Volume 3 Issue 10, October 2007

Volume 3 Issue 10

On 4 October 1957, the world changed. A series of beeps across the sky confirmed that the Soviet Union had won the first leg of the space race, by putting an artificial satellite into orbit. In his Perspective article, Joe Burns shares his memories of the Sputnik launch, and discusses its impact not only on US politics in a cold-war climate, but also on science: the huge boost in influence and funding for science and engineering; and the subsequent strides in understanding the physics of the cosmos, made possible through space-borne instrumentation. In an accompanying Commentary, as plans are drawn up for a return to the Moon, Mike Lockwood considers the science case for building a base there, and whether a human presence is justified.

[Perspective p664] ; [Commentary p669]


  • Editorial |

    Fifty years after the launch of Sputnik, does the prospect of manned spaceflight, back to the Moon and onwards to Mars, still have the power to impress?


  • Perspective |

    It is fifty years since the launch of Sputnik. The ensuing 'space race' had major impact — politically, of course, and technologically, but it also created a new avenue for physics research and a rich seam of funding for a generation of young scientists.

    • Joseph A. Burns


  • Commentary |

    The revival of interest in lunar and planetary exploration is prompting astronomers to re-evaluate the advantages of observatories on the Moon. But the debate is much more than one of science versus money, and goes to the inspirational heart of space exploration.

    • Mike Lockwood


Books and Arts

Research Highlights

News and Views

  • News & Views |

    Generating droplets below a micrometre in size from the break-up of a liquid jet or droplet usually requires surfactants or electric fields. By simply focusing one jet with a pair of coaxial ones, this could be extended down to the nanoscale.

    • Osman A. Basaran
    •  & Ronald Suryo
  • News & Views |

    The efficient transmission of intense laser light through a plasma while minimizing instabilities represents a critical challenge to the development of laser fusion. Simulations and experiments of unprecedented scale suggest the future is bright.

    • Christine Labaune
  • News & Views |

    After 18 years, and some significant setbacks, the first data from Borexino on low-energy solar neutrinos support the existence of neutrino oscillations, and are set to reveal more about the workings of the Sun.

    • David Wark
  • News & Views |

    An experiment that uses optical tweezers to transport atoms gently enough to preserve their quantum states might prepare the ground for a 'moving head' for quantum computers based on cold neutral atoms.

    • Dieter Meschede
  • News & Views |

    Pioneering measurements of the superfluid density in ultrathin films of a high-temperature superconductor demonstrate the importance of phase fluctuations for the physics of these fascinating materials.

    • Marcel Franz
  • News & Views |

    A global infrastructure for exchanging quantum information requires coherent communication over long distances. The demonstration of interference between photons from two unsynchronized sources could bring us a step closer to that goal.

    • Gregor Weihs