Version control

I’ve commented before that there are a lot of skills that our science graduates need to have, that don’t get explicitly taught at university. That’s because they don’t neatly fit into compartmentalized degree courses where the structure is dictated by technical knowledge. So things such as how to give a half-decent presentation, how to keep […]

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Dishwasher dynamics

How long does it take you to load the dishwasher? Placing all those tricky-shaped objects in position to maintain the perfect balance between getting the maximum numbers of objects into the machine and placing them so that they clean optimally.  Most likely, less time than it takes to load ours. This isn’t because it’s a […]

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Quantum mechanics: Reality is back

With an exam imminent, I’ve had a queue of students outside my door wanting help with their quantum mechanics. This semester, they’ve come across the Schrodinger equation and the wavefunction for the first time and, unsurprisingly, some are struggling to grasp it. "But what IS the wavefunction?", they say. "How do you derive the Schrodinger […]

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Is maths real?

 A friend has just started a Bachelor of Arts degree here at Waikato. As part of her first year study, she’s chosen to do a Philosophy paper. Apparently, one of the questions that has been posed, is "Is maths real?".  Well, what is real? You certainly can’t put ‘maths’ in a box and give it […]

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Mega- and nano-everything

 While generally speaking I’m very pleased to hear physics words appear in everyday conversation, I would prefer for them to be used approximately correctly. ‘Exponentially‘ is a case in point – it gets used for something that keeps getting bigger, regardless of how exponential it really is.  So, while ‘nanotechnology’ is a good word to […]

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When inifinity isn’t infinite

I’ve been having some discussion with a collaborator in Sydney regarding a numerical model that we are developing. It concerns the response of the brain to pulses of magnetic field, but for the purposes of this blog entry, that is immaterial. One thing that we’ve been grappling with is ‘dealing with infinity’. Basically, in physical […]

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Nonsense maths

This one has hit the blogs recently, but, since it’s quite amusing – and perhaps a bit disturbing – it’s worth a comment. Kimmo Eriksson has recently published a paper on ‘The Nonsense Math Effect’. The study was conceptually very simple. It used two hundred participants, all of whom had postgraduate degrees, with the participants […]

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Happy Christmas

Blogging has ground to a halt in recent days, as I try to get other things done, such as research proposals, reviewing a PhD thesis, supervising a summer student, and attending numerous parties. I’m off on holidays very soon, but will be back early January. I’m currently grappling with an ever increasing parameter space in […]

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