Physics Stop

Risky things

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More

The end of the week…

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More

Scholarship physics questions

Marcus Wilson 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 … Read More

Geometric algebra

Marcus Wilson Sep 16, 2009

Here's a lovely quote that students will empathize with:"A recent study on the use of vectors by introductory physics students summarized the conclusions in two words: "vector avoidance". This state of mind tends to propagate through the physics curriculum. In some 25 years of graduate physics teaching, I have noted that perhaps a third of the students seem incapable of … Read More


What has log of -1 to do with a blog?

Marcus Wilson Sep 11, 2009

OK, following from my ability to break web-applications (it's not the first time I've done it - a couple of years ago I managed to break one of our staff-only applications on our website - about 30 seconds later I got a call saying "we don't know what you've done but you weren't supposed to be able to … Read More

Physicsstop breakage

Marcus Wilson Sep 10, 2009

Well, what do you know? I write an entry about complex numbers and the next thing that happens is my blog editor breaks down and I get an error message "cannot take the log of -1 at lib/MT/Template/ line 2032". Our nice support people have fixed it now, so hopefully I am readable again. Read More

Complex numbers

Marcus Wilson Sep 09, 2009

Sometimes the divide between physics and mathematics is a thin one. Particularly between theoretical physics (which is what I do most of) and mathematics. The difference is that physicists have to keep one foot loosely planted in reality. It's true that sometimes it just the tip of a little toe that's behind the reality-line, but look hard enough and you'll … Read More


Marcus Wilson Sep 08, 2009

Well, what does one expect living in Waikato? Four days of gorgeous spring weather in a row is a bit much to ask for. So the fog was back this morning, and with it the idiot car drivers who don't put their lights on. Why? Do they want to die? A white car with no lights in fog is really … Read More