Science Seen

Time One author Colin Gillespie helps you understand the physics of your world.

What Do Neanderthals Say About Race?

Okay, this is not about Sochi. It’s about racial distinctions, and what physics can contribute to out understanding of them. ‘Race’ once referred to a group with a common line of descent. But over time it became less clear. Nineteenth-century racial distinctions were built on emerging sciences of linguistics and physical anthropology. Many scientists were […]

Harry Potter Magic and Levitation Physics

Some weeks back Harry Potter’s magic, having helped him walk through a brick wall, got me onto bosons. A boson’s any kind of particle that has integral spin (like 0 or 1). What’s spin? Well, that’s another story. Suffice to say it is a quantum number used by physicists to tag a quantum state. Fermions […]

Lemaitre, Penrose and the Original Order of the Universe

Life is all about order. Life forms use energy to organize themselves. Their often-exquisite order is created at the expense of disorder which they dump somewhere else. The net effect is always a decrease in total order of the universe. It’s basic physics (the Second Law of Thermodynamics, if you care). The Second Law says […]

Staying Sane

Knowing how the universe began leads inexorably to the question: Why did it begin? So I’m writing Volume two. Would I be sweating this if I had known that it could drive me crazy? First to go there was American critic, poet and author extraordinaire Edgar Allan Poe. Always borderline-unstable, having penned Eureka, a prose […]

Fair Go at Sochi Olympics

In Aussieland, from whence I am, Fair go is slang for reasonable opportunity. In New Zealand it’s a TV show. What’s a fair go on the ice or snow or track or in the pool? Picture this. You’re in the starting blocks at the Olympics. You’ve trained for years to make it for your one […]

What’s the Question?

It seems obvious. Understanding physics, as distinct from merely knowing it or doing it, requires us to ask not merely What? and How? but also: Why? This is the question kids learn first, before they learn they’re not supposed to ask it. So, it seems shocking that this is a question physics now all but […]

More Potter Physics

Thoughts of physics in our world have somehow got us onto Harry Potter. Like Lewis Carroll’s tales of Alice in fantastic Wonderland, J.K. Rowling’ magic world has elements of physics truth. We found shades of quantum physics in a teleportation scene from the first movie. Two minutes later, Harry shoves his baggage cart through a brick […]

String Things

One of the neat things about the way the universe began is that it brings out principles that help to follow physics and philosophy that, without them, appear beyond reason. They simplify what lies behind some deep ideas, such as strings. String theories abound in many versions. They are based on fancy math. Their math […]

Potter in Physics

Thinking about physics showing up in unexpected places gets me thinking about Harry Potter movies. A whole muggle generation cut its independent-thinking teeth on that magic. How much of it might be almost true? For example, there is Hagrid, late for his appointment with Dumbledore, teleporting off the overpass at King’s Cross Station. Teleporting? Maybe […]