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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Hands on science

Yesterday we had a one-day symposium here at the University on ‘Science in the Public’ – we brought together nearly 30 people from across the country (OK – across the North Island to be precise), all of who were involved in science communication in some manner.  It was a fascinating day as we learned about […]

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Patience in experimenting

I’ve spend most of today in our new teaching lab, grappling with a piece of experimental equipment. Over the break between our A and B semesters (i.e. now) we’re moving our 2nd and 3rd year undergraduate physics lab out of one room and into another. It’s a small part of a large plan to use […]

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Lots of flashing LEDs

A sure-fire way to increase the value of any piece of electronic equipment is to add some superfluous flashing red, yellow and green LEDs to it. (Light Emitting Diode.) They serve no use, but their presence is somehow comforting (especially in sci-fi films) and gives the impression that the equipment is busy doing something useful. There […]

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Why you need to proof read

I’ve just supervised a test for a group of second year students. On looking at their answers afterwards, it was rapidly clear that there was a problem with one of the questions. Specifically, I had given the value of Boltzmann’s constant as 1.38 times 10 to the power 23  Joules per Kelvin, instead of 1.38 […]

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Alison’s recent bioblog entry made interesting reading/listening for me – Dan Meyer talking about how traditionally-phrased physics and maths problems tend to hinder students from working things out and grasping what is important – instead it teaches ‘learned helplessness’. Real world problems don’t come in neat little packages that you can do in a few […]

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