Two is a big number

In an earlier post I made the outrageous claim that three is a working approximation to infinity. If you thought that was ambitious, have a read of the following extract from an abstract that I discovered this morning while doing a bit of literature searching as part of my research. It’s a great insight into the mind […]

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Interesting but useless fact

According to the fount of all knowledge  –  Wikipedia 😉    – the only three countries not to have adopted the System Internationale units are Burma/Myanmar, Liberia and the United States of America.  I can’t help thinking that there is something deeply significant about those three countries falling into the same group, but I can’t quite […]

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Remember your units

As any physics student knows (or should know), units are important things. By ‘unit’ I mean a measure of the kind of quantity you are dealing with. So if it’s mass, then a kilogram, a gram, an ounce, etc are all units;  if it’s distance, then kilometres, light-years, feet are all units.   Units are essential […]

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Dazed and confused

Physicists love units. The best way to wind up a physicist is to tell him you were driving at 100 down the road.  One hundred what?  Just hope you don’t get pulled over by a traffic cop with a physics degree or he’ll ticket you for leaving your unit off, even if you were within […]

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Prisoner’s Dilemma

Writing my last post on public transport etiquette prompted me to recall William Poundstone’s excellent book an game theory, ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’.  Poundstone, in a very accessible manner, discusses the ideas behing game theory (a branch of mathematics developed by John Von Neuman), illustrating it terrifyingly with examples from the Cold War. Deciding whether to get […]

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Bus problems

There are a significant number of people who view scientists as boffins in white coats who lock themselves in their labs for twelve hours a day while they invent things that are entirely useless to anybody.  This view is somewhat stereotyped, and I hope my blog goes a small way to changing it. (Am I […]

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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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