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What is a ray of light made of?

Posted on 31 Jul 2015 in Featured, Journalism, Physics

Light is one of those things that we don’t tend to understand. If you were to zoom in on a ray of light, what would you see? Sure, light travels incredibly fast, but what is it that’s doing the travelling? Many of us would struggle to explain. Image: ilovepics11

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If birds in a truck fly, does the truck get lighter?

Posted on 15 Jan 2015 in Featured, Journalism, Physics

It’s an urban myth that had US TV show Mythbusters weighing a truck full of pigeons on a scale and getting them to fly. Now it seems there’s some truth to the idea that a truck driver carrying a cargo of birds can lighten the load by making the birds fly. Image: Lentink

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Graphene rival ‘phosphorene’ is born to be a transistor

Posted on 24 Jan 2014 in Journalism, Physics, Technology

“Phosphorene” – which has a similar structure to carbon-based graphene but is made of phosphorus atoms – is a natural semiconductor and so may be better at turbocharging the next generation of computers. Image: CORE-Materials

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Whirling dervish skirts are ruled by hurricane physics

Posted on 4 Dec 2013 in Journalism, Physics

If you have ever seen a whirling dervish in action, you may have been mesmerised by the complex three-dimensional patterns these dancers produce with their flowing skirts. It turns out that the patterns are buffeted by the same Coriolis force that produces destructive hurricanes. Image: roboppy

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Forbidden City builders chose ice sledge over wheels

Posted on 4 Nov 2013 in Archaeology, Featured, Journalism, Physics, Technology

Fifteenth-century Chinese engineers didn’t so much reinvent the wheel as dispense with it altogether. They opted instead to drag heavy stones for building the Forbidden City along a slippery artificial ice road instead of wheeling them, according to a new translation of an ancient Chinese text. Image: namealus

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Erosion helps keep mountains standing tall

Posted on 26 Jun 2013 in Earth Science, Featured, Journalism, Physics

What goes up must come down. So why are many mountain ranges, such as the Appalachians, still standing tall long after rivers should have eaten them down? Paradoxically, the erosive forces that should wear them away might instead carve them into a stable shape. Image: gato-gato-gato

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