Units of measurement

Units of measurement

The calving of a huge iceberg from Antarctica is a serious issue in the context of global warming, but has also sparked an ongoing debate on the best unit of measurement to describe its size. “The size of Delaware” screamed the initial, U.S.-based news...
What is a jerk?

What is a jerk?

Even some physicists are surprised to learn that “jerk” is a scientific measure. That’s right! A “jerk” is the time rate of change of acceleration, or (equivalently) the third derivative of distance with respect to time. Which reminds me...
My recent radio broadcasts

My recent radio broadcasts

I live a divided life, spending half the year in Australia and the other half in the UK. While in Australia, I recorded several programmes for ABC Radio National on various aspects of the science in our lives. They are now all available on podcast. Enjoy! 1. Science...
My career in poetry

My career in poetry

I am stimulated to write this post by the news that the “celebrated American poet Joseph Charles McKenzie” has composed a poem to celebrate Donald Trump’s inauguration. The poem contains the immortal lines “With purpose and strength he came down from his tower To...

Awkward Objects

If ever I had combined my interest in science with that in mediaeval history, this wonderful-sounding conference, taking place in Helsinki this April, would have provided the ideal vehicle. Its topic is “awkward objects” associated with the body; “including, but not...
Vale Leonard Cohen: that’s how it goes.

Vale Leonard Cohen: that’s how it goes.

Leonard Cohen has died. Perhaps he should have received a Nobel Prize, or shared one with Bob Dylan, because he certainly produced some of the most memorable descriptions of the human condition to be found anywhere. The one that sticks in my mind is this: Everybody...