Is there such a thing as absolute hot – the hottest you can possibly get? And no, I’m not talking about some it-person de jour being voted ‘hottest’ on the planet by some scatalogically-minded magazine trying to up its sales figures. I’m talking about the laws of physics. Temperature. And temperature beyond… er …. temperature. … More What is absolute hotness?
I have never yet successfully watched Avatar, and this despite the fact that it was filmed in the city where I live, and its 3,862 sequels are being developed here right now. I tried watching it. Twice. And fell asleep both times. You can guess that I didn’t think too much of the movie. It … More Why I won’t be watching the Avatar sequels
It’s been a hot week for science. Thanks to the Event Horizon Telescope, an algorithm created by 29-year old PhD graduate Katie Bouman, and a lot of hard work, humanity got its first photo of a black hole – M87 in the galaxy Messier 87, some 55 million light-years away. It wasn’t made with visible … More The science behind the awesome black hole photograph
Here’s a conundrum for you. Back in 1860, Austrian artist Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller (1793-1865) worked up this little scene. A woman, walking along in a pose very familiar to us today, is about to be confronted by a suitor bearing a flower. The painting was titled ‘Die Erwartete’ (‘The Expected’). So was Herr Waldmüller a … More Why yes, it’s proof of time travel, or not
Every so often I see something on Facebook asking you to name which super-powers you’d most like to have.That’s actually pretty cool, because – you know, super-powers. We all know what these are – invulnerability, invincible strength, teleportation, telekinesis, flying, being magnetic, telepathy, X-ray vision, squirting spider-web from your wrist and doing Tarzan swings with … More What five super-powers would you most like to have?
One of my favourite Robert A. Heinlein novels is Time for the Stars, a realisation of Albert Einstein’s ‘twin paradox’ that Heinlein wrote in the mid-1950s as part of his so-called ‘juvenile’ series. It was an outcome of the slightly berserk nature of Einstein’s 1905 theory of Special Relativity, which – with his theory of … More Einstein’s twin paradox explained
On 1 January 2019 the New Horizons probe – the one that whipped past Pluto in 2015 – will encounter another outer solar-system body: 2014 MU69. Informally it’s become known as Ultima Thule. The neat part is that this body wasn’t even known when New Horizons was launched in January 2006. Back then, the probe … More New Horizons and Ultima Thule – the bonus mission
If both Special and General Relativity didn’t work precisely as Einstein said it did, GPS would be far less accurate than it actually is. Like, way off, meaning those auto-drive cars wouldn’t even get to the right road. Or any road. And we’d all be lost. Let me explain. GPS works by very precise distance … More How GPS finds you and lets Google send you adverts
It seems to me that by our everyday standards, hyper-extreme physics of the Einstein variety is magic – abstract, nonsensical and absurd. To me it’s like dada art. And that also isn’t surprising, conceptually. Setting aside the fact that both dada and Einstein came from Switzerland, the turn of the twentieth century brought the great … More Extreme physics as dada art – really!
One of the reasons I got interested in physics as a kid – and still am today – is because of the way sound works. In physics terms, sound is simply a succession of alternate compressions and rarefications of the air, carrying energy which moves our eardrums. What does that mean? The first point is … More Making waves – the physics of sound