U.S. physics prize won by COSMOS writer

Dan Falk, a Canadian science writer, has won the American Institute of Physics’ prestigious Science Writing Award for a cover story in the Australian science magazine COSMOS.

Falk, a writer, broadcaster and author based in Toronto, won the 2009 trophy for his feature article “End of days: a universe in ruins”, which was published in COSMOS magazine in August 2008. Bringing to bear some of the latest research in astrophysics and cosmology, the article examines the long-term fate of our solar system, the universe, and life itself.

He spells out a distant future for our cosmic habitat, examining the long-term fate of our Solar System, the universe, and life itself. “End of Days” stares into a frozen, featureless cosmic void of the far, far future and asks whether the final apocalypse will arrive with a whimper or a bang. To some, the answer may appear even bleaker than could have been imagined – a universe destined to expand forever and doomed to drift into an endless eternal prison of cold and darkness.

The Institute said that what makes Falk’s story so compelling is not just his look into this looming abyss but his treatment of the creative human imagination that can conceive of it in the first place.

“[It] is quite impressive that with our finite hominid brains we have been able to peer so far ahead, with at least some degree of confidence,” Falk said. “It is also rather intriguing that the fate of the universe billions upon billions of years from now is actually clearer to us that the fate of our own civilisation just a few centuries ahead.”

It is the 35th award COSMOS has received in its remarkable five year history, adding to the 2009 Magazine of he Year crown taken at the Publishers Australia annual Bell Awards for Publishing Excellence, and the 2009 Earth Journalism Award at the United Nations climate change talks in Copenhagen.

The AIP award for Falk was among the three winning entries in the 2009 Science Communication Awards announced at a ceremony in Washington DC. The winning authors each win prizes of US$3,000, as well as engraved Windsor chairs and certificates of recognition.

“These outstanding science communicators have each improved the general public’s appreciation of physics, astronomy, and related sciences through their wonderfully creative endeavours,” says Catherine O’Riordan, American Institute of Physics Vice President, Physics Resources. “We are pleased to be able to recognise such excellent work.”

The other winners and their award-winning pieces are:

Producer/director David Dugan, a British filmmaker; and screenwriter Tom Shachtman, an author, filmmaker and educator, are the winners of the2009 AIP Science Communication Award in the Broadcast Category for their two-part NOVA documentary, Absolute Zero which was produced for the U.S. public broadcaster PBS by Windfall Films in London in collaboration with Meridian Productions in Washington DC. Absolute Zero was broadcast on PBS stations in 2008, the program takes the viewers on an extraordinary historical journey in which the secrets of cold are teased apart and mastered.

Cora Lee and Gilliam O’Reilly, writers based respectively in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, have won the 2009 AIP Science Communication Award in the Children’s Category for their book The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places (Annick Press, 2007). The story focuses on math-loving Sam, who sets out to prove that life isn’t half as fun without mathematics by taking the reader through logical proof, introducing mathematician heroes, and wrestling with strange ideas such as never-ending numbers and dogs doing calculus.

The winning COSMOS story can be found at http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/features/print/2270/end-days-a-universe-ruins

*About COSMOS* COSMOS is Australia’s #1 science media brand: the country’s biggest-selling science magazine, highest-rating daily online science news site and weekly email newsletter. Published in Sydney and with a global outlook, it has taken out 35 awards in less than five years, including Magazine of the Year in 2009 and 2006 at Australia’s annual Bell Awards for Publishing Excellence. Its advisory board includes Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, and it was founded by the successful Melbourne neuroscientist and entrepreneur, and now Chancellor of Monash University, Dr Alan Finkel.

*About the American Institute of Physics* The American Institute of Physics is a federation of 10 physical science societies representing more than 135,000 scientists, engineers, and educators and is one of the world’s largest publishers of scientific information in physics. The AIP Science Writing Awards aim to promote effective science communication in print and broadcast media in order to improve the general public’s appreciation of physics, astronomy, and allied science fields.

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