Mini Stories from Science

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

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...

139. Why are the wealthy so wealthy and the poor so poor?

The increasing disparity of wealth in the world is a huge concern to all of us who believe in fairness and equitability. But why does it happen, and what can we do about it? In my latest broadcast for the Australian ABC Radio National Science Show, I reveal how the...

138. What is a Geiger?

Today, September 30th, is the anniversary of Hans Geiger's birth. Geiger was a student of Ernest Marsden at the Cavendish laboratory in Cambridge, Shortly after he had joined, Marsden decided that it was time for him to get his hands dirty and try a "little...

137. Creepy objects

After my radio broadcast on the relics of scientists in museums around the world (http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/preserved-scientists/8624266), I received a number of suggestions for creepy additions. So I'm starting a blog here on creepy...

136. Brilliant bacteria

Sometimes a scientific paper comes out that generates a gasp of admiration at first sight. That is true of a paper just out in Physical Review Letters “Nonlinear self-action of light through biological suspensions" (Anna Bezryadina, Zhigang Chen (San Francisco State...

135. Why is science communication failing?

Monday, July 10, 2017: Today professional science communicators are meeting in Sheffield to share experiences and develop their craft. My good friend Peter Broks has set the cat among the pigeons by posing the question "Has science communication failed?" I would put...

134. Flying Blind Into the Future

Dramatic, unforeseen change is an increasing feature of our interconnected world. But how can we prepare for it? This is a blog summary of a feature article due to appear in "The Actuary" (July edition), and on which I will be expanding in a keynote talk to the 2017...

133. How Linneaus came to London

May 23rd was Carl Linnaeus’s 320th birthday. When he died in 1778, his effects were put up for sale. Joseph Banks, then head of the Linnean Society, promptly bought his notebooks and specimens on behalf of the society.

132. A great loo story

(If any readers can tell me the origin of this, I would love to know!) Academics, and especially critics, have long been associated with “high” culture. It is only within my lifetime that their attention has increasingly been drawn towards “low” culture, with Clive...

131. The rewards of science communication

Long-time readers of these annals may recall that, when I first used the physics of biscuit dunking as a way to show how scientists think about problems. I received the following letter from a 12-year-old schoolboy: The boy's name was Chao Quan. I wrote back to him,...

130. Marching for science and marching for tax

Saturday, April 22nd saw scientists marching in the streets in over 500 cities around the world. Just the week before, another march took place in Washington; a march to decry Donald Trump's failure to release his tax returns as promised. My op-ed submitted to the...

128. Penile frostbite: an unexpected hazard of jogging.

The following wonderful letter appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine forty years ago. If the IgNobel Prizes had existed then, it would surely have been a leading candidate for the medicine prize. Who says that scientists don't have a sense of humor?! Penis...

18. The UNscientific method. Part 1.

(Feb 3, 2017) I temporarily removed this early post because it seemed to be attracting spambots. Now re-posting. Enjoy! I am often asked the question “Is there a scientific method?” If the question means “Is there just one method that all scientists accept and use by...

127. How can we cooperate? A new lesson from the bees

The world is rapidly going down the road of competition rather than cooperation. In doing so, as I have shown in previous posts and in my book Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, its citizens face the deadly dilemmas exposed by game theory – in...

Share This