Physics news round-up: A-level results and lasers
Better teaching sends science A-levels to a new high
There has been a continued increase in the number of students taking A-level science and maths subjects – up on average by 3% on last year. It is thought the increase in uptake is down to initiatives such as the IOP’s Stimulating Physics Network and the MEI’s Further Mathematics Support Program.
Boom in A-level sciences continues
This year, 34,500 students sat physics A level, up from 27,000 in 2006. One possible reason for this is the work put in by several scientific institutions to reverse a decade-long decline in numbers: the Institute of Physics (IOP) has been working in selected schools to help the teachers who are filling the gap. In the schools that are part of its scheme, there has been a 30 per cent increase in uptake of the subject. Charles Tracy is quoted.
A-level figures for science subjects: could do much better
Athene Donald, chair of the Royal Society’s Education Committee, says that while the increasing numbers of students taking A-level physics is encouraging, it is worrying that 22% of schools still do not enter a single candidate onto the course. Donald is also alarmed by the gender gap in physics, even though it has marginally decreased this year, and other diversity issues such as disability, ethnicity and socio-economic status, of which there isn’t much information to analyse.
‘Maser’ source of microwave beams comes out of the cold
Researchers have shown off a microwave-emitting version of the laser, called a maser, that works at room temperature. Masers were invented before the laser, but have languished in obscurity because they required high magnetic fields and difficult cooling schemes. A report in Nature outlines a far simpler version using a crystalline material and no cooling or magnets.