Zzzzzz

One of the best and worst duties of a scientist is to go to international conferences. It’s one of the best duties because you get to go overseas at relatively little cost to yourself (in my immediate case Adelaide) and enjoy lots of freebies (such as hotel swimming pools, shiraz, expenses-paid meals, more free pens than […]

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Beam me up…

Instead of enduring hours sitting at airports and in aeroplanes (complete with passengers in front of you who recline their seats forty-eight milliseconds after the fasten seatbelts sign goes out, grrrr), wouldn’t it be nice if Star Trek transporter technology actually existed. Just step onto the pad, select your destination (better check it carefully first), […]

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Traffic

I visited a company in Auckland yesterday, which involved negotiating the famous Auckland traffic. Now, I have to say that arriving in Auckland after the rush hour proved a very smart move, and we cruised to our destination without any fuss, but it got me thinking about traffic flow and physics.

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Water, water everywhere

Yesterday a very politely written letter arrived at the department, addressed to the physicists. I was curious as to what it was, and read it carefully all the way to the word ‘homeopathy’, at which time I began preparing a space for it in the ‘cranky letter’ folder of my filing cabinet. I will spare you […]

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Don’t try this at home

Have you ever sat in a lecture where an over-enthusiastic lecturer is waving his arms around excitedly, forgetting he is holding a laser pointer, and wondered what would happen if he accidently shone the beam into your eyes? Surely, you might think, the makers of laser pointers have anticipated such things. Well, last week I attended […]

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Magic pixies

The physics textbooks tell me that protons and neutrons are both made up of three quarks. These little things amuse me,  because no-one has actually ‘seen’ one. (By ‘seen’, I don’t literally mean seen visibly, but rather I mean some method by which a quark can be isolated and leave a tell-tale quark-signature in some way). […]

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Under pressure

I got some new taps for my kitchen yesterday. The boring technical specitications on that bit of paper marked ‘important – please read’ said ‘do not exceed a pressure of 800 kpa’.  Now, leaving aside the fact that it should be ‘kPa’ not ‘kpa’, that means 800 kilopascals. A pascal is the pressure caused by 1 […]

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The Large Hadron Collider

Last week I gave a talk on the Large Hadron Collider at the ‘cafe scientifique’ event in Hamilton. For those who don’t know what cafe scientifique is, the idea is that a scientist gets to discuss some science to an audience of the general public in a public friendly environment (which means a cafe). And […]

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