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Doing physics in microgravity environments

28 Oct 2019, 11:26 UTC
Doing physics in microgravity environments
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In this month’s Physics World Stories podcast, Andrew Glester discovers why microgravity environments are such interesting places to do physics experiments. Perhaps the ultimate microgravity laboratory is the international space station (ISS), where astronauts carry out experiments designed by scientists across the globe. But microgravity environments can also be created here on Earth, via parabolic flights and drop towers that can achieve microgravity conditions within the gravitational field of the Earth.
In the episode, Glester travels to Swindon to meet Libby Jackson, the human exploration programme manager at the UK Space Agency. Jackson explains why removing gravity from the equation can allow researchers to probe a range of questions, not necessarily related to space science. She herself, has flown on a so-called “vomit comet” and she describes the experience of adapting to weightlessness while trying to control a science experiment.

Marco Marengo, a thermal engineering research at the University of Brighton, UK, is another frequent flyer on parabolic flights. He describes some of the physics experiments he has been involved with and the process through which researchers can apply for time at these facilities. Unsurprisingly, he always finds time to have some fun while weightless in addition to ...

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