Hawking Radiation

March 19, 2018

What is the connection between a steam engine and a collapsed star? Not much, you might think. There is, however, a very deep and subtle connection that is still not completely understood. Brewing Up New Theories of Physics James Prescott Joule, the son of a wealthy Manchester brewer, was taught physics by John Dalton, famous […]

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The Pale Blue Dot

March 7, 2018

Voyager I was launched by NASA in September 1977, on course for the outer solar system and beyond. Carl Sagan realised the mission was an opportunity to highlight the immensity of the cosmos and acquire a new perspective on our place within it. After some persuasion, NASA agreed and in 1990 Voyager’s cameras were directed […]

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All for One and One for All

February 10, 2018

In days of old, when knights were bold, it was essential that a knight should bear an elegant mathematical symbol on his coat of arms. Well, perhaps not, but at least the Borromeo family used a design that is well known to mathematicians. The coat of arms of the Borromeo family of merchants and bankers […]

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Snowflakes are Dancing!

November 22, 2017

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) is the father of modern astronomy and a key figure in the dawn of science. He was a devout and profoundly spiritual man who studied theology and was possessed by a life-long drive to understand the structure of Creation. He believed that geometry and symmetry lay at the heart of the architecture […]

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The Wheel of Fortune

November 7, 2017

We never stray far from devices that chop up our days into hours, minutes and seconds. We are now all synchronized and no-one is out of step with the rest of the world. It is difficult to imagine how different life must have been when days came and went and the passage of time was […]

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Golden Spacequakes

October 24, 2017

Long ago in the year 132 AD the Imperial Astronomer Zhang Heng designed an earthquake detector. The History of the Later Han Dynasty reports that his ingenious invention would alert the Chinese emperor to catastrophic seismic events in distant regions of the empire. Zhang Heng’s seismoscope is described as a bronze vessel two metres in diameter with […]

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The Path to Immortality

October 11, 2017

It is 1697, we enter a dimly lit tavern in one of the less inviting districts of London. Huddled in the shadows we see a man in a loose cloak sitting expectantly with his accomplice at a small table. He has long grey hair, a sharp nose and a determined look in his piercing eyes. […]

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The Googolplex

October 3, 2017

One million is a big number. To really comprehend numbers such as this we need some sort of scale. So, how big is a million? And what about even bigger numbers? Millions, billions, even trillions are thrown around in everyday conversation today without much thought about the differences in size of these huge numbers. Typically there are about […]

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The Harmony of the World

October 3, 2017

Johannes Kepler transformed astronomy in the early years of the 17th century. His revolution was built on accurate observations of the planets compiled over many years by Tycho Brahe. The New Astronomy Kepler published his findings in 1609 in a book called Astronomia Nova (The New Astronomy), which includes two laws describing how planets travel around […]

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Sieving for Numbers

October 1, 2017

Alexander’s general Ptolemy I Soter became the first pharaoh of the Ptolemaic dynasty of Egypt following Alexander’s death in 323 BC. Ptolemy founded the famous Library of Alexandria. Dedicated to the muses, the nine goddesses of the arts, it was the original museum. During the Ptolomaic era Alexandria would replace Athens as the leading cultural centre in […]

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