Category Archives: Magnetism

Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

Abstract artist impression of the particle newly discovered at CERN in psychedelic colours. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieThe Xi-cc++ Particle

CERN’s LHCb collaboration has announced the discovery of a new “charming” particle, thought to be instrumental to the strong force – the Xi-cc++.  Another particle.  So…? Continue reading Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques

A photographic montage showing a calcinated Herculaneum papyrus scroll on a Greek scriptures background. Scrolling Back the Past at Herculaneum

Once a chic resort on the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was favoured by the finest of Roman’s elite society, who spent the hot Italian summers there… until a catastrophe struck one afternoon in 79 AD.  The Villa dei Papiri, excavated centuries later, was found to contain the only library to have survived from the Classical World – a unique cultural treasure, which the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly destroyed, and yet preserved all at once.  How do you read what is essentially a charred book?  Continue reading Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques

The Discovery of Gravitational Waves – Merging Black Holes and Advanced LIGO

An animation illustrating two colliding and merging black holes in outer space.Black Holes Far Ago Have Been Causing a Stir…

You know how when you throw a rock into a pool, that makes ripples in the water?  And how Einstein once upon a time predicted that the very mass of stars and planets should warp spacetime?  Although we have had a justified inkling that Einstein was right for quite some time, we had never before detected such a phenomenon.  Until THIS happened… Continue reading The Discovery of Gravitational Waves – Merging Black Holes and Advanced LIGO

The Everlasting Storm of Catatumbo, Venezuela

A photograph showing the intense lightning at Catatumbo in Venezuela. National Geographic MagazineCatatumbo’s Lightning Show

There is a place on Earth where lightning storms last forever.  We are at Catatumbo, in Venezuela.  And this year, Catatumbo was approved for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the place in the World with the most lightning bolts per square kilometre each year at 250.  What causes such a powerful storm to develop in the same spot, up to 300 nights a year? Continue reading The Everlasting Storm of Catatumbo, Venezuela

From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…

A close-up photograph of "skunk" cannabis being poured out of a glass container. The photograph has been stamped with the "Intel Inside" logo.Nano-Cannabis?

Waste fibres from cannabis crops can be transformed into high-performance low-cost pseudo-graphene energy storage devices.  Cannabis is quite possibly the most versatile, yet highly controversial, plant we have on the planet: from a popular recreational drug to a potential medicine for a range of incurable conditions.  If Carlsberg made a weed, this would be it… Continue reading From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…

Just a Second…

A close-up photograph of an analog clock showing the hands just reaching the hour.What Does a Second Look Like?

1/60 minute.  1/3,600 hour.  1/86,400 day.  1/1 hertz.  The duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of a 133 55Cs caesium isotope corresponds to one second.  But what does it look like?  And where might you find a second? Continue reading Just a Second…

Physics at 13 TeV – Cranking Up the LHC

A composite picture showing inside the underground tunnel at CERN, and a small portion of the giant particle accelerator in artificial colours, with the words 13 TeV superimposed on it. Image: NaturPhilosophieA Vernesque Feat of Human Engineering

Deep down, in huge subterranean caverns… Underneath the Franco-Swiss border… 300 feet underground… lies a beast of unprecedented power… and mystery.  The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that man summons to  explore the uncharted corners of the sub-atomic realm…  After two years of a deep slumber, the mighty beast has awoken… Continue reading Physics at 13 TeV – Cranking Up the LHC

5 Top Tips for Going Viral with Leidenfrost Physics

A short video showing a water droplet moving towards the right of the screen under the influence of the Leindenfrost effect.The Leidenfrost effect

You’re not having déjà vu.  I already wrote about the Leidenfrost Maze in this blog.  And although physics experiments fascinate many, they don’t normally weigh up as Internet clickbait.  But the Leidenfrost effect is different… Continue reading 5 Top Tips for Going Viral with Leidenfrost Physics

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…

We Need to Talk about Multiple Sclerosis…

A pictorial representation of what Multiple Sclerosis does to the mind and body.Multiple Sclerosis?  Is that contagious?

We all know about diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Well, as much as any of us can learn from watching the news whether on TV or on the Web.  On average, the advice is loud and clear.  You’re told to: eat healthily, exercise moderately.  Additionally, don’t smoke, don’t take drugs and go easy on your alcohol consumption.  Overall, it makes good sense.  Your heart, your lungs and your liver play a major role in keeping you alive and wellThat little, everybody realises.  But how much do we really know when it comes to illnesses of the nervous system?  And without a healthy nervous system, well…  This article deals with Multiple Sclerosis.  It is an attempt to fill a gap in my own general ignorance and to inform others about this cruel condition…

Continue reading We Need to Talk about Multiple Sclerosis…

Lightning and the Sun’s Magnetic Field

A photograph showing lightning over Glasgow's West End.Magnetic Fields All Around

It’s not often you can see lightning above Glasgow, so this 2006 Flickr photograph is a rare and impressive sight.  But that’s not the point…  A study by researchers in the United Kingdom shows it is not just conditions here on Earth that determine how much thunder and lightning we get.  The Sun’s magnetic field also has a major influence, more than doubling the number of lightning bolts on some days…    Continue reading Lightning and the Sun’s Magnetic Field

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: NaturPhilosophieScotland’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!

Van der Waals and the Gecko

A photographic collage showing a black and white portrait of Van der Waals and a gecko climbing on the outside of a corrugated glass panel.The Sticky Physics of Van der Waals Forces

Geckos are amazing creatures.  They scamper up walls, scuttle along ceilings and hang upside down on polished glass surfaces.  However, the secret of their amazing climbing ability remained a mystery until relatively recently.  The secret lies in weak intermolecular forces, described by Van der Waals in 1873. Continue reading Van der Waals and the Gecko

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

We Delve into Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Forensics!

A photograph showing latent fingerprints under the magnifier, enhanced using a large electrical potential. Source: RSCSleuthing with Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry

Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry is a technique for separating ions of different masses by measuring the time taken to traverse a fixed distance through a magnetic field.  Sounds a bit arcane?  The technique is used daily by forensic investigative teams to research criminal profiling and provide reliable evidence for the prosecution…  Continue reading We Delve into Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Forensics!

The Enduring Mystery of Earthquake Lights – What Makes a Miracle?

A photograph showing an earthquake light - a rainbow cloud, taken in May 2008, in the region of Sichuan, China.Earthquake Lights in the Sky

Mysterious flashes of light and clear-sky lightning, blue flames?  Glowing orbs and fireballs?  Will-o’-the-wisps?  Stand-alone rainbow clouds and light pillars?  How could this be…?

Scientists in the United States now say that earthquake lightning flashes appearing to precede earthquakes, are likely to be sparked by movements within the ground below.  This phenomenon could be used to trigger alarms and help warn millions of an impending danger…

Continue reading The Enduring Mystery of Earthquake Lights – What Makes a Miracle?

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

Silent Sun

A photograph of the Sun's full disk. Image: NASAWhy has the Sun been so quiet?

The Sun ought be awash with activity right now.  But space scientists are baffled…  The Sun has reached its solar maximum: the point in its 11-year cycle where activity is at a peak.  Yet it has hit a lull.  And to see when the Sun was this inactive last… you’ve got to go back about 100 years…  Continue reading Silent Sun

North by Northeast: The Trouble with the Earth’s Shifting Magnetic Field

A photograph taken at Loch Lomond. Image: NaturPhilosophieA Rambling Geomagnetic Pole

Magnetic North made an unusual and historic shift.  For the first time in more than 220 years of map making, Ordnance Survey has noted that North lies East, and not West, of Grid north for parts of Southern Britain.  But how does this shift in magnetic field affect map reading in Scotland’s hills?  Continue reading North by Northeast: The Trouble with the Earth’s Shifting Magnetic Field

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…

CSI Scotland: Murder by the Loch – Studying the Forensics…

A colour drawing of Ross Priory - an early 19th-century country house, located west of Gartocharn, West Dunbartonshire, on the south shore of Loch Lomond, Scotland. The scene of the crime? Forensic science and murder meet by the Loch.Can you Solve the Murder by the Loch?

Well, you can try…  I love a gothic mystery, don’t you?  😉

You have six weeks to do it – and a staged murder at Strathclyde University’s Ross Priory house – using the techniques of forensic science.  Starting NOW.  Continue reading CSI Scotland: Murder by the Loch – Studying the Forensics…

Revisiting the Millikan Experiment – What’s in an Oil Drop?

A droplet of oil just falling into a little yellow pool.A Historical Experiment

In 1909, physics pioneers Robert Millikan (1868-1953) and Harvey Fletcher (1884-1981) performed an experiment that would ultimately enable them to determine one of the most fundamental of all physical constants: the elementary electric charge, i.e. the electric charge of an individual electron – the constant eContinue reading Revisiting the Millikan Experiment – What’s in an Oil Drop?