The Institute of Physics [IoP], in partnership with the UK Engineering and Physical Research Council and the Science and Technology Facilities Council, have published a booklet containing a selection of case studies demonstrating the economic value of research in physics and how it leads to a beneficial impact on our daily lives. It is available on the IoP website.
Although the majority of the topics, facts and figures are understandably biased towards the UK, this collection provides a wealth of valuable information worthy of a wider readership in Europe and elsewhere. The topics selected are all described in simple terms suitable for the non-physicist, which will be useful to Governments and in school classrooms. Each also includes a potted history of the development of how these now routine physics based technologies has emerged from studies in basic physics.
Physics and physicists are shown to play a central role in modern everyday life. In the area of healthcare, physics based technologies such as MRI and particle accelerators are shown to be playing a key role in improving diagnosis and the treatment of diseases such as cancer. The role of physics in the development of smart phones and GPS devices is highlighted. How many appreciate the importance of the latter to the financial services sector?
Other topics given similar treatment include the space industry, liquid crystal displays, plastic electronics, RF identification tagging, optical fibres, energy efficiency, data storage and the detection of explosives and pollutants. Facts and figures abound:
- 90% of televisions now use LCDs and 260 million, with resolutions enhanced by up to a factor of four, are confidently predicted to be sold worldwide in 2015.
- 10% of China’s GDP is lost due to air-pollution-related costs.
Bravely, clues and predictions as to how things may develop in the foreseeable future are also provided:
- The number of simultaneous calculation that a cubic centimetre-sized DNA computer could theoretically perform is 10 trillion.
- The lifetime of an LED bulb is 50,000 hours and savings of $265bn are predicted if the USA moves rapidly to LED lighting by 2027.
This booklet clearly fulfils its objective, which is to demonstrate the fundamental importance of the physics discipline to all our daily lives. All those engaged in the promotion of physics in Europe could benefit from a perusal of this IoP publication.