Category Archives: Cosmology

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

Fibonacci’s Golden Spiral – The Relationship between Maths and Nature

A close-up photograph of a cross section through a Nautilus shell showing that the Fibonacci sequence can be found everywhere in Nature.The Language of Nature

They are found everywhere in Nature.  From the leaf arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the petals of a flower, the bracts of a pine cone, or the scales of a pineapple.  The Fibonacci numbers are applicable to the growth of every living thing: a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, all of mankind.  From sunflowers to sea shells, the same recurrent mathematical pattern can be observed in Nature, again, and again, and again…  Continue reading Fibonacci’s Golden Spiral – The Relationship between Maths and Nature

Magnetic “Monopole” Observed in Quantum System – The Lowdown on Electromagnetism

A representation of an artificial magnetic monopoles field.On the Trail of the Elusive Magnetic Monopole

Break a magnet into two pieces, and what do you obtain?  What you get, unsurprisingly perhaps, are two new magnets – each one with two sides of opposite polarity.  You don’t get a north half and a south half.  Back to square one, it seems…  Continue reading Magnetic “Monopole” Observed in Quantum System – The Lowdown on Electromagnetism

Waiting for Rosetta to Wake Up…

An artist's impression of the Rosetta spacecraft in outer space. Image: ESAThe Rosetta Spacecraft

January 20, 2014.  500 million miles from Earth.  09:59:58…  09:59:59…  10:00:00 GMT.  After spending two and a half years into deep-space hibernation, Rosetta awakes

Launched in March 2004 by ESA (European Space Agency), it has since travelled around the Sun five times, picking up energy from Earth and Mars to line itself up with its final destination.  Continue reading Waiting for Rosetta to Wake Up…

Living out in Space: From ‘Major Tom’ to Major Tim

A photograph showing astronaut Chris Hadfield on board the International Space Station (ISS) in the video of his cover version of 'Space Oddity' by David Bowie.Chris Hadfield’s Space Oddity

♫ This is Ground Control to Major Tom… ♫

Commander Chris Hadfield ascended to international stardom when he released his cover version of David Bowie’s 1972 Song ‘Space Oddity’ from the International Space Station.  Continue reading Living out in Space: From ‘Major Tom’ to Major Tim

2013: A Year in Physical Science and Technology

A cartoon by Drew featuring Voyager 1. The caption reads: "What do you mean I haven't left the solar system? I've already posted it on Facebook."Voyager leaves the Solar System

A lot of things happen in 12 months.  And 2013 is no exception.

Remember when you were a kid back in 1977, when Voyager-1 was all the talk?  Remember the wonderful artefact it carried away into space like a gift from the Earth human civilisation – the golden disc and the message on it?  Where is it now?  Continue reading 2013: A Year in Physical Science and Technology

Water of Life

A clever design showing the word H2O drawn in condensation water droplets.An Essential Molecule for the Sustainability of Life

Water.  H2O.  The chemical formula is simple.  Two atoms of hydrogen H and one atom of oxygen O, held together by covalent bonds, are all it takes to make what is perhaps the most fundamental substance to life on Earth.  Continue reading Water of Life

Making Plans on the Comet – C/2012 S1 IS ON!!

A photograph of comet ISON. Image: Damian Peach.A Comet is not just for Christmas…

Just when you had high hopes of getting your hands on the latest gizmos and trendy gadgets in time for Christmas… and Boom!  You’re being given a comet!  Not just any comet.  Comet ISON (C/2012 S1).  It’s 4.6 billion years old!  And it will pass within 40,000,000 miles of Earth. Continue reading Making Plans on the Comet – C/2012 S1 IS ON!!

Chelyabinsk Asteroid: Nine Months After The Russian Meteor Impact

A CCTV photograph showing the Chelyabinsk meteor burning bright in the atmosphere over Russia. Image: NaturPhilosophieThe Day of the Chelyabinsk Asteroid

Just nine months ago, a massive asteroid blew up above the city of Chelyabinsk in Russia.  The explosion created by the Chelyabinsk asteroid on Friday 15 February 2013 was the    Continue reading Chelyabinsk Asteroid: Nine Months After The Russian Meteor Impact

At the Heart of the Hydrogen Atom…

A photograph showing a Hydrogen atom visually captured for the first time using the technique of Quantum Microscopy.

The Humble Hydrogen Atom

Back in May 2013, scientists announced that they had managed to capture a photo of an electron’s whizzing orbit within a hydrogen atom, using a unique new technology of ‘quantum’ microscopy.  Ladies and gentlemen, let’s take a short trip into the infinitesimally small!  Here is the first photograph of a hydrogen atom!  Continue reading At the Heart of the Hydrogen Atom…

Physics Nobel Prize 2013: Scotland’s Own Peter Higgs

Don't try this one: Professor Peter Higgs with a description of the Higgs model.The Latest Physics Nobel Prize Laureate

The Physics Nobel Prize was awarded on 8 October 2013 to Edinburgh University-based scientist Peter Higgs for the theoretical discovery of a mechanism crucial to our understanding of the origin of everything…

At the end of the 19th century, many people considered Physics as the foremost of sciences.  Perhaps chemical engineer Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) saw it in this way too, and that is why Physics was the first prize area which he did mention in his will. Continue reading Physics Nobel Prize 2013: Scotland’s Own Peter Higgs

Strings + A Capella = “Bohemian Gravity”?

Bohemian Gravity: "Any way you quantize, you encounter infinity."Describing The World Dynamics So Far

According to the current understanding of Physics, there is as yet no uniform field theory.  No all-encompassing well-rounded theory that would enable all the known fundamental forces and elementary particles to fit neatly into one simple model, and to be expressed in terms of a single field.

And since there is no accepted unified field theory, it remains an open line of research.  Canadian graduate student Timothy Blais decided to explore the idea and promote his findings in a way that really rocks…  ♫  Continue reading Strings + A Capella = “Bohemian Gravity”?

What do Physicists do anyway?

Air Apparent

Over 50,000 deaths each year in the UK are attributed to air pollution.  Physicist, entrepreneur and father Mark Richards is concerned about the environment and in particular the air pollution that we expose our children to.  He has developed a handy machine which can monitor air quality.  He wants people to see how bad air pollution is, so that we all think more carefully about our lifestyles and travel methods.

Continue reading What do Physicists do anyway?

Why the Universe may be Inherently Unstable

"The Cosmic Soup": An impressionist artist's view of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) Radiation at the edge of our Local Universe. Artwork:: NaturPhilosophie

Exploring Vacuum Instability

Scientists are currently exploring the concept of vacuum instability.  What does this mean?  Well, they believe there is a chance that…  Billions of years from now, a new universe could open up into the present one and replace it.  It all depends on some very precise numbers related to the Higgs boson particle that researchers are currently trying to pin down.

If the calculation on vacuum instability holds, it would revive the old idea that the ‘Big Bang’ Universe we can observe today, is merely the latest version in a permanent cycle of events…  Continue reading Why the Universe may be Inherently Unstable

The Field Equations of General Relativity

An artist's impression of the Earth's gravity field as described in Einstein's General Relativity.

Keeping It Relatively Simple

The Einstein Field Equations of General Relativity are vast and complex, but they can be written with deceptive simplicity.  Using modern notation, the field equations can be formulated as

\boldsymbol G = \frac {- 8 \pi G}{c^4} \boldsymbol T   Continue reading The Field Equations of General Relativity

The Glasgow Science Festival 2013 Starts Today. Naturally!

Glasgow Naturally

Glasgow Science Festival 2013 begins today with a busy schedule of events for all ages!!  Highlights include “Science Sunday”, a free event taking place at the University of Glasgow, Hunter Halls on June 9th between the times of 10:00 and 16:00.  Continue reading The Glasgow Science Festival 2013 Starts Today. Naturally!

60-Second Adventures in Thought

A picture illustrating the Hilbert's Infinite Hotel. Image: The Open University6 Short Videos about the Philosophy of Maths and Science

The Open University has created a series of 6 short animated iTunes videos about the Philosophy behind Maths and Science.   Continue reading 60-Second Adventures in Thought

It’s a Higgs!

An illustration ins[ired by Michelangelo's scenes of Genesis at the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican: Adam discovers the "God" particle - Higgs Boson.Hunting For The God Particle

Today, Thursday 14th March 2013.  Only last year, the world of Particle Physics research was getting excited among rumours and speculation that the hunt for the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was finally over, following the news that a Higgs-like particle had been identified in July. Continue reading It’s a Higgs!

60-Second Hilarious Adventures in Astronomy

A slide picture from 60 seconds in Astronomy, showing English astronomer on holiday. Image: The Open University12 Short Videos about the Physics of the Cosmos

The Open University has teamed up with “geek chic” comedian David Mitchell to release a series of 12 short animated YouTube videos about the Physics of the Cosmos: “60-Second Adventures in Astronomy”.  A real treat.  And it’s educational!  If you have only 60 seconds, you can now learn everything we know about matter, energy, life, the Universe and everything…

Continue reading 60-Second Hilarious Adventures in Astronomy

The Standard Model

... but what is a Higgs Boson?

20th Century World View

The Standard Model of Particle Physics is a theory about the electromagnetic, weak and strong nuclear interactions, developed throughout the mid-to-late 20th century, as a worldwide collaborative effort.  Continue reading The Standard Model

Meteors over Russia

A CCTV picture showing the large fireball meteor fly-over Russia on 15 February 2013.

Historic Event in Astronomy

Today, Friday 15th February 2013.  Russia’s Ural mountains.  A fireball streaks through the clear morning sky.  Loud bangs follow.  A meteor crashes in Russia about 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) east of Moscow.   Continue reading Meteors over Russia

How to Weigh a Supermassive Black Hole?

An artist's impression of a black hole.Black Holes

Black holes are known to exist at the centres of most galaxies, including our own Milky Way.  The masses of those black holes are correlated to many of the properties of their host galaxies, which strongly suggests that galaxies and black holes evolve together.  Measuring their masses Continue reading How to Weigh a Supermassive Black Hole?

Let There Be Light…

A photograph showing the sun reflecting over the waters at Loch Kathrine through a curtain of trees. Low sun. Image: NaturPhilosophieFiat Lux…

Light.  Most of us take it for granted during the day.  And at night, we have learned to domesticate it.  Light, the natural agent that stimulates our sense of sight and makes things around us visible.  Continue reading Let There Be Light…

World Views

Astronomical Beginnings

Early astronomers already make the distinction between stars and planets, as the former remain relatively fixed for centuries, while the latter wander an appreciable amount in a comparatively short time.  But that’s not all!

Continue reading World Views