Physics Stop

Magnets attract, right?

Marcus Wilson Oct 27, 2009

Here's an example of some physics that doesn't quite seem to work out.Magnets attract iron. Yes? So what happens when you place a drop of ferrofluid (which is basically an oil whose molecules have been laced with iron atoms) on the surface of water and lower a maget towards it.   The oil will flow on top of … Read More

No I don’t have the LHC timetable

Marcus Wilson Oct 24, 2009

If you want to know when not to expect annihilation of the earth following a second-big-bang in the Large Hadron Collider, I'm afraid the best I can offer you is a link to their press site. are being very coy about exactly when things will happen. Read More


Virtual field trips

Marcus Wilson Oct 23, 2009

If you think it unfair that your children get to go on lots of exciting school trips that you never went on this is for you - virtual field trips throughout New Zealand on the LEARNZ website.Sent to me by NZ Institute of Physics - thanks guys. Read More

Monopoles, Dipoles, Quadrupoles and the like

Marcus Wilson Oct 21, 2009

The alternate stretching and squashing casued by a gravitational wave is an example of a quadrupole oscillation. This is another word that probably means very little to most readers, and, unless you like maths, Wikipedia isn't going to help you, so I'll explain. Let's start with a monopole. You get a monopole when you put 'stuff' somewhere.  Here, … Read More

Gravitational Waves

Marcus Wilson Oct 20, 2009

One of my undergraduate students has been researching gravitational waves this year. Last Friday, he gave a nice presentation on the subject.Gravitational waves are one of the many examples of waves in physics. We are perhaps more used to waves on the surface of water, or waves along a guitar string, or electromagnetic waves (such as radio waves and light), and, … Read More


The3is in Three

Marcus Wilson Oct 19, 2009

I reckon that every scientist should be able to explain his or her work to any audience, in any situation. Whether it is a 30 second conversation with a six year old with the aid of a pencil and paper, an oral presentation to the general public (a la cafe scientifique), or a detailed effort using all the … Read More

The physicist joke

Marcus Wilson Oct 17, 2009

So, for those who want it in full, here is the joke I referred to earlier.A geneticist, a physicist, and a statistician are all asked by a gambler to advise him on which horse to place his money in the Melbourne Cup. Read More

More chemistry-bashing

Marcus Wilson Oct 15, 2009

There is nothing a physicist likes better than to get one up on a chemist. In a friendly way of course. Rather like New Zealand beating Australia at some sporting event.  So it is with great delight that I hear that the 2009 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to a physicist. (See commentary by The … Read More


Large Hadron Collider activity

Marcus Wilson Oct 14, 2009

Activity is really hotting up (should that be 'cooling down'?) at CERN as the Large Hadron Collider is prepared again for proton-proton collisions, hopefully in November. Most of the beam tunnel is now at operating temperature (1.9 K), with the rest expected to be ready very soon. I would expect to see the collider hitting mainstream media again shortly. The latest … Read More


Everything’s relative

Marcus Wilson Oct 13, 2009

What does 'big' mean? How big does something have to be in order to reasonably carry that adjective? The answer, of course, is 'it depends'.For example, I am pretty tall. But after standing next to someone much taller than me on a tram last week, I realise that maybe I am not so tall after all. I got to see what it was … Read More