Category Archives: Matter

The Law of Conservation of Energy: Life’s a Roller Coaster!

A photograph showing buddhist monks enjoying the scary thrills of a roller coaster ride. The Law of Conservation of Energy: Life's a roller coaster! - NaturPhilosophieWhat is Energy?

And what does the Law of Conservation of Energy actually mean?  In science and Nature, the word ‘energy’ conjures up a wealth of images associated with speed of movement, activity and work.  Energy does appear in many guises.  Even matter is a form of energy.  Actually, everything in the Universe is nothing more than energy in one form or another…  Continue reading The Law of Conservation of Energy: Life’s a Roller Coaster!

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…

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?

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”?

IPCC 2013 Stockholm – Latest Findings on Climate Change

A photograph showing the bright Sun shining over the Chukchi Sea. The planet's far northern and southern latitudes are projected to experience the greatest change under increasing global temperatures - and in many cases they already are. Image: Chris Linder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

The IPCC 2013 Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just released its latest summary of the science behind human-caused climate change or, to use its catchy official title, the IPCC Working Group 1 Fifth Assessment Report Summary for Policy Makers – Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis.

The document summary is 36 pages long.  The report includes 14 chapters and a dizzying amount of graphs, data and figures.  Here are just a few…  Continue reading IPCC 2013 Stockholm – Latest Findings on Climate Change

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.

The Leidenfrost effect is most commonly seen in a kitchen Continue reading Heat Race Across a Maze with the Leidenfrost Effect

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…)

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

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!

A Boy and His Atom

A picture slide from the World's Smallest Movie. Image: IBM

Made of Atoms

IBM researchers currently hold the Guinness World Record for the ‘World Smallest Stop-Motion Film’ after creating a short film about a boy and his ball, by manipulating single atoms. Continue reading A Boy and His Atom

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!

Earth’s Atmosphere

A NASA picture showing the sunset seen from the edge of the Earth atmosphere.

Planet Earth

Our planet is surrounded by layers of gas, the ‘atmosphere’, maintained around it by the very gravitational attraction of the Earth.  An important part of the atmosphere that we use to breathe and that plants use in photosynthesis is the ‘air’.  Continue reading Earth’s Atmosphere

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

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