficiency Detecting explosives and pollutants Data storage Satellite timing and navigation

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June 2013 Physics: transforming lives


Physicists are actively engaged in helping to solve everyday problems by working collaboratively with other researchers and applying their knowledge and technical skills in response to the major challenges of our time, such as environmental change brought about by our soaring demand for energy from finite resources. Their efforts can be found in everyday technology, such as smartphones and GPS devices, which would not exist today without physics research.

4 I IOP Institute of Physics

The space industry

A vibrant space economy enables satellites to provide a welcome boost during a downturn.

The science Almost the entire UK space industry stems from physics research, which underpins everything from the design of the satellites to the trajectory at which rockets are launched, to the tweaks that must be made to keep satellites in or