Small Transistors

How often do you get attracted to an article somewhere because of its outrageous headline, and then discover on reading the article that its headline, if not an outright lie, doesn’t quite represent what the article is actually about? This is one that got my attention earlier this week on physorg.com.  The headline "Scientists build […]

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Bring on the computer

To err is human, but to make a real mess requires a computer. Whether it is sending out a gas bill for ten million dollars, or sending a letter to the parents of a one-hundred-and-four year-old woman reminding them that she is due to start school, the rise of the computer has certainly opened up […]

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Beyond cornflakes

This is something that Aimee Whitcroft at the Science Media Centre in Wellington drew my attention to – thanks Aimee. Most of us who have ever eaten breakfast cereal will probably be familiar with the phenomenon whereby the larger flakes of whatever-your-favourite-breakfast-is tend to be at the top of the packet, whereas the smaller flakes […]

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Magnets attract, right?

Here’s an example of some physics that doesn’t quite seem to work out. Magnets attract iron. Yes? So what happens when you place a drop of ferrofluid (which is basically an oil whose molecules have been laced with iron atoms) on the surface of water and lower a maget towards it.   The oil will flow […]

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The scientific method

This morning we had a school group visit us from Whakatane – about 30 year 10 students (14 and 15 year olds) – they carried out some activities in Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics. I led them (as two groups) in a physics activity involving catapults. After doing the boring bit (talking about how energy […]

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Lousy rotten internet

A few people have expressed surprise when they’ve learnt that that the university doesn’t block access to websites like YouTube and Twitter. I mean, how many hours are wasted by employees gazing at silly video clips of buildings being blown up in Turkey rather than concentrating on their work?

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It’s no fun any more

I spent yesterday morning with a group of students studying some properties of antennas, as part of one of our courses. One of the things we did was to measure the beamwidth of a typical satellite receiver – the sort of thing you stick on the roof of your house to get all the decent […]

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The unsolvable problem

In the last few days I’ve been wrestling with one of the unsolvable problems of physics, namely that it is impossible to measure something without changing it. Here’s an example. Suppose I want to measure the temperature of a pot of warm water. I can do it by putting a thermometer in it. Now, since […]

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The nature of the beast

We have a new addition to the household furniture this week – a year-old black and white cat which we acquired second-hand from the SPCA. Amongst other things, he’s taken to sitting on the couch looking just like a cushion. Getting a pre-loved (or, dare I say it, pre-abused) animal from the SPCA is a […]

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