The nor’wester

Associated with the heating and cooling of contracting and expanding air, is the hot north-west wind that hits the east coast areas of New Zealand, particularly Canterbury.  This ‘Foehn’ wind occurs when a moisture-laden wind comes from across the Tasman Sea (i.e. from the north-west) and over the southern alps. As it does so, a number of effects […]

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Hot air rises

I was reminded while driving in to work this morning that we’re getting into hot air ballooning season in Hamilton – with a balloon hanging nicely over the road to district drivers like myself.  Flight with hot air balloons isn’t exactly rocket science – quite simply hot air is less dense than cold air, so hot […]

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Seeing underwater

I read a very short news snippet in Tuesday’s NZ Herald that said that a British nuclear submarine had collided with a French counterpart. Admittedly, the source quoted is ‘The Sun’ newspaper in the UK – which is not best known for its accuracy in reporting – but leaving that issue aside, you have got […]

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What’s your favourite planet?

In the magazine Physics World (on-line version here), produced by the UK Institute of Physics, I recently read a neat little article about physicists visiting primary schools. The essence was that young children can ask some pretty insightful questions, but also that they can see science in a different way to adults.  For example, the writer […]

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The illuminating analemma

The what?  No, the analemma isn’t some strange pet that Hagrid keeps well-chained in his hut, rather it’s something that many of us are familiar with, especially if you, like me, have trouble getting out of bed in the morning. It’s nearly two months since the longest day (21 December), but you may have noticed […]

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Space-Junk

You may have seen a snippet in the papers and on the internet a few days ago about two satellites having a mid-air (should that be mid-vacuum?) collision. What is surprising is that this doesn’t happen more often.  As Edwin Cartlidge reported recently, it is only 51 years since Sputnik was launched, and in that […]

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Kitchen Physics

The Baked Alaska is an experiment that is certainly worth doing at home. The idea is that you place a block of icecream on a sponge base, and then smother it in meringue (for those who have only ever bought a pavlova, that means well beaten (stiff) egg white, with sugar folded in, about 50 grammes […]

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B.B.Q. Salmonella

With summer comes the barbeque. And with the barbeque, all too often, comes food poisoning. As far as I can see there are two reasons for this: 1. Barbeques are almost always cooked by men.  This is a phenomenon that surely needs study by sociologists. At the first glimpse of summer, the man, who hasn’t […]

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Why Einstein?

Following from my brief comment last time about 2005 being Einstein year, I wonder if you, like me, have ever thought why it is that Einstein is so famous. I mean, just about everyone you will meet on the street will recognise a photo of Albert Einstein, but how many would recognise (say) Charles Darwin […]

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