Sticky Milk Powder

Earlier this week, we had the end-of-year display of student engineering projects. There were lots of posters put up to browse around over tea, several interesting large objects such as pieces of electric cars, and many fascinating talks given by the students. One of the most enjoyable talks was given by student Timothy Walmsley, concerning a study on […]

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How fictional is fiction?

Having watched The Prestige on Sunday night I feel that there should be lots of bloggable material in it, but I can’t quite put my finger on anything. For those who haven’t seen it, or read the book, it concerns a couple of rival magicians who are obsessed with out-doing each other and pulling off […]

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Lithium

Those who saw last night’s report on TV One about the lithium reserves in Bolivia might be forgiven for thinking that this is a magic new energy source that the Bolivian president is sitting on. Describing it as ‘the new oil’ is somewhat misleading. The application at hand is of course lithium ion batteries, which […]

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Engine oil and lubrication

We have a couple of cars that are beginning to age, and with that do things like breakdown occasionally and go through oil.  That an engine can survive 200 000 km quite happily is to a large extent down to the lubrication.  Just a few quick calculations can give the scale of the problem the […]

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Quarks Galore

Here’s a nice example of some particle physics from the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. http://lhcb-public.web.cern.ch/lhcb-public/Images_2010/BsDsMuNu.png (taken from the LHCb news page at http://lhcb-public.web.cern.ch/lhcb-public/ ) The picture shows an unfortunately-named Bs particle (for Beauty Strange), produced as a result of a 7 TeV proton-proton collision. This particle doesn’t live long; it decays into a Ds+ […]

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Things that don’t like water

So, my class of students (well, at least one of them) have done the calculations and think that a centimetre of water is enough to shield a mobile phone from communicating with the nearest mast.  Only one way to find out.  I’ll bring along a bucket, lots of glad wrap and waterproofing materials to tomorrow’s […]

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Simple Machines

There’s a lot to do while driving.   Look at the road – watch the speedo (98 kmh – OK there), watch the road – look in mirrors – check fuel gauge (half – OK there) – watch road – watch that car at the intersection ahead – check temperature gauge (where it should be) – […]

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Transformers

One of the likely candidates for the recent explosion at the Sayano Shushenskaya hydro-electric plant in Russia is a transformer. But what is a transformer, and why might one explode? Transformers are an ubiquitous part of our electricity generation and distribution network. Their job is essentially to transform an electricity supply from one voltage to […]

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