Category Archives: Cosmology

The World Outside My Window… What a Window!!

What a World!!

Amazing timelapse footage of the Earth (including aurorae, lightning and city lights) as seen from the International Space Station.  Just mesmerizing…

Published on YouTube on 3 Dec 2013
Images: http://eol.jsc.nasa.gov/
Music: ‘Fill My Heart’ by Two Steps from Hell
Editor: David Peterson

 

All Alone in the Night…

Late O’ Clock at Night

It’s late o’clock at night. All alone in the night? Enjoy this amazing time footage flyover of the Earth from the International Space Station. Absolutely uplifting… Positively enthralling…
Continue reading All Alone in the Night…

Rare Beauty Decays at CERN

Two computer models showing the Beauty (B0s) particle decaying into two muons, as detected by CERN's LHCb and CMS experiments.The rare Bs0µ+µ decay

The Standard Model of Particle Physics describes the fundamental particles and their interactions via the strong, electromagnetic and weak forces, providing precise predictions for measurable quantities that can be tested experimentally.  Here’s the latest!!  It’s hot!!!  It’s exciting!!!  At least, if you’re a particle physicist… Continue reading Rare Beauty Decays at CERN

The Sound of Physics

A photograph featuring an electric guitar player and the music score of the Higgs "sonification" by the rock band, Traq.LOUD!!!

Should you ever have wondered what the Higgs boson sounds like…  It’s…  “AS LOUD AS A RIFF BY JOE SATRIANI.  WHAT?!  IT’S AS LOUD… AS A…”  Oh, wait!!  Here it is. Continue reading The Sound of Physics

That Mysterious Missing Matter – Cocktail Party Physics

A 3D animation showing dark matter creation and the large scale structure of the Universe.Dark Matter

“Dark matter?”  You cannot see it.  But there is something there.  As for what it is, it’s anybody’s guess!  Dark matter does not interact with light.  At all.  Which makes it difficult to detect.  But if you cannot see it?  How do you know it is in fact there?”  Well, it does interact with gravity, and as it does so it bends the path of any light ray passing nearby...  “And did it really kill the dinosaurs…?”  Continue reading That Mysterious Missing Matter – Cocktail Party Physics

The Basics of the Higgs Boson Explained

A slide from the TED lecture on the Basics of the Higgs Boson featuring particle physicists Dave Barney and Steve Goldfarb in the guise of a pink slug...Two Guys Walk Into a Bar…

That’s how this TED video on the Higgs boson begins.  I say two guys…  It’s more like one physicist working on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN – the European laboratory for Particle Physics – aka Dave Barney, and a Blues singer, aka Steve Goldfarb, in the guise of a pink slug… Continue reading The Basics of the Higgs Boson Explained

400 – Anatomy of a Solar Eclipse

A photograph of the total eclipse seen from Tokyo in 2012, featuring the Sun's corona and the famous "diamond ring".Orbiting Spheres

Right on cue, day turned into a sudden eerie twilight as a great swathe of the Earth’s surface quickly plunged into transient darkness.  The magic number is 400.  For many observers, weather conditions were far from ideal.  Clouds obscured the much awaited spectacle of the 2015 eclipse.  Thankfully, alternatives were available to astronomers keen not to miss the big event…  Continue reading 400 – Anatomy of a Solar Eclipse

Celestial Rendez-Vous – An Equinoctial Total Eclipse of the Sun

A photograph showing the Sun's diamond ring during a total eclipse.

Polar Equinoctial Eclipse 2015

On 20th March 2015, the Moon will pass in front of the Sun and exactly block out most of its light.  It will be the first total solar eclipse of the 21st century that is visible from the northernmost regions of Europe… Continue reading Celestial Rendez-Vous – An Equinoctial Total Eclipse of the Sun

Changing States – Fundamental Phases of Matter

Melting ice cubes in a small pool of water.Everyday Matters

Four states of matter can be seen in everyday life: solid, liquid, gas, and – somewhat more exotically – plasma.  As a tightly bound combination of oxygen and hydrogen atoms, a water molecule is nothing out of the ordinary.  Liquid water, steam or ice are still just water.  Yet, it is intriguing to see how the very same building blocks of matter are capable of producing such broadly distinct states. Continue reading Changing States – Fundamental Phases of Matter

Northern Lights over Scotland

A photograph taken from the International Space Station and showing the northern lights $ ($aurora borealis$ )$ above Scotland.#BlueDot

This mesmerising image of the Northern Lights over Scotland was captured by Baltimore-born NASA astronaut Terry Virts, a member of Expedition 42 from the International Space Station earlier this week, as it drifted over Europe. Continue reading Northern Lights over Scotland

Planck’s Time and the “Oldest Light” in the Cosmos

A photomontage showing an image of the Planck spacecraft superimposed on a sky planisphere of the Cosmic Microwave Background $ ($CMB$ )$ Radiation.Who, What, Where?

What happened at time T = 0?  is still anybody’s guess.  At least, earlier observations of Planck’s radiation had suggested the first generation of stars were bursting into life by about 420 million years after the Big Bang.  However, scientists from Europe’s Planck satellite mission now say the first stars lit up the Universe later than was previously thought… Continue reading Planck’s Time and the “Oldest Light” in the Cosmos

Testing Times – Methods of Dating the Geological Past

A spiral-shaped drawing illustrating the Earth history through the ages, since the Big Bang and the birth of our Solar System.Cross-Referencing Geological Time

At the beginning of the 20th century, the discovery of the radiometric “clock” revolutionised our understanding of the Earth’s deep history, confirming what geologists had been claiming for decades.  Nevertheless, newer and more accurate dating methods posed further problems in themselves.  After all, how do we know our Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and not a mere few thousands of years as suggested by the Bible?  Continue reading Testing Times – Methods of Dating the Geological Past

Earth Creation – The Story So Far…

An artist's impression showing two hands touching on a cloudy night sky background, inspired by Michelangelo's famous scene of Genesis on the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. The moment of Earth creation?Earth is Born

Our planet has existed for 4.5 billion years, and it has been a busy lifetime.  From amazing leaps and bounds forward into evolution to devastating asteroid impacts and other episodic extinctions, here are the biggest milestones in Earth’s history – the eventful journey that shaped our World today.  Continue reading Earth Creation – The Story So Far…

Thermodynamics and Entropy – Our Irreversible Universe

A photographic montage representing entropy, shown a dropped china tea cup being broken down on impact.Irreversibility

A friend of mine once casually asked me over a drink: “What is entropy?”  Eeek!  Interesting concept.  But…  How do you define entropy in a non-mathematical way?  How can you sum up entropy in 30 seconds?  In one mental image.  In a single concept…  In one word.  A form of energy?  A measure of disorder in the Universe?  Randomness?  All of the above?  Tricky question.  And then, I dropped my glass… Continue reading Thermodynamics and Entropy – Our Irreversible Universe

The Ion Propulsion System – What the… #!$@*!!

Four different ion thrusters. Source: Michigan Technological University (MIT)“That’s Star Trek stuff!”

… is pretty much the bemused reaction you’ll get if you allow yourself to answer casual questions about science over a drink with a non-physicist.  AB-SO-LUTE disbelief.  Your fault!  Shouldn’t have gone there…  Pretend you didn’t hear the question…  Especially if the answer is ion propulsion!   Continue reading The Ion Propulsion System – What the… #!$@*!!

GOCE and Gravity – Looking Down at the Oceans Up Above

An artist's impression of GOCE. Source: ESAGOCE – Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer

GOCE succumbed to gravity – the force it had been sent up into space to study.  Ironically.  When the xenon fuel for this engine was exhausted, the satellite fell back to Earth in November 2013.  The first of ESA’s Living Planet Programme satellites, GOCE was intended to map the Earth’s gravity field in unprecedented detail.. Continue reading GOCE and Gravity – Looking Down at the Oceans Up Above

It’s All Go at “Cape Kebaberal” in Sheffield…

A photograph showing Azuma Makoto bonsai sent into space in 2014.Lift-Off!

Florida has Cape Canaveral, and now it seems the UK city of Sheffield has a new space port dubbed “Cape Kebaberal”.  The name was inspired by the favourite student food of Alex Baker and Chris Rose, who run the Sheffield-based company SentIntoSpace Continue reading It’s All Go at “Cape Kebaberal” in Sheffield…

A Starry Starry Night or The Unexpected Maths in a Van Gogh’s Masterpiece

An image showing Van Gogh's painting "The Starry Night" (1889).Van Gogh’s Starry Night

When Classical Physics and Post-Impressionist artists meet, few results are as hauntingly beautiful or as enchanting as one of Vincent van Gogh’s most famous masterpieces.  The Starry Night embodies the inner, subjective expression of van Gogh’s response to Nature.  And the churning night sky he depicted tells of the artist’s very unique perception of the World around him… Continue reading A Starry Starry Night or The Unexpected Maths in a Van Gogh’s Masterpiece

Le GEIPAN – Qu’est-Ce Que C’est?

A photograph showing sky lanterns floating up in the night.GEIPAN

The United States have one.  The Danish used to have one, and so did the Brits, but no longer.  France remains the only country in Europe to have one.  So, what exactly is the GEIPAN?  Continue reading Le GEIPAN – Qu’est-Ce Que C’est?

A Classical Quantum Conundrum – When To Be or Not To Be… a Wave?

An animation showing the formation of the typical wave-particle duality interference pattern.Wav-icles?

Ever since French physicist Louis de Broglie first described the wave-particle duality in 1926, scientists have struggled to come to terms with this strange particularity of our natural World when observed at the quantum level.  Waves can be particles, and particles can be waves.  But are entities waves AND particles all at the same time?

Continue reading A Classical Quantum Conundrum – When To Be or Not To Be… a Wave?

Scotland’s Quiet Revolutions – One Nation with Sovereign Achievements… and a Pure Dead Brilliant Future!

A photograph of the countryside north of Glasgow - sheep grazing. Image: NaturPhilosophie

Scotland’s Quiet Revolutions

It seems quiet at first, and even dull.  Not much happening…  Dreich, as one might say!  Sad.  Grim.  Bleak.  Not much to do…  Not much to see here…  Just sheep…  But wait!!  Look closer!  Is that Dolly in this field?  Now, that’s interesting!  Oh, Aye, we’re in Scotland!  It changes EVERYTHING…  Continue reading Scotland’s Quiet Revolutions – One Nation with Sovereign Achievements… and a Pure Dead Brilliant Future!

We Glimpse at the Body Electric – An Introduction to the Physics of the Human Nervous System

An artist's impression of the human nervous system at work.The Human Nervous System: 100 Plus Billion Cells

The human nervous system contains roughly 100 billion nerve cells.  Worth pausing for an instant… and read it again.  That’s right, 100 billions!  To give an idea of the scale, the Milky Way, our own galaxy, contains roughly 100 billion stars.  And although human beings are way smaller than galaxies, we begin to appreciate how each one of us is as complex, as mysterious, and as magnificent in its own right, as any large astronomical entity in the physical Universe Continue reading We Glimpse at the Body Electric – An Introduction to the Physics of the Human Nervous System

Satellite of Love – It’s Up, Up and Away for Scotland’s UKube-1

An artist's impression of the new Scotland UKube-1 micro-satellite in orbit around Earth.Scotland’s First Nano-Satellite

Earlier this month, UKube-1, a satellite built by Glasgow-based technology firm Clyde Space, successfully launched on a test flight from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.  It is the first ever spacecraft to be fully assembled in Scotland. Continue reading Satellite of Love – It’s Up, Up and Away for Scotland’s UKube-1

Calculating Entropy – The Energy of Change

A drawing showing a snowflake of Ice melting into molecules of water. From order to disorder, there is only entropy.It’s About Heat and Temperature

What is the difference between heat and temperature?  Heat is thermal energy.  Temperature is a measurement of the average kinetic energy of the particles which compose the matter being tested.  When heat flows into a material, one of two things happen: either the temperature of the material can rise, or there may be a change in its state (such as from ice to liquid, or liquid to vapour). Continue reading Calculating Entropy – The Energy of Change

Helium – Lighter than Air

A photograph showing a bunch of Helium red party balloons on strings over a sunny blue sky background.More Than Just Party Balloons…

Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe, after hydrogen.  On Earth, helium is relatively rare, because it is one of the few elements that can escape gravity and leak away into space.  Therefore, helium exists as a finite resource.  But as our reserves of the precious element steadily decreases, helium is in increasing demand.  In medicine, helium supports the fight against cancer…  Continue reading Helium – Lighter than Air