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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Reflections on reflections

My four-year old niece from Otago phoned her grandmother in Bay of Plenty: "Grandma, do you have reflections in the North Island?" "I think so dear, why?" "Well, find a spoon and have a look." Now, I think it most likely that niece was intruiged by the right-way-up / upside-down reflections from the convex and concave […]

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Power to the people

No, before you hit ‘close’, this isn’t anything to do with the election. Last Saturday, I walked up Mt Te Aroha. For those not familiar with this part of the country, Mt Te Aroha is part of the Kaimai range, and rises majestically 950 metres above the Hauraki Plains, about 50 km North-West of Hamilton. […]

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Newton in action

On the subject of luging, it is the perfect place to illustrate some physics. For those unfamiliar with the Skyline complex, the idea is you sit on a small cart and freewheel down a concrete path, negotiating the various bends inconveniently sited to slow your speed. Great fun, and lots of physics.

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