Physics Stop

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 Consequently this posting is about 24 hours out of date.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. … 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 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

What’s that buzzing?

Marcus Wilson Nov 12, 2009

(Amended to correct major factual blunder - whoops - and more details added from original post of earlier today).I was fascinated to read in the Herald this morning about the anti-teenager sounds that are being used to deter graffiti artists. High-pitched sounds that only the young can hear are being used to deter people away from places that … Read More

Group dynamics

Marcus Wilson Nov 10, 2009

Well, I went down to Wellington last Thursday and presented at the Science Express event at Te Papa. It was the third time I've done a talk in that manner on the Large Hadron Collider, and it was for me intriguing how the audiences have picked up on different things each time.The first time (Hamilton, late … Read More

Bring on the computer

Marcus Wilson Nov 09, 2009

To err is human, but to make a real mess requires a computer. Whether it is sending out a gas bill for ten million dollars, or sending a letter to the parents of a one-hundred-and-four year-old woman reminding them that she is due to start school, the rise of the computer has certainly opened up new avenues for getting things … Read More

Happy Birthday

Marcus Wilson Nov 06, 2009

PhysicsStop is one today!That means I'm a year older than I was when I wrote the first entry, give or take a few nanoseconds as a result of special and general relativistic effects while on aircraft journeys. Eeek.  … Read More