Let there be light

Last night we were plunged back into the 19th century by a power cut. No electric cooker, no lighting, no television. Out came the candles. We were only saved from total historical immersion by a fully-charged laptop which got used as a DVD player for the evening (and gave a fair bit of light too). It’s amazing […]

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Clever lenses

I’ve just bought a new pair of glasses. The prescription is a little different from my old pair, meaning that although everything is slightly sharper the world seems to curve downwards a bit towards my right. That’s just my brain getting used to the new way in which the world is projected onto my retina – […]

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Earthquakes and Polarized light

I had to get up early last Saturday to catch my flight back home from Dunedin to Hamilton, via Christchurch. My fears of sleeping through the alarm clock proved irrelevant as I was supplied with a rather more violent variety courtesy of plate tectonics underneath Christchurch. (Dunedin is a long way from Christchurch – given […]

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Infra-red and heat

Here’s a bit of physics that’s coming up in my lectures – what’s the connection between heat and infra-red?  You’ve probably seen imagery from ‘thermal imagers’ or infra-red (IR) cameras, usually on police shows, taken from a helicopter as it follows a suspect fleeing down some alley-way at night.  You’ll see that ‘hot’ things (like […]

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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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Bending light

      Here’s a nice picture I took a couple of years ago at Auckland Airport, looking over Manukau Harbour. Can you work out what’s happened to the Waitakere Ranges?   I’m in the middle of teaching a group of 3rd years about some of the ways that light doesn’t travel in straight lines, […]

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The invisibility cloak

Yes, the headline writers are at it again, talking about those crazy scientists designing invisibility cloaks. As usual, the articles I’ve seen in the papers (e.g. the front page of The Waikato Times) and popular internet sites are high in ‘Harry Potter’ and ‘Star Trek’ and low in science. Research into this kind of thing […]

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