Marcus Wilson

Dr Marcus Wilson is a lecturer in the Engineering Department at Waikato University and author of the Physics Stop blog. His current research involves modelling of the electrical behaviour of the human brain during natural sleep, focussing particularly on the transitions between sleep states. Previous research interests include infra-red physics and signature control (stealth) and quantum Monte Carlo methods. He graduated from Cambridge University in 1992 (BA Hons) and completed his PhD at Bristol University in 1995.

Teaching research - Physics Stop

Oct 02, 2009

Over the last week or so I have, amongst other things, been doing some preparation for two summer scholarship students that will be working with me from December to February. The summer scholarships are a great opportunity for undergraduate students to experience what research is like. The University of Waikato, like several other universities, offers this chance to several students every year.

I hate thunderstorms - Physics Stop

Sep 30, 2009

The speed of sound in air is about 330 metres per second (which means it takes  three seconds to go one kilometre). So count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder, divide by three, and you have approximately your range from the lightning in kilometres. (Divide by five for miles). So, the lightning that struck about 4pm yesterday, which took at most I'd say quarter of a second between sight and sound, would be 0.25 divided by 3 which comes to awfully close.

I can't say I've ever heard a bomb going off, but I reckon that sound must have been like it.

For more on my opinion of thunderstorms, click here

Climate engineering - Physics Stop

Sep 28, 2009

So PhysicsWorld has done a nice article on some of the 'engineering' solutions that might be available for tackling global warming.

Generally they are pretty ambitious global-scale plans to turn down the thermostat a bit, given the premise that either carbon dioxide emissions will not fall sufficiently or that, even if they did, the earth would still be too hot and something else will be needed.   They fall into a few categories. First, there is the CO2-vac. Suck up that excess carbon dioxide using whatever technology you can make work. Secondly there is control of the earth's surface. This might mean things like planting crops / forests that are a little more reflective to sunlight than current crops. And thirdly, there is control of the amount of sunlight that hits earth.

The greenhouse effect - Physics Stop

Sep 25, 2009

I've been reading in PhysicsWorld about some grand ideas for controlling the earth's climate by engineering on a global scale. Some sound pretty fanciful, though some might be just plausible. But before I get there (which will probably be another entry) I think it's worthwhile reminding you what the greenhouse effect actually is. As in, why is it a greenhouse gets hot, and what has this got to do with the atmosphere?

Fishics - Physics Stop

Sep 24, 2009

Eco-systems are of course very complex things - the success of one species is linked to the success of another, which is linked to another, and all of which are linked to outside factors such as climate etc etc.  Now there is direct evidence of another degree of complexity in the ocean eco-system, namely that fish (and other swimmy things) have a significant role to play in mixing the ocean.

Risky things - Physics Stop

Sep 21, 2009

I love the headline at the end of last week 'Wellington quake risk halves'. As if you can wake up one morning and find that the chances of an earthquake happening today are suddenly half of what they were yesterday just because someone says so.  What next - someone decreeing that summer will last 12 months of a year and so magically it does?



The end of the week… - Physics Stop

Sep 18, 2009

Have you ever had one of those days when you have worked flat out all day and seem to have accomplished nothing?

I think that's today.  My desk looks like a tornado has been through the office. Now, I wonder, statsitically speaking, how many tornados I'd need to come through before one picked up all the loose bits of paper and kindly deposited them in the right places in the filing cabinet.   I live in hope.

I'm off to enjoy a coffee.

Scholarship physics questions - Physics Stop

Sep 17, 2009

I've just been putting together a presentation for final year school children on the NZ scholarship physics exam.   NZ Scholarship is awarded to the top 3% or so of students in a particular subject in a particular year, and there is some big money up for grabs.

But the exam questions for scholarship are hard.  Really.  I find them hard (remember I lecture physics at university - I should be able to do school physics stuff).   I can open an exam paper and think on earth am I meant to do that? If that's my response to a physics question, then I can only think that it will be the response of most people sitting the exam.