Category Archives: Waves

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

Geothermics and Gravity – The IRENA Global Atlas for Renewable Energy

A satellite colour map taken from the IRENA Global Atlas for Renewable Energy - Free Air Anomaly Map.Eye on the Energy Sources of the Future

Geothermal energy prospectors have long used gravity meters in their search for the right subsurface characteristics.  But these have been point measurements.  GOCE now provides this information across the World at a resolution never before achieved on that scale.  Continue reading Geothermics and Gravity – The IRENA Global Atlas for Renewable Energy

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 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

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

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

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

A Classical Quantum Conundrum – When To Be or Not To Be… a Wave?

An animation showing the formation of the typical wave-particle duality interference pattern.Wav-icles?

Ever since French physicist Louis de Broglie first described the wave-particle duality in 1926, scientists have struggled to come to terms with this strange particularity of our natural World when observed at the quantum level.  Waves can be particles, and particles can be waves.  But are entities waves AND particles all at the same time?

Continue reading A Classical Quantum Conundrum – When To Be or Not To Be… a Wave?

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: NaturPhilosophie

Scotland’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!

We Glimpse at the Body Electric – An Introduction to the Physics of the Human Nervous System

An artist's impression of the human nervous system at work.The Human Nervous System: 100 Plus Billion Cells

The human nervous system contains roughly 100 billion nerve cells.  Worth pausing for an instant… and read it again.  That’s right, 100 billions!  To give an idea of the scale, the Milky Way, our own galaxy, contains roughly 100 billion stars.  And although human beings are way smaller than galaxies, we begin to appreciate how each one of us is as complex, as mysterious, and as magnificent in its own right, as any large astronomical entity in the physical Universe Continue reading We Glimpse at the Body Electric – An Introduction to the Physics of the Human Nervous System

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

Satellite of Love – It’s Up, Up and Away for Scotland’s UKube-1

An artist's impression of the new Scotland UKube-1 micro-satellite in orbit around Earth.Scotland’s First Nano-Satellite

Earlier this month, UKube-1, a satellite built by Glasgow-based technology firm Clyde Space, successfully launched on a test flight from Baikonur, Kazakhstan.  It is the first ever spacecraft to be fully assembled in Scotland. Continue reading Satellite of Love – It’s Up, Up and Away for Scotland’s UKube-1

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

Are the Jet Streams Dynamics Santa’s Revenge? No, really.

A picture showing the location of the Earth's jet streams taken by NASA's Cassini space probe.Unprecedented Weather Events

If you have had it up to here with floods in England, if you are left cold by the snow in the United States or mystified by the unseasonably mild temperatures in Scandinavia, blame it on Santa Claus!  Continue reading Are the Jet Streams Dynamics Santa’s Revenge? No, really.

Sea Level Rise vs Atmospheric CO2

A map showing what the coast lines of Western Europe will look like with a 20-metre sea level rise.Manmade Carbon CO2 Pollution Has Already Put Us on Track for 20 Metres of Sea Level Rise

The bad news is that we’re all but certain to end up with a coastline at least this flooded: 20 metres or 69 feet The “good” news Continue reading Sea Level Rise vs Atmospheric CO2

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

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…

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

In the Eye of Super Typhoon Haiyan

A photograph of typhoon Haiyan over the Philippines, taken from the International Space Station (ISS). Image: NASATyphoon Haiyan of the Philippines

Typhoon Haiyan was a huge weather system.  If you haven’t heard about the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines by now, then you probably don’t care…  Continue reading In the Eye of Super Typhoon Haiyan

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