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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

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 […]

Read the full article →

Cosmic Ripples

July 19, 2017

Michael Faraday transformed our understanding of the physical world when he realised that electromagnetic forces are carried by a field permeating the whole of space. This idea was formalized by James Clerk-Maxwell who constructed a unified theory of electromagnetism in which beams of light are undulations in the electromagnetic field. Maxwell’s theory implies that visible light […]

Read the full article →

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

July 15, 2017

In 1960, the astronomer Frank Drake weighed up the options for his first attempt to find extraterrestrial intelligence. Two nearby stars Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti, 10 and 12 light years distant, seemed like promising candidates. Both are similar to the sun with around four fifths of the sun’s mass. They were ideal targets for Drake’s quest […]

Read the full article →

Where Is Everybody?

July 14, 2017

Enrico Fermi was born in Rome in 1901. He was one of the great physicists of the 20th century and made many important contributions to physics including a ground breaking theory of the weak nuclear force that predicted the existence of neutrinos. He was also a leading experimental physicist and created the first nuclear reactor […]

Read the full article →

To Boldly Go…

July 14, 2017

We Earthlings have long dreamed of visiting the stars. This fantasy may soon be realised – remotely at least. The first artificial craft ever sent beyond the solar system was Pioneer 10, launched in March 1972. Its main mission was to study the planet Jupiter and it was the first probe to visit such a […]

Read the full article →

The Gorgon’s Head!

July 11, 2017

A great cosmic drama plays out above our heads every night. Perseus, the Greek epic hero, was challenged to visit the land of the hyperboreans, a semi-mythical bleak and frosty land beyond the north wind known today as the island of Britain, his task to retrieve the head of the gorgon Medusa. The beautiful Medusa […]

Read the full article →

Raise Your Glasses to the Skies!

July 3, 2017

Science fiction writers have long assumed that there are planetary systems around most stars. The stars are so distant that confirming this belief was impossible until relatively recently. But in the last two decades the number of confirmed exoplanets, as they are known, has steadily increased. The most fruitful method for finding them is to […]

Read the full article →

The Best of All Possible Worlds

March 15, 2017

Voltaire is best known today for Candide, a short novel published in 1779. The young hero Candide travels the world in a tale littered with rape, murder, pestilence, enslavement and natural catastrophe. Amidst this apocalyptic nightmare Candide’s tutor Dr Pangloss maintains a philosophical detachment, arguing against all evidence to the contrary that we live in […]

Read the full article →