Physics World Digest August 2004: Eye surgery sharpens up

August 04, 2004

Eye surgery sharpens up

Physicists have devised a new way to map the cornea that could improve the accuracy of laser eye surgery. The shape and thickness of the cornea are vital pieces of information for surgeons, who need to alter permanently this transparent membrane to ensure that light is sharply focused on the retina. The information is currently obtained by reflecting a narrow strip of light that is shone into the patient's eye. The new technique, developed by José Almeida, Sandra Franco and colleagues at the University of Minho in Portugal, uses two fixed CCD cameras to collect the reflected light, rather than using a single fixed or rotating camera. The researchers claim that their technique can measure the thickness of the cornea along any axis and should eventually be able to map the cornea over 100 times faster than conventional methods. The speed of corneal scans is crucial because the eye makes rapid, involuntary movements that can lead to inaccuracies in the measurements if it is not measured quickly enough.
Contact: Sandra Franco, Department of Physics, University of Minho, Portugal (tel. +35 1253 604067; fax +35 1253 678981; e-mail

The future of nanotechnology

Following last week's report from the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering into nanotechnology, Physics World publishes the views of two physicists on the subject. John Ryan from Oxford University - who was a member of the panel that wrote the report - insists that physicists must do a much better job in communicating their work to the public. He also calls on the government to make the science minister a full member of the cabinet. Meanwhile, Richard Jones from Sheffield University - author of the new popular-science book Soft Machines: Nanotechnology and Life - examines what we really mean by "nanotechnology" and describes how "radical nanotechnology" aims to create sophisticated nano-scale machines that can operate with atomic precision. He also looks at how scientists can achieve this goal, and concludes that biology will provide us with the answers.
Contact: John Ryan, Director, Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Bionanotechnology, Oxford University, UK (tel. +44 (0)1865 272226; fax +44 (0)1865 272306; e-mail
Contact: Richard Jones, Department of Physics, Sheffield University, UK (tel. +44 (0)114 222 4530; fax +44 (0)114 272 8079; e-mail

Physicist tracks down ancient temple

A Jewish physicist born in Scotland controversially claims to have solved a problem that has puzzled archaeologists and scholars for centuries by locating the site of the Second Temple in the Old City of Jerusalem. Asher Kaufman, emeritus professor of physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, believes that the temple, which was at the centre of worship and national identity in ancient Israel, lies 100 metres north-west of the Muslims' Dome of the Rock mosque in modern Jerusalem. Kaufman admits that his methods - which are based on the alignment and dimensions of objects in the Temple area - are unconventional. But his theory is not the only one on the market: other archaeologists claim that the temples were located at the dome or to the south. Kaufman's book The Temple Mount: Where is the Holy of Holies? is published by Rubin Mass.

Contact: Asher Kaufman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel (fax +972 2 642 1726)

Also in this issue:

Notes for editors:

1. Physics World is the international monthly magazine published by the Institute of Physics. For further information or details of its editorial programme please contact the editor, Dr Peter Rodgers on +44 (0)117 930 1007. The magazine's Website is updated regularly and contains physics news, jobs and resources. Visit

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- Scientific publishing and electronic dissemination of physics;
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