Physics Stop

What’s the catch?

Marcus Wilson Nov 05, 2009

Last weekend Alison Campbell and I took a trip to New Plymouth to do a day session with final year school students to help them prepare for their physics and biology scholarship exams. (Alison did the Biology half, I did the physics). I do hope the students got something useful out of it. Doing this kind of thing certainly … Read More

The endless pace of technology

Marcus Wilson Nov 03, 2009

I discovered at coffee time this morning that one of my work colleagues has never seen a record. That's record, as in the black vinyl disc with grooves. This isn't a child, it's an adult old enough to have a degree. From this I conclude that 1. The pace of technology is faster than I appreciated or 2. I'm older than … Read More

Beyond cornflakes

Marcus Wilson Nov 02, 2009

This is something that Aimee Whitcroft at the Science Media Centre in Wellington drew my attention to - thanks Aimee.Most of us who have ever eaten breakfast cereal will probably be familiar with the phenomenon whereby the larger flakes of whatever-your-favourite-breakfast-is tend to be at the top of the packet, whereas the smaller flakes tend to accumulate at … Read More

The3is in three final

Marcus Wilson Oct 30, 2009

I attended the final of the The3is in Three competition on Wednesday night. It was a really entertaining evening; compere Te Radar was in great form, as were the eight finalists  (N.B. I know that those of you who are not from NZ won't have the slightest idea who Te Radar is, but I'm sure Google could solve … Read More

Using words is OK

Marcus Wilson Oct 29, 2009

I'm in the thick of marking exam papers. In physics, a lot of what a student does is mathematically based, so a fair bit of any exam is going to contain calculations of things. But don't think that it is compulsory to make your answer totally incomprehensible.Many of the exam answers I see from students look like the result of … Read More


Marcus Wilson Oct 28, 2009

There are some lovely physics demonstrations that get repeatedly wheeled-out for things like Open Day and visits from school groups. Things like holding a spinning bike wheel on a rotating chair (flip it over and you start rotating - conservation of angular momentum) and levitating a piece of superconductor above a magnet at liquid nitrogen temperatures.  But one thing that I've … Read More

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