Physics Stop

If gravity increased…

Marcus Wilson Sep 25, 2015

A colleague remarked to me yesterday, as we were trudging up the two flights of stairs from the tea-room to the third floor, “I’m sure they turn up the force of gravity in this building each year.” I feel like that too, sometimes. However, I suspect it has more to do with the aging process that any changes in physical … Read More

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Clothes racks are not the reason for mouldy homes

Marcus Wilson Sep 21, 2015

I read the ‘Rental Nightmare‘ article on last night. Some of the stories are horrific indeed, and I’m reasonably confident that the writer has deliberately sought out the worst situations rather than the most common situations. But one cannot deny that a great deal of housing in New Zealand is sub-standard. In housing-deficient Auckland, in particular, families … Read More

Axis labels – accurate but not at all obvious

Marcus Wilson Sep 14, 2015

I had a conversation with a class this morning regarding the labelling of axes on graphs.In particular, how we should indicate the units. Most quantities we deal with in physics carry units. A speed might be 35 km/h, a distance might be 16.8 mm, a pressure could be 28 kPa. Saying that a speed is 35 is wrong and … Read More

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A small maths lesson for our prime minister

Marcus Wilson Sep 03, 2015

This isn’t physics but I do feel strongly about it. John Key today is reported by the New Zealand Herald today as saying, with regard to the refugee crisis: :  It’s a global problem. I accept everyone needs to take their fair share of responsibility but actually as a government we have been doing quite a lot … Read More

Pluto as you’ve not seen it before

Marcus Wilson Aug 03, 2015

Most of us have never seen Pluto. Most of us never will. Neptune is more plausible.I remember as a student looking for Neptune with the Northumberland Telescope in Cambridge. We were doing a 'planets' night - in which it was theoretically possible to tick off all the planets (save Pluto, which was still a planet back then) … Read More

Calculating pi with darts

Marcus Wilson Jul 16, 2015

I love this one. Really, it's maths not physics, but there is a bit of experimental physics creeping in at the fringes when the experimenters realize that the first method is biased. The second method is much better designed.  Regrettably, pi-day (March 14th, 2015, or 3.14.15) only works if you use the US system of recording dates.  But … Read More

A light puzzle

Marcus Wilson Jul 13, 2015

Here's a puzzling photograph that Hans Bachor showed me at the end of the NZ Institute of Physics conference last week. It comes from his public lecture on lasers a week ago. And we don't have the answer to it, so maybe you can enlighten us (pun intended).  The photo is of a demonstration of total … Read More

NZIP2015 Highlights

Marcus Wilson Jul 07, 2015

So the NZ Institute of Physics conference is in full swing. I have a bit of a break between the end of the last session and tonight's conference dinner, so there's time to give some highlights so far.  Well, first, the low-light: Like the rest of my family and half of Hamilton I've had a horrible cold. On … Read More

High-tech, Low-tech, planetary observations.

Marcus Wilson Jul 01, 2015

First the low-tech:  The conjunction of Venus (the brighter one) and Jupiter as recorded by my very lousy cellphone camera  just after sunset yesterday.  Now the high-tech: A day before that Pluto occulted a star. It moved in front of the star, rather like an eclipse. The significance of the event was that it allowed Pluto's … Read More

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