143. Mercury, Shakespeare and me

143. Mercury, Shakespeare and me

Very proud to have been awarded a prize in the Royal Australian Chemical Institute’s competition for Stories from the Periodic Table. Here is my winning entry: Mercury, Shakespeare and me Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature, and it...
142. A mad magnet tale

142. A mad magnet tale

This story of the generation of an ultra-strong magnetic field (https://spectrum.ieee.org/nanoclast/semiconductors/nanotechnology/magnetic-field-record-set-with-a-bang-1200-tesla) and the subsequent disaster reminds me of a story that I was told by a very prominent...
141. A world made of blueberries

141. A world made of blueberries

My good friend and cooleague (cool colleague) Anders Sandberg has calculated what would happen if the world suddenly turned into blueberries. I offer it as an example of how scientists think; one that might be used to help schoolchildren, and even beginning university...
Life, REF, and the half-loaf principle

Life, REF, and the half-loaf principle

One of my favourite writers is the Russian-born Englishman S.J. “Skid” Simon. Unless you are a bridge player, you have probably never heard of him, although he wrote many murder mysteries in the period before the Second World War, the best-known being...
A scientist looks at philosophy

A scientist looks at philosophy

My first (and only) genuine philosophy article published in a genuine philosophy journal. Twenty-five years on, I am still quite proud of it! All about models and what they really mean (and don’t mean). A scientist looks at philosophy IMAGE: Wikimedia...
The logical way to cut a round Christmas cake

The logical way to cut a round Christmas cake

Sir Francis Galton was a Victorian explorer, statistician, student of intelligence and heredity, and all round polymath. In his role as a statistician he came up with a way to analyze the power of prayer by arguing that royalty, being prayed for so frequently in the...