From the Leviathan to the Behemoth

September 19, 2017

The Leviathan William Parsons, the 3rd Earl of Rosse, built a monster telescope with a six-foot or 1.8 metre mirror weighing almost three tons at his home in Birr Castle in county Offaly, Ireland. Construction was completed in 1845. The Leviathan of Parsonstown, as it is known, remained in use until the end of the […]

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The Battle for the Cosmos!

August 20, 2017

Following the Second World War, a battle for the origin of the universe was waged by two teams of nuclear physicists; one led by George Gamow, the other by Fred Hoyle. Both would be incredibly successful, but not quite in the ways they expected. Gamow was a brilliant physicist from Russia who gained international acclaim […]

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Life, But Not As We Know It!

August 18, 2017

I remember many years ago watching an episode of Star Trek called The Devil in the Dark. The Starship Enterprise visits a mining community on the planet Janus VI where an unknown lifeform is playing havoc with the mining operations. The crew eventually track down the source of the disruption – a strange creature that […]

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Lovely LISA

August 15, 2017

One of the amazing ideas to emerge from Einstein’s theory of general relativity was the possibility of gravitational waves rippling their way across the cosmos. It took a century to verify this prediction. Their existence was finally confirmed by LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory) in September 2015, as described in this post: Cosmic Ripples. What’s […]

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We’re Having a Field Day!

August 12, 2017

René Descartes proposed an imaginative explanation for the motion of the planets in the 1630s. He argued in a work known as The World that the existence of a void or vacuum is impossible and therefore space must be filled with some sort of fluid. He suggested that the planets are carried around the sun by […]

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Cosmic Order and the Higgs Force

August 9, 2017

Tracking down the Higgs boson took almost fifty years, so the announcement of its discovery by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2012 was a momentous occasion. Strange as it may seem, the theory that predicted the existence of this elusive particle was devised to explain one of the great mysteries of the world around us — […]

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From Genesis to Revelation

August 1, 2017

Modern cosmology is one hundred years old this year. Of course, poets, seers and sages have contemplated the origin of the universe for millennia and arrived at various conclusions. There aren’t really that many distinct possibilities, however. The universe is either finite, eternal or cyclic, and the third of these possibilities is like a combination […]

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The Physical World

July 26, 2017

The new book that I have written with Nick Manton The Physical World: An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics has just been published by Oxford University Press. There are more details about the book here: The Physical World: An Inspirational Tour of Fundamental Physics. OUP have designed a very appealing cover for the book.   The […]

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The Ultimate Heavy Metal Space Rock

July 24, 2017

It is fifty years since the Summer of Love. During that summer a young graduate student in Cambridge working on a newly developed radio telescope designed by Martin Ryle and Anthony Hewish noticed a bit of ‘scruff’ in her read-out. Jocelyn Bell looked further and realised that there was something strange going on. The signal was […]

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The Crab and the Jellyfish

July 22, 2017

Fritz Zwicky was a Swiss astronomer who worked for most of his career at Caltech (California Institute of Technology) and the Wilson and Palomar Observatories. Zwicky was a creative and original thinker who ignored fashionable trends and pursued his own ideas.  He referred to himself as a lone wolf. He certainly had a rather misanthropic […]

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