Awards of Excellence




This week we draw your attention to one of the stranger approaches to teaching science that we've seen lately:Britney Spears's Guide to Semiconductor Physics. Honest. We're not kidding. This may be the only site where you can enter the mind of Lucky, a Britney song character, and vote on which semiconductor or telecommunications technology will fill the meaningless void in her angst-ridden adolescent life. (For what it's worth, perfection in the growth of high-quality GaInAsN is in the lead.)


And it is definitely the only site that mixes celebrity headshots and hairy equations in a unique melding of physique and physics. In the photo at right, for instance, Britney's neckline follows a parabolic function approximating the covalence band of electrons in a semiconductor, whereas other curves trace functions associated with the valence band. (The highest energy level in an atom that is still filled with electrons is, of course, the valence band, whereas the first unfilled level is the covalence band, involved in conductance.)

The image appears in a description of semiconductor basics, but many more crop up in additional tutorials on p-n junctions and heterostructures, radiative and nonradiative transitions, and edge-emitting lasers. In short, this silly site houses a lot of very serious material explaining the lasers that read Britney's CDs. Ms. Spears (and her clearly devoted fans in the Applied Physics Group at the University of Essex in England) should be proud.





POPULARISING your science may lead to a terminal loss of serious reputation. So why not go for broke--as have the authors of "Britney's Guide to Semiconductor Physics"? As you can read at, "It is a little known fact that Ms Spears is an expert in semiconductor physics. Not content with just singing, in the following pages, she will guide you in the fundamentals of the vital laser components that have made it possible to hear her super music in a digital format."

The guide isn't bad, either. Except that a colleague of Feedback's found it while researching the numbers of women involved in real scientific work on lasers--and sadly, the site tends to confirm the image of the field as dominated by heterosexual boys. Even so, Feedback looks forward to other expressions of the rich diversity of scientific sexuality in the "Sigourney Weaver Guide to Xenobiology" and the "Judy Garland Marine Engineering Manual".


MUSIC:                   review by Katherine Harvey

Britney Spears…she can certainly belt out a tune, but did you know that Britney also has an in depth understanding of semi-conductor physics? Well neither does she but they certainly do at

She’s got some great hits under her belt and some even greater ones under her jumper so it’s no surprise that there are thousands of Britney fan sites on the net. But this site has one important difference - physics. As expected from a fan site, you can assess the intelligence and wit of this great singer with a study of her lyrics. And you can stand in awe at her enormous collection of outfits in what must be one of the biggest online photo galleries I have ever seen.

But more importantly and what makes this site bizarrely unique is that you can understand the principles of semi-conductor physics with the help of the most famous virgin in pop. After all, where would we all be without the vital laser components necessary to hear her music in a digital format? Well we can only dream, but in the meantime you can study optoelectronics, photonic crystals and edge emitting lasers all illustrated by busty Britney. And if it gets a bit too highbrow for you, click back to the lyrics page where you’ll be guaranteed to feel intellectually superior. And if you can re-write one of her songs to include a scientific principle you stand a good chance of winning their competition, that’s if you can tear yourself away from her junctions, because apparently she’s got ion implantations.

Rating: 6/10