Author Archive

December 11, 2011

Things whose existence is surprising. 2: Water slide simulator

by Joshaniel Cooper

The real life waterslide simulator:

September 28, 2011

What do scientists do?

by Joshaniel Cooper

As an experimental physicist this is a question I am asked fairly often (mostly by non-scientists but occasionally by my bosses). I have been trying to find a concise way of answering the question, and have so far failed. Thus I now reply with the statistically correct answer which is that most  of my time is spent watching a number on a computer screen either go up or go down. The size of the number and the speed of its changing varies according to the experiment but for the most part that is what scientists do (any other scientists who disagree please state your point below).

I am aware that this is incredibly un-enlightening  but I am happy to have given a truthful answer that is audience invariant. Any improvements would be welcome.

September 14, 2011

Carbon rejuvination not capture

by Joshaniel Cooper

Carbon capture has been widely purported to be an easy solution to one of the many global crises (the carbon dioxide one in this case). It essentially revolves around the principle that CO_2 in the atmosphere is bad so we should take it out of the atmosphere and put it somewhere else (tankers, the sea, secret underground lairs etc.) and for the most part the concept is correct. It is also a little retarded though as any CO_2 caught will eventually escape and add to the issues of a future generation (not to mention all the hassle of catching it in the first place). Fortunately help is at hand!

I recently went to a conference on electrochemistry, the last talk of the conference was by a guy called Andrew Bocarsly and was by far the most interesting talk of the conference (and I enjoy electrochemistry so the rest of them weren’t exactly boring).  His (as it turned out serendipitously discovered) solution to the issue of CO_2 storage was ingeneous- CO_2 has carbon in and fuel has carbon in so just convert the CO_2 into fuel again! The caveat is of course that this must be done whilst expending less energy (or CO_2) than getting rid of it would.

June 7, 2011

Where music and art meets science

by Joshaniel Cooper

The length of the largest cartesian dimension of an average animal named by the theme as a function of the duration of its theme

As a scientist it is important to check that the old composers didn’t try to hide messages in the statistics of their songs. Camille Saint-Saëns is off the hook so far but tests continue. Kudos if you can identify each point’s animal.

March 26, 2011

The greatest story ever told (well the first anyway)

by Joshaniel Cooper

Let me prefix this by saying that the early universe was a very boring place. There was a lot of energy, (at one point too much to even allow the formation of matter)  and everything was very ordered with no interesting features. The proof of this comes from the recently measured cosmic microwave background radiation which found that at the point it was created (about 370 000 years after the big bang). The differences in temperature between any points in the universe were around one part in 100 000 (i.e. if it was 100 000K then the max temperature difference would be 1K). A rough idea of the second law of thermodynamics would also make this clear that it is required – if everything gets less ordered with time (entropy increases) then the start of the universe must have been a very well ordered place.

March 22, 2011

Nothing

by Joshaniel Cooper

I have decided that the subject of my posts will not be about a particular subject and will not have any prolonged subject matter as I find it very difficult. They will however contain things I found interesting about science and the general world. The starting point of these rambles will be nothing.

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