First term is over, and we’re all looking forward to a nice long Christmas break. But in around four weeks time, the spectre of January exams looms; so, in between stuffing your face with mince pies and other tasty festive treats (like my homemade iced Christmas ginger & cinnamon biscuits), you’re probably going to have some studying to do. Physics is hard, but we all know that the real hardest part of the revision process is the study playlist. I’ve spent four years honing this craft, and I can confidently say that I have found the key.

There’s a fine art to these things. Your favourite songs will prove distracting, but songs you hate will just make you loathe revision. Too upbeat and you’ll find yourself singing and dancing along instead of working; too dull and you’ll get bored and give up. Too relaxing and you’ll fall asleep, but too far the other way and you’ll think you’re making an assault on the Death Star.

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced today that the 2016 Nobel Prize in Physics, and the accompanying 8 million kronor (£727,000) cash prize, has been awarded to David J. Thouless (50%), F. Duncan M. Haldane (25%), and J. Michael Kosterlitz (25%), “for theoretical discoveries of topological phase transitions and topological phases of matter”.

The Academy explained the significance of the trio’s work in a press release:

This year’s Laureates opened the door on an unknown world where matter can assume strange states. They have used advanced mathematical methods to study unusual phases, or states, of matter, such as superconductors, superfluids or thin magnetic films. Thanks to their pioneering work, the hunt is now on for new and exotic phases of matter. Many people are hopeful of future applications in both materials science and electronics.
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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The European Space Agency’s Rosetta probe ended its twelve-year mission today by crashing into its host comet, 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko (which, York students will be pleased to hear, looks a bit like a giant space duck if you squint right ­– apparently). Thankfully, the collision was deliberate.

When radio contact with the probe was lost abruptly shortly after noon today (UK time), mission controllers in the German city of Darmstadt responded with muted cheers and handshakes, marking the end of the mission that began in March 2004 and hit the news almost two years ago when the Philae lander was successfully landed on the comet’s surface.

I can announce the full success of this historic descent of Rosetta towards Comet 67P.

Farewell Rosetta; you’ve done the job. That was space science at its best.

Patrick Martin, ESA mission manager

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Last week, three of the department’s most distinguished academics and beloved lecturers shared their thoughts on the life of a first-year physics student at York. This week, as promised, we bring you three more.

Dr Emily Brunsden — Head of Student Liaison, Astrocampus Director

Welcome all- it so great to have you in the department! I am an astrophysicist with lots of involvement in the year one programme. I am teaching both Mapping the Universe and Optics and I look after the Astrophysics project as part of the lab. For Physfest you will all get to come and share my favourite place on campus- Astrocampus! (O.K. I may be biased as I run the site- but it is a fabulous facility!).

Another important job I have is titled ‘Head of Student Liaison’. What it really means is I have a lot of contact with you guys about your experiences of the department. Part of this is the Staff-Student Committee. This is a group of representatives from each year and the year tutors that meet and discuss how things are going and if any improvements could be made. It is a great group and I really like working with the reps.

So here is my chance to plug the role of the reps. I know you won’t know each other very well when you first arrive but you have a couple of weeks to nominate and select two people to represent your year group. It is a good way to meet lots of staff and students of different years and get involved in activities in the department. We will give you more info when you arrive but you might want to think about if this is something you would like to do.

Otherwise I hope you packed everything and are ready to have a great first year in our busy community of physics-lovers!

Emily

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We already shared students’ memories of their first year at York. Now, PhysSoc has asked some of the department’s most beloved lecturers to share some thoughts from their perspective.

Prof. Sarah Thompson — Head of Department

Welcome to our new students! The ‘big day’ is nearly here – at last – and you will soon be experiencing the excitement of your first few days at university! The staff are also looking forward to experiencing the buzz of activity and new faces that accompanies the start of a new academic year – it’s far too quiet without you here…

So what can you expect in the first few weeks? It will be a whirlwind – of meeting people – College mates, STYCS, your fellow physics students (proud-to-be-geek-land!), physics staff – and many more besides. One of the most important people you will meet will be your personal academic supervisor. S/he will be with you throughout your time as a student and is usually on the other end of the “if in doubt, ask” type of questions. Very soon, sooner than you might think, it will all settle down – you will be immersed in lectures, attending your tutorials with your group of friends and have learnt all the foibles of your lab partner. You will be an old hand before you know it!

We’re looking forward to sharing physics with you and I encourage you to get stuck in, join Physsoc and Astrosoc and enjoy your time with us!

Sarah

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A level results are in, and you’re on your way to York. But what is university really like? PhysSoc rounded up some of the University’s finest minds to help answer that question, giving their thoughts on freshers’ week, the city, and the campus.

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