Category Archives: Life

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

Nitrogen – Nature’s Explosive Building Blocks

An animation showing the violent explosion of a nitrogen-filled balloon.“Lifeless”

One of the all-time most interesting elements in the Periodic Table, nitrogen is a colourless, odourless, inert diatomic gas that makes up to 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere.  We breathe it everyday, although an atmosphere of pure nitrogen is nefarious to animal and human life.  It is vital to life and plants simply strive on it.  Nitrogen compounds are explosive, and nations have gone to war over it.  It can feed… or kill. Continue reading Nitrogen – Nature’s Explosive Building Blocks

Coffee’s Up!

A photograph showing Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, sporting her Starfleet uniform on board the International Space Station.#BlueDot

Expedition 43 astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti snapped this photograph of herself wearing the Starfleet uniform from TV series “Star Trek: Voyager” aboard the International Space Station, and posted it on her Twitter account @AstroSamantha last month.

Continue reading Coffee’s Up!

The Illusion of Choice – Now You See It, Now You Don’t…

A black and white photograph showing passengers standing in an underground railway carriage. The man at the centre of the picture is leaning casually and appears to be reading his newspaper attentively. In fact, he is a pickpocket, who is busy stealing a wallet from the back pocket of one of the passengers on the left who is turning his back to him, and seems unaware that he's being robbed.What Pickpockets Know and Your Brain Would Rather Not Tell You

Be under no illusion.  You saw the sign: “Pickpockets are operating in this area”.  You reacted.  Instantly.  The first thing you did was to check your pockets or handbag for signs of financial solvability.  All is well.  You relax.  Only now, you’ve become the “mark”… because you’ve just given away precious information about the location of your valuables around your body.  Continue reading The Illusion of Choice – Now You See It, Now You Don’t…

Food as Geopolitical Subjugation – Welcome to Plastic City, Almería!

A satellite photograph of El Ejido "Plastic City" in southern Spain, showing the vast expanse of the plastic covered greenhouses near Almeria.El Ejido, Southern Spain

Surrounding the town of El Ejido, Almeria Province, southern Spain is a sea of greenhouses, stretching for tens of kilometres, visible from space.  Millions of tons of vegetables are exported from there to other European countries and further parts of the World.  Along the Mediterranean coast, tourism flourishes, fuelling a booming real estate economy…  Continue reading Food as Geopolitical Subjugation – Welcome to Plastic City, Almería!

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

Sunrise over an African Power Revolution

A photograph showing the solar photovoltaic panels of the Kimberley project in South Africa.

The Rise of Solar Power Farms

This is the Jasper Project.  Over 325,000 photovoltaic panels capable of producing 180,000 MWh of clean energy every year and support the needs of almost 80,000 households.  More and more solar farms are being built across Africa.  Solar energy is on the rise. Continue reading Sunrise over an African Power Revolution

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 Real-Life Space Twin Paradox

A photograph featuring twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly in their NASA uniform.Twin Astronauts

A ground-breaking one-year space mission involving twin astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly should help doctors, scientists and mission planners better understand the physical and psychological impacts of a long-duration spaceflight. Continue reading The Real-Life Space Twin Paradox

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

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

Ode to the Numpty or Why Incompetence is a Double-Edged Sword

A photograph showing the hapless character of Mr Bean, played by British comedian Rowan Atkinson.

Disclaimer…

You.  Yes, YOU!  You’re pretty smart, right?  Clever and witty too, I bet.  Of course you are.  You’re just like me.  But wouldn’t it just be terrible if we were all thoroughly mistaken.  Psychologists have now shown that we are more likely to be blind to our own failings than perhaps we do realise.  This might explain why some incompetent people are SO annoying… and also inject a healthy dose of humility into our own sense of self-regard… Continue reading Ode to the Numpty or Why Incompetence is a Double-Edged Sword

Stanford’s Linac X-Rays capture Molecular Matter in Motion

A computer simulation of the LCLS Linac Injection Model showing molecular matter in motion.Super Fast, Super Bright…

Take one second and divide it a million times.  Then, take one millionth of that second and divide it again… by a billion!  All you’re left with is a femtosecond.  That’s how fast the Linac laser at Palo Alto can deliver burst of X-rays and track chemical reactions in living systems… as they happen. Continue reading Stanford’s Linac X-Rays capture Molecular Matter in Motion

When Biology Met Physics…

A photomontage showing helicoidal-shaped strands of DNA superimposed on a background of physical equations.The Emergent Field of Biophysics

Ever since Francis Crick and James Watson brought Physics and Biology together in 1953 to unveil the molecular structure of DNA, the boundary between the two disciplines has continued to become increasingly blurred.  In this genomic new era, ever more principles from Physics are being applied to living systems in an attempt to understand complexity at all levels.  Although sometimes the best solution to a Physics problem lies in the macroscopic world of Biology…  Continue reading When Biology Met Physics…

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

Little Tin Soldiers of Indonesia

A photograph showing a young child labouring at an Indonesian tin mine.Does exactly What It Says on the…

Tin – an important element for the electronics industry.  Tin is in high demand to manufacture devices like smartphones and tablets.  In Indonesia and elsewhere, people work in mines to dig tin ore out of the ground.  A dangerous job is made even more unsafe where the mine is being run illegally.  And it is not just the adults who take risks.  Children in Indonesia are working in brutal conditions to collect the materials used in our cool gadgets.  The manufacturers are complicit.  Do you really feel like buying that brand new mobile phone now?  Continue reading Little Tin Soldiers of Indonesia

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…

Don’t Shoot, I Just Blog Here! – I Am Charlie.

A Charlie Hebdo cartoon by Cabu, showing three violent extremist of different religious backgrounds. The caption reads: "Dieu N'Existe Pas..." (God Doesn't Exist.) "Si!" (Yes!) is the answer of the terrorist.Je Suis Charlie.  Let’s Talk!

I don’t do politics – much.  I just blog here…  I have an honest opinion.  Mostly, I tend to disagree with all those who try to suppress opinions, ideas, and attempt to stifle creativity and common sense… whoever they may be.  Unfortunately, once in a while, events are so traumatic that I simply forget that I don’t do politics…  Voilà!

I am not sure how many of you out there actually knew those Charlie Hebdo cartoons, but if you’re easily offended…  DON’T read further!! Continue reading Don’t Shoot, I Just Blog Here! – I Am Charlie.

The Craic about “Fracking” – Technical Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing

A photograph illustrating the phenomenon of natural hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking'.The Industry Term is ‘Fracturing’

Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly referred to as “fracking” in the media, is the fracturing of rock by a pressurised liquid.  Some hydraulic fractures form naturally – certain veins or dikes are examples.  However, induced hydraulic fracturing or hydro-fracturing is also a long tried-and-tested mining technique that has been most controversial recently…  But let’s not panic!  Continue reading The Craic about “Fracking” – Technical Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing

Friends or Fourth Cousins

A photograph of a group of friends hugging each other. Friends or Fourth Cousins.Do your Friends have Similar Genomes?

Do you know who your fourth cousins are?  The chances are you don’t.  But do you know who your friends are?  Of course, you know that much.  But did you ever stop and think why or how your friends are your friends?  Could your friends actually share part of your DNA, to the same extent a distant family member does? 

Continue reading Friends or Fourth Cousins

Winning at Rock-Paper-Scissors… Lizard-Spock!

A picture representing the traditional game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.A Little Game Theory

What is the ultimate strategy for winning at rock-paper-scissors?  According to three physicists in China, the answer does not lie in having absolutely no strategy and ensure that your choice of weapon is completely random, unlike previously thought.  If that strategy seemed obvious, perhaps you haven’t played the game enough to delude yourself into thinking that this might be a winning strategy…  Continue reading Winning at Rock-Paper-Scissors… Lizard-Spock!

Quantum Physicists in Disguise…

A photographic collage showing a number of Quantum celebrities, including Charlotte Church, Will I. Am, Tiger Woods, Anne Hathaway and Mark Everett. Image: NaturPhilosophieCelebrities you Thought you Knew Everything About

This blog isn’t really “trendy”…  “Physicists aren’t cool, and you never meet them anywhere anyway because they are all lesser known characters, some of them shady, who spend all their time toiling in obscurity on things no one does understand.”  Continue reading Quantum Physicists in Disguise…

http://www.roboearth.org/ – The Matrix is Everywhere…

A photograph showing an old-fashioned computer screen showing a lot of data in green font type on the black screen background and the words "The Matrix has you..." is displayed in the centre.What is RoboEarth?

A world wide web for robots to learn from each other and share information is being unveiled for the first time.  The eventual aim of the system is that both robots and humans will be able to upload information to the cloud-based database, which would act as a kind of common brain for machines.  Continue reading http://www.roboearth.org/ – The Matrix is Everywhere…