## Check those approximations

A common technique in physics is 'modelling'. This is about constructing a description of a physical phenomenon in terms of physical principles. Often these can be encapsulated with mathematical equations. For example, it's common to model the suspension system of a car as two masses connected by springs to a much larger mass. Here, the […]

## Managing ignition timing

I've just been at a great lecture by Peter Leijen as part of our schools-focused Osborne Physics and Engineering Day.   He's an ex-student of ours, who did electronic engineering here at Waikato – and graduated just a couple of years ago.  He now works in the automotive electronics industry. That's an incredibly quickly growing […]

## The gearbox problem

At afternoon tea yesterday we were discussing a problem regarding racing slot-cars (electric toy racing cars).  A very practical problem indeed! Basically, what we want to know is how do we optimize the size of the electric motor and gear-ratio (it only has one gear) in order to achieve the best time over a given […]

## Apparent forces

A couple of weeks ago I had the misfortune to be on a bus which had an accident. I wasn't hurt, because I was safely seated, which is more than I can say for one unfortunate passenger who was still on his way to his seat at the time. It wasn't a high-speed event – […]

## Oh dear Mr Kohli

Wow! That was a real nailbiting finish to the first test. Well done to the New Zealand bowlers to hold their nerve as India's batsmen got close. There was some great bowling, and also some great batting at times. Maybe the difference between the teams was that New Zealand in that final innings made fewer […]

## Scholarship Physics, 2013-style

Last year, Sam Hight and I made a collection of videos on tackling the 2012 Scholarship Physics exam. Well, to be precise, Sam did the videoing, editing, and distribution, and I just did the exam. The key thing, though, was that I did the exam 'live'. I was seeing the questions for the first time. […]

## Is it OK to bungle the science if the end message is good?

On Saturday morning I held a session for school students preparing to sit the 2013 Scholarship Physics exam. My intention is to help them prepare for this. It's a tough exam, aimed at rewarding the best school students in the various subjects. I talked through the principles behind answering various types of question, e.g. 'estimate' […]

## The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics goes to….

….Well, what do you think? No surprises this year.  Francois Englert and Peter Higgs have been awarded this year's Nobel Prize in physics for the theoretical 'discovery' of the Higgs mechanism. The citation, however, I find very interesting: for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism that contributes to our understanding of the origin of mass […]

## Gravity goes downwards

Yesterday afternoon I was engaged in a spot of DIY – putting up some shelves. Even for me, as someone who takes to DIY like a duck to mountaineering, it’s a fairly simple task, and I’m pleased to say that I got there without the ‘do’ in DIY turning into ‘destroy’. With the help of […]

## Woolly writing is a symptom of woolly thinking

People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches. David Ogilvy. There’s nothing like reading through and marking students’ exam scripts. Mostly it is terribly boring, but sometimes it is enlightening.  One of the questions I asked on an exam this semester involved getting the students to […]