Every now and then I get asked if I’ll get involved in some kind of physics outreach activity; Giving a talk to a science society, going to a school to talk about physics at university, talking on the radio about the link between The Archers and quantum mechanics. That kind of thing.

More often than not, I can say yes to the request, and I usually enjoy sharing the joy that is physics with whoever the audience is. The most recent thing I said yes to is filling me with a little trepidation. On Monday I will be performing stand-up comedy at Guildford Bright Club. So-called Bright Clubs started a couple of years ago as an outreach activity at UCL, and have proved to be very successful at sharing all sorts of ideas from academic pursuits with an audience hungry for them. All good stuff. The only thing is, I need to stand up in front of a room full of people expecting me to be funny. And then be funny. About nuclear physics. Should be a blast!

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Ecuador-192Nadine Dorries has withdrawn her bill to promote abstinence in sex education. Perhaps she would have had better luck if she had gone after boobies. Male blue-footed boobies. Two blue-footed boobies are shown in the picture above.

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Calculator casioI will start to teach an introductory statistical physics in a few weeks. One of the things I will do is talk about why in a still room the air is uniformly distributed in the room. The reason is statistics, to take an extreme example there is no law stopping all the gas molecules in a room being in the left-hand half of the room (gases are dilute so there is plenty of room to pack all the molecules in only one half of the room). It is just that the probability of this occurring is approximately (1/2) raised to the power of the number of molecules in the room.

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Sterling Memorial Library 2, September 1, 2008So, I think this might count as procrastination from writing up my dissertation for the MPhys Research Year, but never mind…
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Mcol money bagNumbers can be interesting, and there are some very striking ones in Whoops!, an excellent book by John Lancaster – on our current financial predicament. One is that (as of a couple of years ago) the RBS bank group (Royal Bank of Scotland, Natwest, etc., i.e., the one we now own) had £1.81 trillion of liabilities. This is actually a little more than the entire GDP of the UK, which was £1.70 trillion. So the bank owed an amount of money that would take the entire UK one year and 20 days to earn. Wow.

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04
Jan
2012

Blue DropletI like liquids, I have been studying them since my PhD. Mainly I have been trying to understand them, but many scientists and engineers study them because they are so useful.

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Blue-and-yellow Macaw RWD2We, and many other animals, have colour vision, and so we are surrounded by our uses of colour, from football shirts to different colour iPods. The dyes used to make a football shirt red, for example, are just chemical substances that adsorb blue and green photons but reflect red photons. Then of the white light from the sun, the blue and green parts are adsorbed with only the red part reflected into our eyes, so we see red. But that there is another way to make colours.

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