Teachers turn to Tolkein to explain physics

The novels of J R R Tolkien - well known to generations of fantasy buffs - have recently captured the imagination of movie-goers around the world. Now US astrophysicist Kristine Larsen from Central Connecticut State University is tapping into that interest by using Tolkien's works to explain physics to non-scientists. "Tolkien invented his own constellations, some of which correspond to actual star groupings," explains Larsen. "He was basically obsessive-compulsive about the phases of the Moon and agonized over getting them perfect in his Lord of the Rings trilogy." Larsen uses Tolkien's references to astronomy to discuss real planets, stars and constellations. She also builds on a discussion of calendar systems in The Return of the King to introduce the relationship between days, years and seasons to heavenly phenomena.

In search of the greatest ever equations
E = mc2? F = ma? Or maybe n܃n= 2d sin? Physics World columnist Robert Crease is asking physicists to vote for their greatest equations of all time. As the German physicist Heinrich Hertz once said, great equations are "wiser even than their discoverers [for] we get more out of them than was originally put into them". Crease's own view is that the greatest equations tend to be those dealing with fundamental properties like space, time and energy. The results of his readers' poll will be reported later in the year.

Results will be issued in an embargoed news release later this year — for more information contact David Reid, Press Officer, Institute of Physics, Tel: 020 7470 4815, E-mail: david.reid@iop.org.

Can you turn a tyre's inner tube inside out through a hole in its wall?
This question, first posed by physicist Eric Voice in January, had many Physics World readers stumped. But what made the question harder was that readers were asked to find the solution using only their minds - without writing or draw

Contact: David Reid
Institute of Physics

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