Why do we do masses on springs?

This question arises from the 3rd year dynamics paper I’m teaching at the moment. How come in lectures we only ever cover simple examples of things (in the context of this paper, moving things), like a mass bouncing on a spring, rather than realistic examples, like a washing machine or aircraft engine. It’s a fair […]

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PhysicsStop is 100

Yes – PhysicsStop is now 100 – that is, this is the one hundreth entry. For those of you wishing to indulge in nostalgia, view the first entry here. Hopefully I’ve convinced you a that physics can be (at times) a little bit interesting. I’ve written some serious stuff, some light-hearted stuff, some short entries, […]

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Why I am not a chemist

OK , so I’ve told you why I didn’t become a biologist, but what about chemistry? That’s a pretty fun science area too. At school, I had a great chemistry teacher, and when I started university I thought there was still a small chance that I could be tempted away from physics towards chemistry as a […]

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Science Fraud

I’ve just been reading an article in Physics World about a high-flying young physicist who deceived the science community for several years (including the editors of  ‘Nature’ and ‘Science’), by, putting it bluntly, making up his results. After reading it I have several questions in my head. What makes someone do that? Why did it take […]

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NZ Scholarships – hot exam tip number 2

For you final year school students contemplating doing the scholarship physics exam, you should check out the examiners’ report on last year’s exam which has just been released on the NZQA website. (Scroll down to ‘physics’ and then download the 2008 files). It gives a summary of the skills successful and unsuccessful candidates possessed. Even […]

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What’s in a name?

Last Monday I gave another talk on the Large Hadron Collider, this time in Tauranga. It led to the usual kind of questions (like what is a Higgs Boson?, how fast are these protons going?, how can they be 100% sure it is safe, etc), plus a few less obvious ones, like could they use […]

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Luck or good judgment?

No, this isn’t about Chris Martin’s batting performance at the Basin Reserve. A couple of weeks ago, I thought I might have discovered a new phenomenon in biophysics. I won’t bore you with the details, but it concerned the behaviour of neurons (brain cells) under external stimulus. Now, I could have rushed out and tried […]

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Am I just a skeptic, or what?

(Yes, this entry is about physics, but it takes a little while to get there, so please bear with me…) Last night I attended a talk on nutrition. It was focused towards a particular health issue, but was also reasonably general in places. Now, I emphasize that I am a physicist not a nutritionist, so […]

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