Physics Stop

High-tech, Low-tech, planetary observations.

Marcus Wilson Jul 01, 2015

First the low-tech:  The conjunction of Venus (the brighter one) and Jupiter as recorded by my very lousy cellphone camera  just after sunset yesterday.  Now the high-tech: A day before that Pluto occulted a star. It moved in front of the star, rather like an eclipse. The significance of the event was that it allowed Pluto's … Read More

Tips on organizing a conference

Marcus Wilson Jun 23, 2015

With the NZ Institute of Physics conference rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share my thoughts and experiences on how to organize a good conference. Or maybe on how not to organize a good conference. Time will tell. 1. Don't try organizing a conference when you have 450 exam scripts to mark.  2. Employ a professional … Read More

The equation of time strikes again

Marcus Wilson Jun 17, 2015

Some of us are rather looking forward to getting to 22 June. That's when the days get longer again. Yes, the reality is that no-one's really going to notice much difference for a while, but it's encouraging to think that the days will be getting lighter again, if only by a little bit. Don't confuse that with temperatures getting … Read More

Two great talks coming up in Hamilton

Marcus Wilson Jun 11, 2015

As part of the forthcoming NZ Institute of Physics conference, and to celebrate the International Year of Light, we have arranged two fantastic and very different public talks for the evenings of Sunday 5th and Monday 6th July.  First up we have Richard Easther, from the University of Auckland. In "Dawn's Early Light" he'll … Read More

Lenz’s law – at 3 tesla

Marcus Wilson May 20, 2015

When I was at school, and introduced to magnetic fields in a quantitative sense (that is, with a strength attached to it), I remember being told that the S.I. unit of magnetic flux density (B-field) is the tesla, and that 1 tesla is an extremely high B-field indeed. Ha! Not any more. Last Friday night  I got to see … Read More


Special relativity – not so easy to grasp

Marcus Wilson May 18, 2015

I've just given a couple of lectures on special relativity to a class of first years. It's clear that grasping the key ideas is going to take some time. The results are so far removed from everyday experience that there is a certain air of bewilderment in the classroom. Here's an example of what I mean.  Suppose two … Read More

Developing assessment literacy

Marcus Wilson May 12, 2015

I just love the word 'obfuscate'. It means (in my words) to take something that is perfectly clear, and render it incomprehensible. As in "Using the word 'obfuscate' in a sentence will obfuscate its meaning".  I say this because I've just been reading an article on which (clearly) a statistician has been let loose - thus rendering an … Read More

Messing up the test: the next installment

Marcus Wilson Apr 29, 2015

In the last few years I've been experimenting with the way I test our 3rd year mechanical engineering students in their 'Dynamics and Mechanisms' paper. I've chosen this paper because (a) it has more than a handful of students, and (b) I am in charge of it. When  I've suggested to my peers that I do something similar with … Read More