Category Archives: Energy

Heat Race Across a Maze with the Leidenfrost Effect

A photograph showing the Leidenfrost effect of liquid nitrogen in action. The experimenter's warm hand is seen plunged into a vat of liquid nitrogen, which spills over. Don't Try This At Home!

A Familiar Sight in The Kitchen

The Leidenfrost effect is a phenomenon in which a liquid, brought in near contact with a mass significantly hotter than the liquid’s own boiling point, produces a thin vapour layer.  This insulating vapour layer keeps liquid from boiling rapidly.  Continue reading Heat Race Across a Maze with the Leidenfrost Effect

Colour Perception and Retinal Neurons – Attempting to Map the Human Brain

A close-up photograph showing a brown eye. Image: NaturPhilosophieColour Perception – The Eye of the Beholder

Seeing the World in glorious colours is central to our lives.  Colours shape the way we behave.  They affect our mood and our perception.  They can influence the way we interact and respond to social and environmental stimuli, whether we are directly aware of it, or through subliminal awareness of our external world.  Again, it is one of those things that most people take for granted in everyday life.

Colour perception is all subjective.  Colours only exist when three components are present: a viewer, an object, and lightContinue reading Colour Perception and Retinal Neurons – Attempting to Map the Human Brain

The Art and Science of Music Acoustics – From the Humble Flute to the Mighty Didgeridoo (Featuring Tarzan…)

A photograph featuring an aboriginal didgeridoo player sitting on the beach with his instrument.Fundamentals of Music Acoustics

Any signal that may be represented as an amplitude varying over time has a corresponding frequency spectrum.  This applies to concepts (and natural phenomena) that most human beings encounter daily, without giving them a second thought.  Such as visible light (and colour perception), radio/TV channels, wireless communications…  Even the regular rotation of the Earth.  Even the sound of music… Continue reading The Art and Science of Music Acoustics – From the Humble Flute to the Mighty Didgeridoo (Featuring Tarzan…)

“Pow”! “Bang”! The Physics of Superheroes

A photograph showing a few frames of a Marvel superheroes comic book. Two masked superheroes - one wearing a red outfit and the other one with a green outfit - are flying through space. The captions read: Red Man "You can open your eyes now. There they are." Green man "Wait. I'm confused. If we're smaller than light particles now. How are we even seeing?" Red Man "You're not... Not in any human way. The five senses become something else entirely at this quantum level. Your mind's doing you a favour. It's processing all this into familiar visuals so you won't go insane. By the way, you're not breathing oxygen either. It's best not to think about it." Green Man "No kidding." Superheroes smaller than photon-life.Physics meets Comic-Book Superheroes

The Physics of Superheroes is a popular science book by  James Kakalios, a Physics professor at the School of Physics and Astronomy of the University of Minnesota, and a long-time comic-book fan.  Continue reading “Pow”! “Bang”! The Physics of Superheroes

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?

The Moser Bottle Lamp: ‘Divine Light’

A close-up photograph of Alfredo Moser in the light of the bottle lamp - his makeshift invention.Sun Light in a Bottle

“God gave the Sun to everyone”, Alfredo Moser states modestly.  And Moser gave his light to everyone.  Over the last couple of years, Moser’s ingenious innovation has spread throughout the World, bringing the bottle lamps to locations from Brazil to the Philippines and Bangladesh.  By early next year, it is estimated that one million homes will have benefited from his simple idea…  Continue reading The Moser Bottle Lamp: ‘Divine Light’

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

Tropical Thunderstorms in Glasgow: The Tale of the Atmospheric River

A MET Office satellite map showing thunder and heavy rain over Glasgow on 26 July 2013.Scottish Downpours Tropical-Style

Near-tropical thunderous rain downpours have succeeded the balmy high temperatures that summer has brought to Glasgow of late.  Deep black skies.  Thunderbolts.  Lightning.  (♫ Very, very frightening!  Galileo Galileo… ♫)  Unusual conditions even for a very wet Scotland.   Continue reading Tropical Thunderstorms in Glasgow: The Tale of the Atmospheric River

Secrets of the Bubble Chamber

A picture collage showing the Gargamelle bubble chamber and the Smurfs archvillain sorcerer, Gargamelle.What Do Gargamelle and Picasso Have in Common?

Nope.  Nothing to do with the arch-nemesis of the Smurfs or with an avant-garde artistic masterpiece, unlike the top picture appears to suggest…  Actually, the Gargamelle on the left is at CERN and takes its name after the giantess in the works of satirist François Rabelais: she was Gargantua’s mother!  The Gargamelle is a historical ‘bubble chamber’ detector however… Continue reading Secrets of the Bubble Chamber

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 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

Lightning and the Earth’s Electric Field

A photograph showing some spectacular lightning bolts above a city skyline at night.Earth’s Electric Field

The Earth has an electric field.  On average, this field points vertically downwards and it has a magnitude of about 100 N C-1 (Newtons per Coulomb).  It exists because the Earth’s surface carries a negative charge of – 5 x 10C, while the upper atmosphere carries a compensating positive charge.  An average of 400,000 thunderstorms a day  Continue reading Lightning and the Earth’s Electric Field

Fallen from Outer Space…

A photograph of Daredevil Felix Baumgartner, as he boldly prepares to jump off his high altitude capsule for the ultimate record-breaking space dive on 14th October 2012.

Record-Breaking Space Dive

14th October 2012.  During his ultimate high-altitude parachute jump, Felix Baumgartner spends approximately 4 minutes and 22 seconds in freefall, at the maximum speed of 1,342 kilometres per hour.  Continue reading Fallen from Outer Space…