How big is an atom?

I started back at work on Monday thinking that it would be a nice, peaceful day, with no-one else around on campus. Surely, on a beautiful, sunny, 6th January, the entire of Hamilton except for myself would be on the beach at Raglan. Wow, was I mistaken. The campus was buzzing with activity and there […]

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Experimental physics is easy on paper

Currently, down in the depths of C-building, there’s a master’s student trying to carry out the Stern-Gerlach experiment. (and also here). This is one of the classic experiments in quantum mechanics – specifically demonstrating the quantisation of angular momentum. If you look at the text books, it’s simple enough. Pass a beam of atoms through […]

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The varied world of physics

It was a very interesting day at the NZ Institute of Physics conference. I learned about some of the physics experiments done at the South Pole, how to trap, observe and count atoms (and that high school physics teachers who tell their students that you can’t see atoms need to update their knowledge), some results […]

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Piezoelectricity

I went to a very informative seminar this morning by Peter Pott, of the Technical University, Darmstadt, Germany. He gave a very nice introduction to the world of piezoelectric devices. In short, a piezoelectric thing is something that acquires a voltage across it when it is squeezed, stretched, sheared, etc. They can be used as […]

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DNA sequencing in one easy step?

DNA Sequencing has been around for a while now. It’s success is down to a wonderfully unlikely collaboration between molecular biology and computer science. Basically, in simple terms (apologies to molecular biologists if I get this wrong – feel free to correct me) to sequence your genome, you take your DNA, chop it into bits, replicate […]

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Wallpaper lattice confusion

I got home from work last night to discover the decorator still hard at work, putting up the ‘feature’ wallpaper on one fairly small section of wall. He said he’d been struggling for the last hour trying to find the repeat in the pattern. It’s a dark paper, with detailed but low-contrast outlines of flowers in […]

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