Eagle(owl)-eye - modifiedI am looking at my laptop screen and keyboard through glasses with high index lenses. I am very short sighted so without lenses made from high-refractive-index plastic, my glasses would look a bit like bottle tops. There is a list of lens materials here. The index is a measure of how much the light is bent by the material of the lens, the higher is the index of the lens the more light bends when it enters the plastic of the lens and so the thinner the lens can be made.

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This blog has been going for a year and a bit now. Above is a word cloud made from my posts over this time. This used Wordle – which is dead easy to use. I guess the big ‘science’ is not a suprise, but it also appears that I have a droplet obsession. Who knew.

If you don’t know how word clouds work, they are very simple. The size of the word is proportional to the number of times it appears in whatever text was used to fed in – in this case my posts. So as my posts use the word science a lot of times, it is shown very large in the plot.

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Next academic year it looks likely that I will, for the first time, be teaching some thermodynamics. Then we will have new software that will allow us to offer an annotated list of links to books, webpages, YouTube videos, etc, integrated into the homepage of the course. One of my fave cool thermodynamic effects is the Leidenfrost effect:

I think that is quite cool. I should add a link to that to the course page.

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11
May
2012

Coke Spherification - testing of Mixology Molecular barUsually I find it easy to resist reality TV, but not the Great British Menu. I just get sucked in and then have to know who will score highest on the courses, and then who wins on the Friday. I really don’t think this has anything to do with the science on show in the cooking, I just start rooting for the chefs as they try so hard to make their elaborate dishes.

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my cubic equation

Over the weekend, I read the previous entry on this blog. It’s a post by my ex-PhD Student Emma, who having done a PhD in theoretical nuclear physics here at Surrey, is now working in climate change analysis at the London School of Economics. One shouldn’t really be surprised to find physicists in such places. Partly that’s because the division between disciplines is somewhat artificial. Everything, or at least all science, is connected by underlying principles, and common methods and ways of thinking. This is something to bear in mind when taking a modularised degree programme – you should definitely not assume that forgetting about the contents of one module once you’ve passed the exam is a good idea. Not, at least, if you want to have a holistic view of your subject. Emma working on climate change studies with a physics background is also not surprising since we physicists think we can turn our hand to anything. More often than not with justification.

Anyway, Emma mentioned that I was a “regular” contributor to this blog. I might argue that regular really means at fixed intervals, and that Halley’s comet visits Earth regularly, but I suppose she intended the common usage meaning often. I felt a little guilty, since I don’t post very often, at least not compared to my steadfast colleague Dr Sear. So, I resolved to post, and I thought I’d post about something I’ve learned recently. It’s nothing at all new – a method of finding the roots (zeros) of cubic equations that goes back to at least the 16th Century. I’ve known of its existence, but was prompted to learn it thanks to a Final Year Project student, who came to me with it recently.
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Cyclone Catarina from the ISS on March 26 2004If you had asked me in 2002, when I was a physics undergraduate at the University of Surrey, where I saw myself in 10 years, I almost certainly wouldn’t have said the London School of Economics! But that’s exactly where you can find me today.

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