Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gravitational waves

I have to say something on this. It has been on the horizon for many years and as elusive as the smile of the Cheshire cat. Not that I am qualified to say much more than how important it is and give some good links. So here are the links:
Caltech press release
Science article

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The November fire at University of Guyana

The fire on on November 24 2015 in Natural Sciences was widely reported, for example by Kaieteur News and Guyana Chronicle. However there were few details given on the losses. According to subsequent reports the wooden ground level building destroyed housed staff offices and storerooms. Losses included lab equipment, textbooks, manuals, notes and so on. Physics in particular was badly hit and has been left without equipment to conduct labs. This comes at a time when moves are being made to restart the full degree programme.
Hopefully the Physics unit will be assisted to get laboratories back in order. As I recall there used to be two functioning laboratories with lab assistants.
The burnt building at the University of Guyana

Burnt office
 at the University of Guyana

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Physics in 2016

Scientific American has a useful look forward to 2016:
"The New Year may also be a year of discoveries for physicists plumbing the deepest mysteries of matter."

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Albert Einstein - 70 years

Einstein is a scientist every science student should definitely know something about. He passed away 70 years ago this year.

According to an item in the Scientific American:
"Einstein is the most famous and beloved scientist of all time. We revere him not only as a scientific genius but also as a moral and even spiritual sage. Abraham Pais, Einstein's friend and biographer, called him "the divine man of the 20th century." 
To New York Times physics reporter Dennis Overbye, Einstein was an “icon" of "humanity in the face of the unknown.""

For more there is plenty at Wikipedia, of course, and here are two videos on Youtube:
How Einstein discovered E=Mc2
Albert Einstein documentary

Monday, November 30, 2015

New gamma-ray spectroscope

Some exotic physics in this device (developed at Vanderbilt and Fisk Universities) with some exciting space applications may get the interest of students.
"...a new generation of gamma-ray spectroscope that appears perfectly suited for detecting veins of gold, platinum, rare earths and other valuable material hidden within the asteroids, moons and other airless objects floating around the solar system" 
"The key to the new instrument is a recently discovered material, europium-doped strontium iodide. This is a transparent crystal that can act as an extremely efficient gamma-ray detector. It registers the passage of gamma rays by giving off flashes of light that can be detected and recorded."

Friday, October 30, 2015


A good example of a phenomena which seems simple but which gets very complex - water flowing through a pipe.
At low speeds the flow is smooth and predictable but at higher speeds turbulence makes things complicated. According to this report:
"A team of researchers from Austria, Germany and the U.K. has succeeded in building a model that shows the process that occurs when a liquid moves from a smooth state to one of turbulence inside of a pipe."
This is a good item to use to introduce in a general way the modelling of physical processes.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Challenging Concepts in Physics

Need help with difficult concepts? Advanced high school or starting university level? This MOOC at EdX should help. It is done by experienced teachers and includes:
 Force Diagrams
 Rotational Motion
 Angular Momentum
 Standing Waves
 Conservation of Charge & Energy in Circuits
 Electrostatic Fields
 Gravitational and Electric Potentials
 Electromagnetic Induction
 Pressure, Force & Flow in Fluids
 Diffraction & Interference
 Atomic Transitions

The course uses short instructional videos, on-screen simulations, interactive graphs, and practice problems.
Sounds really useful.