Physics Stop

Who owns the moon?

Marcus Wilson Oct 12, 2009

What gives NASA the right to hurl projectiles at 1.5 miles per second into the surface of the moon? Interesting, definitely. Useful, perhaps. Reasonable? I'm not so sure. Did this mission go through some kind of ethics approval?  … Read More


Approximately speaking

Marcus Wilson Oct 08, 2009

Physicists are notorious for making approximations.  This character trait is the subject of many jokes - for example, one rather rambling one involving a physicist advising a punter on which horse to put his money ends with the line "Oh, didn't I tell you - my calculations assumed a spherical horse rolling through a vacuum."But approximations are useful things. The … Read More

Brief pause

Marcus Wilson Oct 02, 2009

I'm having an extra llllooonnnngggg weekend, so blogging may take a back seat for a few days, but I shall be back very soon. Read More

Teaching research

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More


All your favourite science blogs

Marcus Wilson Sep 30, 2009

The amazing people at the Science Media Centre in Wellington have put together , all your favourite NZ science blogs in one easy to access site. Physicsstop is there, along with a host of others. The only downside is that with such a great collection of items to read, when am I going to find time to … Read More

I hate thunderstorms

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More


Climate engineering

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More

The greenhouse effect

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More


Marcus Wilson 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) … Read More