The scientific face of £50, Hubble’s law renamed and bake-off physics

The Bank of England has announced that a scientist will be the new face of the £50 note. The note currently features the steam-engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton. But the bank has now asked members of the public to put forward suggestions for the face of the new polymer version with the only criteria being that the scientist is British and not alive.

Some early frontrunners include Dorothy Hodgkin – the only British woman to win a science Nobel prize – as well as Rosalind Franklin, who was instrumental in decoding the structure of DNA. Taking to Twitter, however, the particle physicist and TV personality Brian Cox put his weight behind Stephen Hawking, who died in March. “[Hawking] made invaluable contributions over half a century to our understanding of cosmology, the early universe and black holes,” notes Cox. “He also inspired thousands of scientists and millions of people, me included, through his books and lectures.”

Nominations, which can be made here, will be open until 14 December. A committee will then create a shortlist before making a final decision next year. It is not known when the new note will enter circulation, but it will be released after the new polymer £20 note in 2020 that will feature the painter JMW Turner.

Moving on to astronomy. Members of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) have voted in favour of changing the name of Hubble’s law. It will now be called the Hubble-Lemaître law to honour the contribution of the Belgian astronomer Georges Lemaître.

Born in 1894, Lemaître was a Catholic priest who taught at the Catholic University of Leuven. He published a paper on the expanding universe in 1927 – two years before Hubble’s more thorough account was published. Lemaître’s original paper was in French but when it was translated to English in 1931 key parts were missed out meaning that his contribution was overlooked for years.

Of the 4060 astronomers that voted in the IAU’s ballot, 78% were in favour of the change. The IAU is responsible for naming planets and moons as well as overseeing astronomers’ catalogue of star names. Yet it has no official mandate over the names of laws, so whether the change will be widely implemented remains to be seen.

Finally, this year’s winner of the Great British Bake Off is optical engineer Rahul Mandal. He was crowned 2018 champion this week after a dramatic final, in which he had to restart the last challenge – to create an “edible landscape” – after a glass jar shattered, spraying shards across his workbench.

Mandal moved to the UK in 2010 from India to begin a PhD in optical metrology at Loughborough University. Since 2015, Mandal has been a research associate at the University of Sheffield’s Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre where he develops techniques to inspect components for contamination or flaws.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Mandal says that his baking is “quite sciency”. “I think baking is a science,” he adds. “It’s physics, chemistry and engineering.”

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