Saturday, December 29, 2018

Boost for Physics at UG

A donation of equipment worth US$40,000 from ExxonMobil has provided some welcome help to the Physics Department at th University of Guyana. Included in the equipment were a diode laser and telescopes. A report at DemeraraWaves said:

"This donation was made following a request after a fire in 2015 destroyed the section of the Faculty of Natural Sciences that houses the equipment for various departments. Among the items destroyed was equipment for the physics laboratory belonging to the Department of mathematics, Physics and Statistics, the Computer Science Department and the specimen collection and equipment from the Department of Biology.
At the handover ceremony Vice-Chancellor of the university, Professor Ivelaw Griffith said the initiative is one which highlights the determination of the department to reinvent itself and build new partnerships while doing so. “It matters; the investment that Exxon Mobil along with the university is making. It recognises the vital importance of rebuilding physics in a significant way – not only quad physics but physics because of its importance to the other enterprises of the university,” he said."

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

First plane propelled by ionic wind

MIT engineers have flown the first plane without moving parts, propelled by ionic wind. Batteries are used to create high voltages which are used to ionize air and use these ions to generate thrust. A report states:

This is the first-ever sustained flight of a plane with no moving parts in the propulsion system,” says Steven Barrett, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT.
“This has potentially opened new and unexplored possibilities for aircraft which are quieter, mechanically simpler, and do not emit combustion emissions.”
He expects that in the near-term, such ion wind propulsion systems could be used to fly less noisy drones. Further out, he envisions ion propulsion paired with more conventional combustion systems to create more fuel-efficient, hybrid passenger planes and other large aircraft.
This story has some interesting physics in it.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Combating climate change - the physics

There is considerable physics underpinning developments in this field. Identifying it and explaining it would be a good exercise for students...
For example these reports:
Climate change: Five cheap ways to remove CO2 from the atmosphere (BBC)
Climate change: Low cost, low energy cooling system shows promise (BBC)

Friday, September 28, 2018

Liquefaction of solid bulk cargo

This article from The Conversation on problems caused by unexpected behaviour of granular materials  in a ship’s hold has some interesting physics behind it.
"Solid bulk cargoes – defined as granular materials loaded directly into a ship’s hold – can suddenly turn from a solid state into a liquid state, a process known as liquefaction. And this can be disastrous for any ship carrying them – and their crew." 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Ice on the Moon

India's moon orbiter Chandrayaan-1 has detected clear signals of water ice on the Moon hidden in dark corners of craters never reached by sunlight.

From this BBC report:
"Temperatures on the Moon can reach a searing 100C in daytime, which doesn't provide the best conditions for the survival of surface ice.
But because the Moon is tilted on its axis by about 1.54 degrees, there are places at the lunar poles that never see daylight.
Scientists estimate that temperatures in permanently shadowed craters at the Moon's poles do not rise above -157C (-250F). This would create an environment where deposits of water-ice could remain stable for long periods."

Is this a physics story? It does contain some good physics. And I don't always come across a great physics story every month so it will suffice. I like to keep up this blog even though it has been a few years since I have taught physics! Month-end approaches and time is running out...

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

More podcasts

The Physics World Science Podcast is a good weekly podcast from Physics World magazine.

Weekly Space Hangout Audio is also good for up-to-date space news.

And finally there is the more advanced Physics Frontiers podcast for those really into Physics at the university or post-grad level.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Water is more than you think it is

Water molecules actually exist in two forms: ortho-water and para-water. This is not a new discovery but we now know more about these forms. An article at Science Daily explains:
Water molecules exist in two different forms with almost identical physical properties. For the first time, researchers have succeeded in separating the two forms to show that they can exhibit different chemical reactivities.
The article describes new details about the small differences in the chemical properties of these forms.