I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud

Fact: Clouds weigh more than planes. They look like fluffy white blobs floating lazily through the sky, but in reality clouds are serious heavyweights compared to the planes we fly through them. Scientists have calculated that a typical cumulus cloud (the fluffy ones that make interesting shapes when you’re looking for dinosaurs in the sky)…

Part 3: The Dark Side

Fact: Black holes aren’t black. We all know that black holes are… well, they’re complicated. Are they even holes? But they’re definitely black. Right? Wrong. Black holes are formed when massive stars die and collapse in on themselves under their own weight. Their famous name comes from the the idea that a black hole’s gravity is…

The Weigh In

Fact: A teaspoon-full of a neutron star would weigh the same as Mount Everest. Mount Everest is a heavy mountain: rough estimates place its mass at around 10 trillion kilos. But just 5ml (or 1 teaspoon scoop) of a neutron star would weigh just as much. Neutron stars are the densest known objects in the…

Holy S**t

Fact: There is a particle called the “Oh-My-God particle”. You might have thought the God particle (otherwise known as the Higgs Boson) had a pretty cool name, but physicists can be a dramatic bunch sometimes – like when discovering something entirely unexpected. The so-called “Oh-My-God” particle is named after the state of shock scientists found…

Freezing Hot // Boiling Cold

Fact: Water can freeze and boil at the same time. Get the temperature and pressure absolutely spot on and you can watch a cup of water boil while ice forms on the top. It might sound like magic but once again it’s due to the power of physics. This precise balance of temperature and pressure…

Flea Circus

Fact: A jumping flea accelerates faster than a space rocket.   The space rocket is a feat of human engineering. It accelerates so fast that astronauts have to undergo special training to withstand the powerful forces exerted on their bodies during lift-off. And yet, our mightiest machines pale in comparison to the humble flea. Let’s…

The Centre of Attention

Fact: The Earth is at the centre of the universe. Remember when the church argued that the Earth was the centre of the universe? Turns out, if you look at the physics in a certain way its hard to argue with them. The universe is constantly expanding, so galaxies are constantly getting further and further apart….

We Are Not Alone

Fact: The aliens should have been in touch by now. There is absolutely no convincing evidence of intelligent – or indeed any – life on other planets to date. However, taking into account the huge size and age of the universe it is also extremely unlikely that we are the only life-forms in the universe….

Totally Eclipsed

Fact: Solar eclipses are a complete coincidence.  If you have ever seen a total solar eclipse, you know just how beautiful it is. But it turns out that the perfect match-up between sun and moon that makes it possible is simply the biggest coincidence in the world. A total solar eclipse occurs when the moon…

Wibbly Wobbly, Timey Wimey

Fact: Telescopes are time machines. Ok yes, they can’t let you go back and kill Hitler. But in a very real sense looking through a telescope gives you the power to look millions of years into the past. Light moves pretty fast – almost 300 million meters/second, to be precise – but it does not reach…

Part 4: When Hell Freezes Over

Fact: A snowball can survive in hell. To round off this 4-part series, I give you the possibly the craziest experiment of all – dunking a snowball into a vat of molten metal and expecting it not to melt. Molten metal (or slag) reaches about 1,700°C, making a metal foundry the closest thing to ‘hell…

Part 3: The Wall Talks Back

Fact: Walls are great listeners. Like talking to a brick wall – a classic phrase to describe someone so stubborn they simply refuse to hear what you’re saying. But what if I told you we’ve got that all wrong? To prove a point, take this experiment performed on the Berlin wall. A kind old man…