Physics Stop

Orbits

Marcus Wilson Nov 30, 2009

Going back to my comments on the Karman line (100 km about the earth's surface), I think it's worth commenting a bit 'being in orbit' means. We are familiar with the fact that if we drop something it accelerates downwards and hits the ground. If we throw something away from us, it will still accelerate downwards and hit … Read More

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Dazed and confused

Marcus Wilson Nov 27, 2009

Physicists love units. The best way to wind up a physicist is to tell him you were driving at 100 down the road.  One hundred what?  Just hope you don't get pulled over by a traffic cop with a physics degree or he'll ticket you for leaving your unit off, even if you were within the speed limit.A unit is … Read More

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How to get publicity

Marcus Wilson Nov 26, 2009

For those of you wondering (and several have asked) how I managed to get a third of a page in the main section of last Sunday's Sunday Star Times, the answer is simple.  Tell the press about whatever story you want them to know about.  Some journalists can be pretty good at digging up stories, but it helps them no … Read More

Blink and you miss it

Marcus Wilson Nov 24, 2009

First collisions in the Large Hadron Colliderhttp://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2009/PR17.09E.htmlOnly at a 'paltry' 0.45 TeV per beam (CERN are wanting to ramp that up to about 3.5 TeV per beam over the next few months) but one can really now say that the LHC 'works'.  … Read More

The final frontier

Marcus Wilson Nov 24, 2009

New Zealand is, hopefully, just a few days away from becoming a space-nation. The private company Rocket Lab  (what a great name - I like names that describe what a business actually does) aims to put up its Atea-1 rocket from Great Mercury Island sometime around November 30th. The payload will reach an altitude of 120 km before returning to … Read More

You heard it hear second

Marcus Wilson Nov 22, 2009

 I've got better things to do at the weekend than following CERN's tweets about the LHC. Consequently this posting is about 24 hours out of date. Oh well. The LHC has circulating beams in it again, with not a time-travelling baguette in sight.http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2009/PR16.09E.html … Read More

Prisoner’s Dilemma

Marcus Wilson Nov 20, 2009

Writing my last post on public transport etiquette prompted me to recall William Poundstone's excellent book an game theory, 'Prisoner's Dilemma'.  Poundstone, in a very accessible manner, discusses the ideas behing game theory (a branch of mathematics developed by John Von Neuman), illustrating it terrifyingly with examples from the Cold War.Deciding whether to get on the first bus, the … Read More

Bus problems

Marcus Wilson Nov 18, 2009

There are a significant number of people who view scientists as boffins in white coats who lock themselves in their labs for twelve hours a day while they invent things that are entirely useless to anybody.  This view is somewhat stereotyped, and I hope my blog goes a small way to changing it. (Am I succeeding? - you tell me … Read More

Quietly hopeful at CERN

Marcus Wilson Nov 16, 2009

http://cdsweb.cern.ch/journal/CERNBulletin/2009/47/News%20Articles/1221074?ln=enThings must be going well in Geneva - there is a suggestion that beams will be in both tunnels in just over a week, and collisions could follow soon after. Read More

Random use of the word ‘exponential’

Marcus Wilson Nov 15, 2009

One of the things I find mildly amusing is the way that physics and maths words get taken up into everyday vocabulary, where they take on a slightly different meaning from the original. The word 'random' seems to be a favourite in NZ at present, as in "I bumped into this random guy and he said this random thing". Others include 'infinite', … Read More

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