Article of the Month jIAPS

June jIAPS Article of the Month: Flying at Mach 10 – Decoding the Physics behind Top Gun: Maverick

Author: Adeep Srinivasa, De Montfort University, Dubai

Movies really manage to get us at the edge of our seats, whether by physically exciting us with unexpected twists or turns or with heart-wrenching scenes that cause us to shed a tear or two. In the recent past, Top Gun: Maverick, a sequel to the critically acclaimed Top Gun, has really made audiences go crazy [1]. Top Gun has had such a significant impact on people’s lives that it has motivated batches of students to apply as a fighter pilot or to take up a career in aerospace engineering and astrophysics. In this article, let us dive into the physics behind Top Gun: Maverick, with special emphasis on the opening shot of Captain Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell testing a Darkstar jet at Mach 10. Is it even humanly possible to do so, and if you and I were the pilots, would we survive the calamity?  

Let us start from the beginning. The opening scene shows us that Maverick is taking off the Darkstar airplane from the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in the Mojave Desert. Maverick is a test pilot and is given the task to fly the plane at Mach 10 [2]. A Mach number is a dimensionless quantity, which indicates the ratio of flow velocity after a certain limit of the sound’s speed [3]. The speed of sound is said to be 343 m/s and roughly translates to 761 miles per hour. As we are students of physics, it is convenient for us to use SI units and hence we shall look at this problem in m/s.

Fig 1: Picture of the Darkstar Jet used in Top Gun: Maverick

The Darkstar is a hypersonic jet as it flies above Mach 5. To comprehend the magnitude of this speed, the fastest manned aircraft ever flown was the North American X-15, flying at a whopping speed of Mach 6.7 which is 2298.1 m/s [4]. Launching this airplane was such a complex task that it had to be dropped from another aircraft because its tail fin prevented it from taking off at slow speeds. In the movie, Maverick’s Darkstar was able to take off from the runway and reach Mach 10 extremely quickly. 

We are shown that the plane does face issues in regards to its heat and fluid dynamics as it reaches Mach 10, indicating that reaching such speed is no easy feat, both experimentally as well as theoretically. The fastest unmanned plane was the NASA X-43 that reached an astonishing speed of Mach 9.68 [5]. That means the plane flew at 3320.24 m/s.

Let’s suppose that the Darkstar could practically fly at Mach 10 [6]. Flying at such a speed and altitude would have dire consequences on the human body. The aircraft would have to fly above 40,000 feet in order to achieve Mach 10 speed. A person ejected out of a flight traveling above Mach 10 would be killed instantly due to the relative weight and density of air at that level. The highest speed ejection ever recorded was at 1300 miles per hour, which is superseded by the Darkstar by a huge margin of 6700 miles per hour [7]. Hitting Mach 10 speeds at sea level will eventually smash the organs and skeleton of the pilot, turning the human body into a bag of soup [8]. 

These arguments do provide evidence that flying at Mach 10 is far from possible and that even a pilot as distinguished as Captain Mitchell would succumb to the laws of physics and nature. Yes, the real life Darkstar has a maximum speed of Mach 3.2, despite being able to blow at Mach 10, and yes, it is humanly impossible to use a fighter jet surpassing the Admiral’s approval. It is also far from impossible for any human being to survive a pilot ejection at that speed. Despite this very scene and many such scenes in the movie breaking numerous laws of physics, one thing it does not break is our captivity in the movie. The science behind these scenes is so exact and precise, that it draws us more into the story and has us vested into its characters. In the end, that’s what we aspire to do as scientists and physicists: to break boundaries and achieve the impossible. Top Gun is not only a love letter to aviation but it’s an invitation letter for students of science to dream big and try achieving the impossible. As a researcher, you should feel the need: the need for speed. 




3. NASA. Mach Number [Internet]. 2019. Available from:

4. Aadarsh. Top 12 Fastest Planes In The World | 2023 [Internet]. Engineerine. 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 13]. Available from:

5. Edwards R. “Angry, Mean, Insanely Fast”: Introducing the Darkstar Concept Jet from “Top Gun: Maverick” [Internet]. Man of Many. 2022. Available from:

6. Where was Top Gun: Maverick filmed? Guide to ALL the Filming Locations [Internet]. Atlas of Wonders. [cited 2023 Mar 13]. Available from:

7. LaRC BA : NASA – How Scramjets Work [Internet]. Available from:

8. The Healthy Journal – Gluten, Dairy, Sugar Free Recipes, Interviews and Health Articles [Internet]. [cited 2023 Mar 13]. Available from:

9. Fig 1:

Article of the Month IAPS 2023-2024 jIAPS

Mind-Matter Collider – jIAPS October Article of the Month: The Impact of Artificial Intelligence in Physics

Author: Octavian Ianc, University of Bucharest, Romania

Illustrated by Kyoka Stone, University of Toronto

Imagine that you are a researcher at CERN. Some of you already are, others have this on their schedule a few years in the future. Now, what are you doing there? Among other things, you’re analyzing hundreds of petabytes of experimental data. Assuming that you’re a sane person who doesn’t want to spend the next few million years stuck in front of a computer, you don’t do this by hand. You use some machine learning algorithms¹. These algorithms are artificial, no one has seen classifiers growing in trees. And, if my university lecturer did not make up definitions out of thin air, they are, in a way, intelligent.

Dramatis personae: artificial intelligence and physics.

It all began in the last few years, when lots of commercial AI implementations became available. Actually no, it began in 1997, when Deep Blue beat Kasparov in chess. Or in the 50s, when Turing wrote something about tests and machines. No, even earlier, with those philosophers babbling about formalizing logic and reasoning. It’s almost impossible to come up with a definite answer regarding when the idea of artificial intelligence appeared. What’s certain is that things which someone from 50 years ago would have considered as intelligent are around us. For now, and probably for ever.

We’re physicists: dedicating our lives to studying the different phenomena that surround us. Wouldn’t it be, and this is a huge understatement, absolutely crazy if one of these phenomena turned everything around and started studying us? We’ll get there soon, let’s take it gradually.

Marvin Minsky, one of the pioneers of the field, defines artificial intelligence as “the science of making machines do things that would require intelligence if done by men”². This encompasses a lot of stuff. While not being the first things you think of, sorting a list of numbers or navigating through a network are tasks that would require a fair share of human intelligence. Those are boring, we won’t talk about them. We only want true intelligence here. So we’ll have true intelligence. And also physics. And cats – everyone loves cats.

As you’ve noticed by now, intelligent algorithms are a cornerstone of modern research, both in physics and in most other fields, especially when it comes to finding hidden patterns in huge datasets. An algorithm is better, faster, and does not get bored nearly as quickly as we do. Another important field where AI is a great competitor to traditional approaches is in the modelling of complex systems. When talking about predicting molecular properties³, predicting weather⁴ or, analysing complex economic parameters⁵ (why not?), artificial intelligence is able to do some feats for which classical methods need orders of magnitude more time or are outright incapable of.

This link between physics and the thing called artificial intelligence is however nothing new. From the 70s, researchers worked on something which would later be called a Hopfield network⁶, named after J.J. Hopfield, a physicist who brought this into attention. Until then, everyone thought information had to be stored in a straightforward way: words written on a piece of paper, 1 or 0 bits in a hard drive, and so on. What these guys did was to prove this is not always the case. You can also store information using the connections or couplings between elements of a system. In a nutshell, these networks are very similar to the Ising model for magnetism, in fact they’re inspired from it. You have a grid of tiny magnets which can point either up or down, and are coupled between each other. If the coupling strengths are suitable and the system is left to evolve, it will converge, from any initial state, in one or a few chosen states (“memories” of the system).

Now, memory, intelligence, analyzing tons of data in a blink of an eye, all those don’t sound horrible at all. ChatGPT helping with that pesky programming task sounds even better. Yet, as one famous economist put it, ‘There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’. All these shenanigans come with their fair share of disadvantages and problems.

First of all, to put it frankly, we have no idea what most of these algorithms are doing, or why they are giving a certain output. This is especially true about deep neural networks, the workhorses of a lot of machine learning applications. As a simple example, we can take any task which has something to do with images (finding faces, classifying cats etc.)⁷. These are, most of the time, accomplished with convolutional neural networks (CNNs). Different operations are sequentially applied to the image’s pixel values, ending up with the desired result (a number, a category, whatever). Let’s say we try to analyze such a system. The first layer or couple of layers are quite easy to understand: they detect edges, gradients, basic image features. Surprisingly, this is extremely close to how our visual system does its job. However, if we try to go past this, we’re more or less stuck⁸. It’s quasi-impossible for a researcher to get even a general idea about why the network does what it does. All we see is some numbers. If you have seen the movie Inception (if not, you definitely should), it’s kind of like that. There, the protagonists are navigating through an intricate world, which interconnects levels of reality with dreams. Understanding a deep neural network is similar, but we’re still stuck in the uppermost levels.

Let’s get a bit more intellectual, calling in some philosophy. At its core, any software piece we could refer to as intelligent is nothing more than a set of mathematical rules that is applied to data collected from the real world. When something like this is capable of doing independent research, what happens exactly?

A point can be made even aiming at the fundamentals of the scientific method. Suppose we analyze experimental data using an AI. We obtain predictions, we can verify those predictions. However, what we’re doing is that we’re morphing an unknown, the physical phenomenon we’re trying to study, into a different one, the model that was trained on that data. Although we can, in a sense, predict the real phenomenon, we still don’t have the vaguest of ideas about the governing laws. We just have a black box that supposedly can predict it. Although we have some results, is this still science? This looks similar to the differences between science and engineering. Very broadly, a scientist is interested in understanding phenomena, while an engineer aims to harness these phenomena and provide useful results, while still keeping at least a general understanding of the process at hand. When using an AI model to analyze data and make predictions, we’re most of the time losing even that general understanding. One might dare to say this is neither science, nor engineering.

We’ve traditionally referred to mathematics as a man-made tool, which we use to harness the unpredictability of the world around us. The weirdness happens when this math starts creating other math. The mere idea that it is a tool, stemming from our minds and being entirely dependent on it, begins to shatter when this math starts doing stuff without us. It’s as if a hammer would start building by itself. Or as if a cat from your dream would scratch you in real life. There’s even more to this. Gödel’s incompleteness theorems⁹, important results of mathematical logic, state that if you start with a finite number of assumptions (axioms), you would be unable to prove all true propositions of that logical system. As a consequence, you won’t be ever able to prove or disprove that system as consistent. For our AI-scientist, this would mean that it, by the virtue of its own existence, places hard limits on its abilities. For us humans, limitations come mostly from the physical world. I can’t run at 500 km/h because the muscles in my legs are not strong enough, due to air resistance etc. For mathematics (and, as a consequence, physics), the mere fact that it exists creates a constraint on itself.

To sum it all up, the marriage of artificial intelligence and physics has and will continue to revolutionize the way we do research, and not only that. In the midst of these scientific and philosophical ponderings, we find ourselves both awe-inspired and cautious, marvelling at the possibilities while recognizing the need for responsibility.


  1. “AI at CERN |”

2. Minsky, “Semantic Information Processing.”

3. Wiercioch and Kirchmair, “DNN-PP.”

4. Hickey, “Using Machine Learning to ‘Nowcast’ Precipitation in High Resolution. |” 

5. Bickley, Chan, and Torgler, “Artificial Intelligence in the Field of Economics.”

6. Hopfield, “Neural Networks and Physical Systems with Emergent Collective Computational Abilities

7. “Deep Learning (Adaptive Computation and Machine Learning Series): Goodfellow, Ian, Bengio, Yoshua, Courville, Aaron: 9780262035613: Amazon.Com: Books.”

 8. Zhang et al., “A Survey on Neural Network Interpretability.”

9. Gödel, “On Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica And Related Systems.”

IAPS 2022-2023 Interviews jIAPS

An Interview with Niloofar Jokar (IAPS Events Manager)

Here’s the latest in the series of EC Interviews – the jIAPS Editor-in-Chief challenged themselves to interview all of the EC members before the end of the year. This one was completed on time, but we’ve only just got around to uploading it. 

This time, it is the turn of Niloofar, the IAPS Events Manager, to be interviewed:

What are you currently studying?

I’ve just graduated from my Bachelor’s degree in Physics, Astroparticle Physics subdivision, at Isfahan University of Technology in Iran. I’m looking for the next step for graduate studies and considering options for PhD.

What does your role as IAPS Events Manager involve?

My main task is to supervise, maintain and assure that all events are completed successfully, and to support every Organising Committee (OC) along the way on behalf of the EC. This may sound cringy, but it often feels like a motherhood experience where you feel equally and deeply responsible for every single detail about each event as if it’s your child but you also believe in the OCs, respecting them to thrive freely and have their own creativity towards a successful event. To state the obvious, the events IAPS organises would not be as great without their amazingly dedicated and skilled OCs. The role of the Events Manager is to be present in the background, providing support and guidance, and making sure that everything is going well.

Every single IAPS event is close to my heart – I want to be available 24/7 to them. It doesn’t matter whether they have an IT or a financial issue, or if a hotel is not going along with the room bookings, it is my responsibility to jump in. The Events Manager also has the knowledge and connections to direct the OCs to more skilled people in a particular area.

Which events have you supported this year?

ICPS 2023 (International Conference for Physics Students), PLANCKS 2023 (Physics League Across Numerous Countries for Kick-ass Students), IPT 2023 (International Physicists’ Tournament) – they are the main ones, the major ones in 2023. I also joined IAPS4Materials and represented IAPS at the ‘Women of the World in Physics!’ Event, the second edition of which will be jointly organized by IAPS. There are also the events from the previous year which I have a smaller contribution to, completing the final steps of PLANCKS 2022 and ICPS 2022. Then, we are continuing the process for PLANCKS 2024 and ICPS 2024.

What is your favourite event that you have supported as IAPS Events Manager?

That is like asking which is my favourite child – once again all of the events are close to my heart. I got to experience PLANCKS 2023 in person and it was amazing. I’m also looking forward to ICPS 2023. All of the events are great!

At PLANCKS 2023, you had to introduce IAPS at the Opening Ceremony. Do you enjoy the public speaking element to being IAPS Events Manager?

In IAPS, the community is always friendly and warm, making you forget about the worries of a big stage. So since the beginning I found any presentation very comfortable and enjoyable, which is honestly the best practice for soft skills improvement. As soon as I stand up to speak, it feels like talking to a big group of friends!

What are some of the biggest obstacles of supporting events?

This is completely different with smaller events and major ones. With major events, these are big projects, and you have a team of very dedicated people involved for two years. As the time gets closer to the event, the pressure becomes really high. The role of the IAPS Events Manager is to dial down the pressure and by clear guidance make sure that the OC feels supported. As for minor events, I would say an obstacle is to maintain consistency as these events must take place more frequently. For these OCs, members are expected to remain in the project in a shorter period of time. This means a totally new OC composition is required for the next edition in only a few months. So once the project is over, finding a new OC and transferring the knowledge may be a bit challenging.

Who do you have to work closely with in your role as Events Manager – both on the IAPS EC (Executive Committee) and beyond it?

Outside of the EC and before the OCs, the Events Secretary is the main one, aware of the details of the job obviously as the main source of assistance for the Events Manager; however, the IAPS Events Manager is connected to almost all areas of IAPS and you have to remain in really close contact with everyone involved. I’d have to name all the EC members… Who do I have to work most closely with on the EC? I’d say Cyrus (President), Mario (Treasurer) and Gabriel (Vice-President and Recruitment Officer). 

On the management side, I have to keep in contact with the president(s) of each OC. There were times when we had meetings with the OC of a major event which lasted two or three hours – these meetings were long but a blessing and absolutely essential. The details of the event become very important. You have to work long hours for these meetings and it may seem really strange, but I suppose that’s the side of the story unseen by many. From these long meetings, you sometimes feel closer and attached to that event even more than you already have, which is a beautiful experience on its own.

I’ve just thought of another question from that answer – approximately how many people have you become in close contact with through being IAPS Events Manager that you wouldn’t have spoken to otherwise?

How many? Many, many people… I don’t think I can put an accurate number on it. I’ll go with fifty or more, regarding people I’ve worked with directly – and maybe twenty people I have been contacting as a weekly routine and know well – but I’m sure it’s more than that. These are the people I’ve spoken to regularly. 

What skills do you need to become IAPS Events Manager?

You need a complete set of skills! The most important is perhaps time management – you have a lot of tasks and ongoing projects, as well as projects which have already happened and those upcoming events. The workload is no joke. Also, the ability to communicate with different OCs – each is from a different country, with a different culture which is very exciting; they are truly international. It can be a challenge to choose the pace each OC feels comfortable to go with while securing the success of the tasks; so you definitely need communication skills and time management on top of everything else.

How can IAPS members get involved with organising events?

It’s very simple: just drop an email to If you have a brand new idea for an event, we’d love to hear from you. The EC is there to guide you, as the organising committee of an event, and to provide support for you, so you can learn step-by-step as you organise the event. Organising events may seem scary from the outside, but the EC is very supportive and can show you the way. You shouldn’t be hesitant about contacting us – whatever idea you have within IAPS context, we’ll find a place for it!

How have you found the experience of being part of the IAPS EC?

It has been quite a challenging experience for me this year. There have been some environmental difficulties in my country which have provided some serious challenges and affected my work pace as well. But even though this happened to me on a personal level,… how can I phrase it? IAPS is more than an association. I have gained friends for life. I am grateful for the support of my fellow EC members. I’ve learnt lots of lessons and definitely enjoyed this experience. This is more than a community; it is like a family. You are involved in so many things for such a long time, it really helps to form unbreakable bonds. Having such valuable friendships touches upon personal development as well.

What has been one of your best moments as part of the IAPS EC this year?

The ending of the Mulhouse meeting* – it was the first time we had all met each other. By the end of the meeting, we really felt like a team, gathered together and backing each other up. When you’ve been working for a year together and only meeting through the screen, it’s hard to create the human element of the community. Meeting in person was amazing. 

*You mentioned the Mulhouse meeting. Can you summarise what this is?

Sure! IAPS as an association has its official seat in Mulhouse, France, where the headquarters of the European Physical Society (EPS) is located. The Mulhouse meeting is a memorable and important time of the year when the respective IAPS EC of the term gather from all around the world to meet in person in the headquarters of EPS, in order to have constructive discussions over the work plan of the term and much more. It usually happens a few months into the EC term, around December.
In a nutshell, it means about a week of highly intense and productive meetings in Mulhouse, nice IAPS stickers EVERYWHERE, accompanied by even nicer people but very bad weather, ending it all with a wholesome EC photo in IAPS t-shirts (no jackets on!), in -1 °C outdoors in front of the EPS building, questioning your life decisions – things we do for IAPS!

The bids for PLANCKS 2025 and ICPS 2025 are currently open. Can you summarise why people should bid to be the organisers of one of these events?

In a nutshell, it’s awesome. Both are very huge projects. The process takes two years, plus the aftermath. At the end of the day, it leaves you with a very valuable experience. The result of your work is something which people, as participants of the event, remember for a long time. On the surface, it is just a conference or a competition, but it’s actually a life-changing experience – I’m not exaggerating here. These are actual words we’ve received from participants. It’s that beautiful. You as an organiser of these events get a chance to gain and create awesome experiences for physics students around the world, and an amazing time for everyone.

The interview concluded with reminiscences of previous IAPS events.


jIAPS 2023 is out!

A new edition of your favorite IAPS journal is finally out! Among the colorful content of this edition, you can read reports from the latest IAPS events (and your PLANCKS preliminaries!), welcome messages from new members, a special section celebrating the 35 years of IAPS and outstanding article & creative contest entries.

Curious to find out what else is there? Grab your copy now!

Article of the Month jIAPS

jIAPS September Article of the Month: The Good Scientist

Author: 🇩🇴 Enrique Casanova, Dominican Republic

Illustrated by: Juan Iribarren, Argentina

Why does it feel like being a scientist is so heavy? Why do science students get so stressed and exhausted? Why do students have a greater tendency to feel dissatisfied with studying, even when it is a subject that they really like?

We live in a world of supply and demand; this is the law to move markets from low prices to high prices and vice versa. Being a variable dependent on human need and whim, this “law” is applicable not only in the economy but also to humans themselves. It even applies to those peculiar and strange people with a little more curiosity, with a little more desire to discover, and with a little more ambition than the rest of the people.

Scientists (also including science students) have gone through different stages throughout history, allowing themselves to be directly or indirectly influenced by society and the human demand given in a certain period of time. From the need for inventions for the great kings to the creations of weapons for the greatest wars, all the demand for new knowledge was (and is) rooted in the main power (or powers, I’m not just talking about the state) – the same one that pays scientists with funds.

Today, there is much more freedom for the researcher. They can even choose research topics to suit their own preference in most cases.

Is this then a total victory for today’s scientist?

Well to put it short:


We are facing a second problem, which is not directly related to humans; rather it is like the spoiled child who grows very fast and reaches us in height, believing in the long run that he can control us so that we buy him his favorite sweets. Frankly, there are times that it manages to manipulate us, taking away hours of sleep and motivating us to procrastinate, watching videos of kittens.

Technology is the most perfect human creation to satisfy needs: health, water services, electricity, telephones, and endless other things, all to please us. Of course, not all humans have the same facilities to acquire technology, this being the case, unfortunately, of people with few resources or by countries that have more control over the free market.

Believe it or not, technology has not always been in our days, and it is not essential for the survival of us as living beings; although it is totally true that we have placed ourselves at the top, being the dominant living being (on the surface at least) of the planet. We dominate thanks to this, but many times technology dominates us.

Really, in my opinion, that it “dominates” us sometimes is not the real problem in today’s society. Since depending on the habits of the person, they would not necessarily see technology as dominant or something dependent on their life, but as a tool. So the fundamental problem is the exponential advance which shapes our way of living. Simplifying, the individual may not be dominated by technology, but society and science are dependent on it. This is what I wanted to get to, then we are forced to learn to use it, since the value of the individual in society increases by the technologies that they know how to use, and in science the same thing happens.

The value of the scientist can then be subdivided into two categories:

  1. Specific and general knowledge of their area.
  2. Technological, say instrumental, knowing how to manipulate and create devices, or software such as programming languages.

The first is theoretical knowledge, whence its value is highest in theoretical sciences, as well as in pedagogy. This was the prevailing value for a long time. Everyone in their time was dying to see and listen to Richard Feynman giving a lecture on physics, or to read about the debate on Bohr’s quantum physics and Einstein’s relativity. The main characteristic of this class of scientists is creativity. Having knowledge without creativity is totally utilitarian.

While on the other hand, the alternative class of scientists is utilitarian, specializing in having knowledge and knowing how to maximize utility on scientific or technological tools whose main purpose is for development.

The two classes are totally necessary and essential when it comes to research in science. Some clear examples of this type of progress are the European countries: Germany, Switzerland, England, etc. and a clear counterexample is our country (the Dominican Republic). It has great theoretical minds but very few experimental minds due to lack of investment in laboratories and equipment.

The great demand for theoretical but more technological scientists, with a wide range of empirical knowledge and a wide range of experience, is useful for developing experiments and for organizing computational information, including skills such as several languages, good communication, as well as writing and so on.  I could fill this page with all the characteristics, skills, aptitudes, and attitudes that make up a good scientist today. This great change in the last 250 years in human development has generated and will continue to generate a constant and heavy stress on today’s students of science, especially, in my opinion, those of physics.

Physics is the science that mixes with all of them to a greater extent. For thousands of years it was only mixed with mathematics, but as things progressed over time, physics became the most interconnected science of all, being then the deepest, in the sense that it always seeks the great questions of existence and the primordial rules of the cosmic dance. Therefore, the physicist has to study not only physics and mathematics, but in general a bit of each of the basic sciences, since physics applies directly to the others. Of course, we are talking about the “good scientist”, that is, the most demanded physicist in the scientific market.

And so…?

The group of ideas raised previously, makes it clear to us the problem and the main reasons why the science student does not feel very comfortable with science. Even in the classes the teachers demand us as if we had all the free time to do their homework and practices, they falsely think that we do not make an effort to learn. Knowledge and technology advance faster than the human understanding of how it advances. It is heavy having to learn about something while at the same time moving forward. It even takes away the desire to continue learning about it, giving us bitter feelings for not being able to keep up with the progress.

Humanity has reached a point where it is not keeping up with the exponential growth process of science/technology, and only a few people can bear the weight of so much.

In order to cope with the rapid changes in the modern world, it is necessary to specialize in one of the many areas or, master’s degrees, specialties, doctorates… We must leave behind the idea of ​​being a scientist and focus on being a scientist with a last name. The problem with this is that many do not know what their specialty as a scientist would be and then discover over time what their most specific vocation would be. Thus, in this way, we avoid trying to fill our memories with unnecessary information and only study the parts of science that we are going to investigate or teach. It is good and I strongly advise you to take your time to analyze the question: what do I want to be at the end of the road? Having an unstable beginning with doubts is totally normal, so take the time to get to know yourself, just as the universe changes, the human changes twice. That’s why when you are making a decision, you shouldn’t feel bad or blame yourself for making another or changing it, that is, again, totally normal. The important thing is to stop and continue. Change is natural, just as the water that falls in my shower is not the same as yesterday, the man who is taking a bath is not the same as yesterday.

“You do what you are; one becomes what one does.” Robert Musil

Interviews jIAPS

Interview with Marisol Castellanos and Anna Christoforidou

The jIAPS Editor-in-Chief is continuing to interview the 2022-23 EC – they have nearly reached the end, both in terms of the EC members to be interviewed and of their time as jIAPS Editor-in-Chief! This time, we have combined two interviews into one so you get two-for-the-price-of-one. Enjoy reading the interview.

What are you currently studying?
Anna (IAPS Outreach Officer): I’m currently in my last year of Bachelor studies at the Physics Department of the University of Athens. My special interests include (but are not limited to) Photonics, Plasmonics and Biophysics. My thesis on Computational Electromagnetics is titled: ‘A Comparative FDTD/Analytical Theory Study of EM Wave Propagation in Dielectric, ENZ and Plasmonic Media’.
Marisol (IAPS PR Manager): I finished my Bachelor degree of physics at the Physics Department of the University of San Carlos de Guatemala. My main interests are Complex systems, Biophysics and Computational Neuroscience.

What does your role involve?
Marisol: The PR manager is responsible for overseeing the outward look of the association, managing its public voice and promoting important information to the members. They actively manage social media and run advertising campaigns on different topics, while promoting inclusivity. Additionally, they handle the creation, design, and distribution of advertising materials such as flyers and brochures. They also manage the merchandise store. They work closely with jIAPS to publish the IAPS magazine annually and support the IT manager in website management.
Anna: Apart from organizing and supervising School Day and IDL activities/events as well as reviewing and approving the outreach grant proposals, the role of the outreach manager is being unfolded mostly behind the scenes. Having weekly meetings with various associations, organizations and outreach initiative projects, takes up most of my time as an outreach manager. The goal is to get to know people in the outreach fields, connect them with IAPS and brainstorm accordingly to create collaborative projects. So even if 20-30% of those meetings turn out to become a direct outreach project, all of them are a different learning experience.

What is your favorite part of your role?
Anna: The aforementioned meetings are definitely my favorite part of my role. More specifically, getting to know and interact with different personalities with a common passion for outreach. One of the most emotional experiences was getting to know the Pakistanee Professors Dr. Anisa Qamar and her colleagues, who are organizing the International Young Physicist Tournament (IYPT) 2023 for the first time in Pakistan. These women are real fighters in the science communication field against all obstacles, they truly inspired me. Another example that comes immediately to mind, is the opportunity to connect with Dr. Pranoti Kshirsagar and The Science Talk project. A YouTube channel owner, podcast creator, invited speaker to conferences and workshops, scientific blogger and of course an active researcher, she does most of her work voluntarily with the goal of helping fellow scientists communicate their work better. A humble and giving person to the core, Pranoti has become a mentor to me, we are having meetings regularly and the collaborative ideas are many to date.
Marisol: My favorite part was being able to express the message we wanted to convey in each post or activity through art and design. Art is a voice that doesn’t need to speak. I enjoyed including everyone, and that was reflected in the posts and campaigns we created, such as Women in Physics.

Can you give one top tip for applying to become part of the EC?
Anna: Give as much thought to your letter of candidacy as to your CV. A strong CV is nothing if not supported by an organized and realistic letter of candidacy.
Marisol: One top tip for applying to become part of the EC is to demonstrate your passion and commitment to the organization’s mission and goals. Being genuinely passionate about the organization and its mission will make you stand out as a dedicated and enthusiastic candidate. It will also show that you are genuinely interested in making a positive impact and contributing to the organization’s growth and success

Which part of IAPS do you enjoy the most?
Anna: Getting to travel and meet people with similar interests, all around the world.
Marisol: Sharing with different people and cultures which have similar interests but different perspectives. Besides, go to events and meet amazing people with whom you create networking.

What’s it like being on the EC?
Anna: Being part of the EC is first and foremost way more time consuming than I imagined. But I am really grateful that even though I became a member in the middle of the year, I was immediately welcomed by the other guys that helped me adjust to the workload and the EC routine procedures. I truly believe that the EC experience is directly dependent on and changes according to the people that constitute it.
Marisol: What I liked the most about being on the EC was the diversity of people and cultures I encountered. Each of them taught me valuable lessons that helped me grow both professionally and personally. Despite the challenges we faced, it taught me to work as a team and improved my skills.

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of joining IAPS?
Anna: Do not even think about it. I am a firm believer that one should seize every opportunity that comes their way. Any physicist can find or create something around their interests in IAPS.
Marisol: Be honest and clear with your goals, and assess if you have the necessary time to perform the role adequately. Enjoy the constant learning.

How do you prefer spending your summer?
Anna: A kind of childish literature book at a nice, calm beach in Crete (the biggest island of Greece, where I am from).
Marisol: I enjoy climbing volcanoes or mountains. I love watching the sunset, listening to the ocean waves, and appreciating nature. I also meditate and go cycling.

IAPS 2022-2023 jIAPS

jIAPS Creative Contest 2023 Runners Up

Michaelson Drawing Category

Supernova in the Sky by Anika Goel, University of Kansas

Indian-born artist and scientist, Anika Goel is a fourth year undergraduate senior at The University of Kansas, completing a double major in Visual Arts and Astronomy with a minor in Art History. Having a strong background in fine arts, Anika enjoys exploring the unseen colors of nature hidden behind the seen matter through a surrealist composition in their work. Being an astronomer, Anika also likes to portray their curiosity for the abstract essence of the universe in their multimedia works. 

My artworks are meant to be perceived by the subconscious. One of the ways I achieve this in my work is to highlight the colors found in nature and the universe. For a large majority of people, including myself, space is the ultimate escape, it is explored out of pure enjoyment and curiosity, and thus provides for an excellent all-encompassing medium to hold the weight of the complex human heart. It brings an element of surrealism to my artwork which ties it closer to being a dreamy complexity. 
Supernova in the Sky, 9in x 12 in, Collagraph on Paper is a piece of work that invites the viewers to learn and admire astronomical phenomena beyond the Earth. A supernova is a giant catastrophic explosion which destroys a star at the end of its massive life. An eruption so colossal that even a naked eye could spot one happening millions of miles away.  In the summer of 2022, I got the opportunity to intern for the Space telescope Science Institute and I worked on the spectroscopy of type 1bn supernova 2020nxt. This experience really brought out my admiration for these objects and since then I have been using them more often in my artworks.

Giovanna Truong, Yale University

Sabato Writing Category

Ethan Kimelheim, University of Delaware

We Make Time = We Make Space
‘How is it that a person can run out of space
Space we know is an endless place
Minkowski proposed that space and time are the same
And this theory of space-time reflects our cosmic domain
If the saying “we make time” has any traction
We cannot ignore a transitive action
So if we can make time, we can also make space
And thus, we cannot run out of space in this case’

Bhavya Pardasani, University of Illinois


this is the story of my play date, 

a millennium long date  

it was a starry void  

(only you know if it was day/night)  

when i heard the final call

“it. moon you’re the keplerfully 

play date of it. earth.”  

i wanted to whine, deliver  

a few centuries short rant  

about our universal  

ancestors playing cupid with 

a nanosecond-old but your greenish 

blues had captured me from  

first sight 

my world’s been revolving  

around you since my embryo  

days. anyway i swirl  

anyway i twirl, my craterous  

eyes only have you  

in my north-south 

east-west sight.  

your children use me 

to serenade their lovers,  

and here i revolve  

elliptically in and out  

of your hindsight  

i have seen you wax,  

seen you wane,  

sometimes gibbous,  

sometimes crescent.  

but when you are new  

your beauty astounds me.  

(you might have donned  

the invisibility cloak  

but your children  

meander around like  

fireflies that crave  

my whole attention)  

then why am i known  

as the white orb full  

of craters, and a thief  

that shines brightly  

on your crush’s  

borrowed light?

despite my existence  

you have been having  

play dates with it.sun 

(who is an eight-timing  

bastard with no shade).  

i have been your loyal  

revolver since millenniums,  

then why is it.sun  

the center of your universe?  

why do i feel like the third  

ball in this elliptical love  

triangle? am i even good  

enough to be a hindrance  

in your play dates  

with your crush?  

Maybe i am meant  

to be the pasty white  

weirdo with big dark  

zits (i’m in my teenage,  

what did you expect?)  

who comes out at night  

to pervertedly say  


Huygens Photos Category

Zhiwei Huang, University of Surrey

The photograph captures the beauty of sunflower oil droplets stabilised by Tween 20 in water. The striking contrast between the yellow and grey droplets is particularly eye-catching. The yellow droplets, which are sunflower oil dyed with beta-carotene, stand out against the background and add a vibrant pop of colour to the image. In contrast, the grey droplets are undyed sunflower oil, adding depth and interest to the composition. Overall, this image perfectly captures the technical aspect of the process and the beauty of the final product.

Schrödinger Category

Sophie Gresty, University of Liverpool

Lego art. Image of ATLAS event with 4 pileup vertices in 7 TeV collision made out of Lego, for wall art (65cm by 104cm).

Lydia Dixon, University of Surrey

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Misc.-Runner-up-Lydia-Dixon-University-of-Surrey-UK-ii-624x1024.jpg

Crochet blanket containing key words from Lydia’s placement year.

IAPS 2022-2023 jIAPS

jIAPS Creative Contest 2023 Winners

Congratulations to the winners of this year’s jIAPS Creative Contest. We received so many fantastic entries that the judges had a difficult decision choosing the winners. Some of the prizes to the jIAPS Creative Contest this year were generously provided by Prof. Jim Al-Khalili. You can see the winning entries below.

Michaelson Drawing Category

Darina Öö, King’s College London

Read the whole comic strip here.

Sabato Writing Category

Mackenzie Tigwell, McMaster University

Read the whole book here.

Huygens Photos Category

Jan (Jack) Beda, University of Edinburgh

Photograph taken on a phone with a polariser in front of the camera. Shows a set of scotch tape layered on top of one another and placed in front of a computer displaying a white background. The computer acts as the first polariser, the second polariser is in front of the camera. Black dots visible in the middle and top right of the image are pieces of my black table that got caught up in the tape when I was putting it together.

Find a video of the polarised light here.

Schrödinger Category

Darina Öö and Priyanka Jorge, King’s College London

Find the winning music video here.

IAPS 2022-2023 jIAPS

jIAPS August Article of the Month – Searching for the Invisible: New Dark Matter Detector Unveiled

Author: Darina Öö, King’s College London, UK

With the capability to detect elusive dark matter particles, the newly developed detector, as tall as Big Ben, marks a potentially significant milestone in the search to understand the mysterious nature of the universe.

Dark matter is one of the biggest mysteries of the Universe. Astronomers have been trying to understand it for decades. They’ve figured out how many stars and how much gas there is by measuring the radiation they give off; but when they calculate the gravity of stars, galaxies, and galaxy clusters, the numbers just don’t add up. They’re too massive.

So, what’s wrong? Well, there are two ways to look at this. One is to say that there’s matter in the Universe that we can’t see with our telescopes (which is referred to as dark matter). The other is to change our understanding of gravity. Most experts choose the first option. And who can blame them?

Rewriting the laws of physics is no easy feat. Plus, every time scientists try to explain one observation with a new law of gravity, they end up contradicting another. So, the idea that there’s some invisible matter out there seems like the better choice.

Most astronomers assume the existence of dark matter. What does it consist of? Could it be objects common to the cosmos, too dim for our telescopes? Black holes, brown dwarfs, something like that… Undoubtedly, they also contribute to the invisible matter of the Universe; except that there is five times as much dark matter as ordinary matter (1).

We know something about the eras when the first atomic nuclei and atoms were formed; and based on this knowledge, there simply cannot be as many atomic nuclei in a cubic parsec today as the dark matter requires.
True, these calculations are not completely reliable. There are some rough edges there that you can grab if you want to. Astronomers do not dismiss the possibility that it is not dark matter that is fundamentally invisible, and that our telescopes are not sensitive enough.

But what if the preachers of cosmology are right, and dark matter does not consist of atoms or nuclei? Then we’d have to admit that it’s made up of some other particles.

Figure One: An artist’s illustration of different dark matter candidates (2).

Physicists have a number of candidates for this role, see Figure 1. In their attempts to go beyond the Standard Model, theorists have accumulated a whole zoo of particles that may exist, but they are not certain.

Imagine that space is literally swarming with invisible particles. They pass through our bodies in an endless, huge stream.
Why don’t we notice this? Because these particles almost never collide with atomic nuclei or electrons. And only very sensitive detectors, specially designed for this purpose, can register them.
Well, it might be that they are no longer science fiction…

The AION (The Atom Interferometric Observatory and Network) detector, see Figure 2, is designed to detect such dark matter candidates – ultra-light bosons with a sub-eV mass such as dilatons, moduli, relaxions, as well as axions (3-4).

Figure Two: Official logo of the AION project (5).

AION’s proposed solution is a next-generation atom interferometer that employs the superposition and interference of ultra-cold strontium atoms, the same used in state-of-the-art atomic clocks (4).
However, such particles interact weakly and for them to enter into such interaction with an atom, it must literally crash head-on into the atomic nucleus. This is an extremely unlikely event, but these are the very rare cases that AION is designed to catch.

According to the New York Times: “The best way to shift the odds, as well as seek out a wider range of potential particles, is to make the equipment bigger.” And AION takes this to a whole new level (6).
The first stage of the project is to build and commission a 10m detector and develop the technology for a 100m detector located in a mine shaft (4). Just imagine a detector the size of Big Ben underground! The ultimate objectives would be a full-scale terrestrial kilo-meter detector and a satellite-based detector (3).

1. Cooke, M. (no date) Doe explains…dark matter, Department of Energy’s Office of Science . Available at: (Accessed: April 17, 2023).

2. Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova. Four things you might not know about dark matter [Internet]. symmetry magazine. [cited 2023Mar7]. Available from:

3. An Atom Interferometer Observatory and Network (AION) [Internet]. Aion @ imperial: Home. [cited 2023Mar7]. Available from:

4. Badurina L, Bentine E, Blas D, Bongs K, Bortoletto D, Bowcock T, et al. IOPscience [Internet]. Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics. IOP Publishing; 2020 [cited 2023Mar7]. Available from:
cernblind. CERN accelerating science [Internet].

5. The AION Logo | Drush Site-Install. 2022 [cited 2023Mar7]. Available from:

6. Whipple T. Scientists seek enlightenment in the deepest, Darkest mine [Internet]. The Times & The Sunday Times: breaking news & today’s latest headlines. The Times; 2022 [cited 2023Mar7]. Available from:

IAPS 2022-2023 Interviews jIAPS

An Interview with Mario Gaimann, the IAPS Treasurer

For the latest in the series of jIAPS Interviews, the jIAPS Editor-in-Chief interviewed the IAPS Treasurer. Mario is studying for a PhD at the University of Stuttgart and the International Max Planck Research School for Intelligent Systems (IMPRS-IS).

Interspersed with IAPS tales and discussions about the jIAPS Photo Competitions, Mario answered the following questions: 

Why did you decide to do a doctorate?

I chose to do a PhD because I wanted to dive deeply into an interdisciplinary scientific topic. My project is on physics-inspired machine learning; the method is called reservoir computing. It can be used to perform time-series prediction tasks, even for cases where a prediction is very difficult to make – for example for chaotic systems, like the Lorenz attractor. For an introduction, I recommend this article in Quanta Magazine. The core of my work is replacing a neural network reservoir with simulations of physical systems. This way, we can understand the learning system in physical terms, tune it, connect its physical characteristics with its learning behavior, and potentially construct novel devices for unconventional computing in the future.

I started by studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Materials Physics at Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany. Then I studied for a Masters’s degree in Physics (with a focus on biophysics) at the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich, Germany. So I started by studying dead matter, then went on to studying living matter, and now I’m studying what makes matter “intelligent.”

What’s your favourite thing about IAPS?

Meeting people from different countries and cultures; going abroad and talking to new people… My IAPS addiction began in 2016, when I attended Lights of Tuscany and visited Pisa and Florence. I met physics students from Italy and other countries. I enjoyed being part of the community. That’s what I like about IAPS.

What are some of your IAPS memories?

When I was studying in the UK, I went to iaps4fusion, which was really cool. We visited the Culham Centre for Fusion and saw the tokamak. Then I attended ICPS in Turin, Italy – ICPS is cool and crazy! [Please ask Mario for his ICPS anecdotes, we’re not recording them here! – Editor] And bringing so many physics students to Munich, Germany through contributing to PLANCKS 2022 was truly amazing.

Why did you decide to apply to become IAPS Treasurer?

I have an interest in financing student events. It started with PLANCKS 2022 in Munich – Monique Honsa asked if I’d be interested in joining the organising team. I didn’t have much experience in finances then, though I’d co-organised some events, e.g. the DPG-Schülertagung (a national conference organized by physics students for high school students) in Germany in 2020. Through volunteering, I gained lots of experience: designing the budget, contacting sponsors, working in an international team, and learning about legal and fiscal details of association law in Germany and France.  

And when did I meet Cyrus [the current IAPS President – Editor] and how does that come into this story? Well, like me he was part of the committee which organised PLANCKS 2022. He was thinking of running for IAPS President and asked me if I’d consider joining the EC. Initially I wasn’t sure… I mean, it’s lots of work. In the end, I decided: let’s do it! 

For me, IAPS is not just some hobby. It’s about being professional and absolutely reliable, representing international physics students and always acting in the interest of our members. 

What can IAPS members request funding for, and how do they do this?

There are currently two grants available. First, you can apply for a grant to run an international event for IAPS members. At least 40% of the participants should be from a different country than the host country. IAPS can award grants of up to €1000, with the grant funding no more than half of the total budget. The international event can be anything from a summer school, to excursions, workshops or an iaps4x event: iaps4materials, iaps4fusion… You just have to present your budget, draft your programme and plan how many students you want to attend your event. 

You can find more details about how to apply here.

The other grant is for Outreach activities. For example, the School Day annual event, where you can receive funding to go into high schools and tell school children about physics, and do experiments; or the school children can visit your university. There’s also the International Day of Light, or you can come up with your own idea and receive funding for currently up to €300. 

I also encourage members to apply together with IAPS for an International Activity grant with the Council of Europe’s European Youth Foundation (EYF), please contact me (or future IAPS treasurers) if you are interested.

What’s the strangest thing someone has requested money for?

As surprising as it may be, we’ve only received requests for solid, sensible things this year… All I can think of is that at PLANCKS 2023, someone came up to me and said that they’d heard that IAPS has the funds to pay for their private travel after PLANCKS had finished. I don’t know where they got the idea from, but I thought they seemed serious, though it sounded like a joke. Our budget is limited in IAPS and will only be spent in the interest of our members! I had to decline their request of course. 

[Editor – I also overheard conversations at PLANCKS with people asking IAPS Treasurer whether he could fund their dinner and drinks and other things, but let’s not go into that… ] 

What advice would you give to someone who was thinking of joining IAPS?

Just do it! 

All you need to create IAPS events in your area are some physics friends, then you can form a local committee. You could organise small talks. In my local groups in NC Germany, we had events where you had a quiz-show style ‘answer questions against your professors’.

Be active, go to IAPS events! If there are no events, create events!

To get started you don’t need much; you just need motivated, engaged students, ideally with an international perspective. And of course you can also join IAPS as an individual.

What skills do you need to be the IAPS Treasurer?

Being IAPS Treasurer… What is takes a sense of responsibility. You have to be professional and have a true commitment to the role. It has happened in the past that a Treasurer has not been reliable and it has horrible consequences for the whole organisation; so I would say: if you do it, do it properly. 

It is quite some work, but there are so many benefits to being Treasurer of IAPS – you get to contact lots of people. You have some influence in shaping the spending of IAPS (within what has been approved at the AGM and in the end, the whole EC has to vote… but your opinion matters. If you say ‘no, we don’t have the budget’, people will listen to you). 

You get to go to some cool meetings – for example, I recently attended the Mid-Term Meeting 2023 of the International Science Council in Paris and got to meet representatives of so many international associations. You get to represent IAPS and have a lot of fun. I focused on potential partners who could support IAPS and on connecting with organizations in the Asia-Pacific region to make the ICPS 2023 in the Philippines more known. But I also met people from international associations I had never heard of: the International Union For Quaternary Research, which is about studying the ice age, the International Union of Speleology, an international body for caving… People you’d never meet, you can meet through IAPS. 

Any last words?

IAPS has a great network – you have friends in the whole world. If you need help applying for an internship or a placement, you can ask on the IAPS Discord and people answer you and provide support. The benefits are infinite! 

For only €10 a year, you can become a full member – join IAPS now! [You can check whether your country has a national or local committee on the IAPS website, and you can  join the IAPS Discord for free – Editor]