ET home phone

This month’s feature article in PhysicsWorld is a plea by well-known science (particularly physics) writer Paul Davies to relaunch (or rather, expand) the search for extra-terrestrial life.  The Search For Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) has been around for nearly fifty years, focusing on analyzing data from radio telescopes.  But Paul Davies thinks there are other places […]

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Tectonic Plates and Angular Momentum

As we know, the earth spins on its axis once every twenty four hours.  (Well, actually it doesn’t, but we’ll leave aside the difference between solar and sidereal days for the purpose of this entry).  The spinning earth posses something we physicists call angular momentum.   It is the ‘spinning’ version of linear momentum;  the latter […]

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Dark Matter and statistics

While I was on holiday, news broke (e.g. see the piece in The Guardian) about the possible detection of WIMPs.  Weakly Interacting Massive Particles are what many physicists think makes up ‘dark matter’.  (What is dark matter? – basically, if you analyse the way galaxies move, you discover that the amount of matter you can ‘see’ […]

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Climate change

I feel that, as a physicist, I should be making some reasonable and informed comment on the Copenhagen summit. After all, climate is immensely physicsy. We have fluid flow, conduction, convection and radiation of heat, interaction of electromagnetic radiation with electrons in molecules, scattering of light by small particles, solar activity (on second thoughts, scrub […]

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The final frontier

New Zealand is, hopefully, just a few days away from becoming a space-nation. The private company Rocket Lab  (what a great name – I like names that describe what a business actually does) aims to put up its Atea-1 rocket from Great Mercury Island sometime around November 30th. The payload will reach an altitude of […]

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Gravitational Waves

One of my undergraduate students has been researching gravitational waves this year. Last Friday, he gave a nice presentation on the subject. Gravitational waves are one of the many examples of waves in physics. We are perhaps more used to waves on the surface of water, or waves along a guitar string, or electromagnetic waves […]

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Everything’s relative

What does ‘big’ mean? How big does something have to be in order to reasonably carry that adjective? The answer, of course, is ‘it depends’. For example, I am pretty tall. But after standing next to someone much taller than me on a tram last week, I realise that maybe I am not so tall after all. I […]

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