Stick or Twist?

Fact: The Great Wall of China is held together by sticky rice.  It was built to defend an empire from hoards of enemies and has stood for centuries as a Wonder of the World, but the true strength of the Great Wall of China comes from a grain of rice. Not just one grain of…

The Golden Rule

Fact: You can turn lead into gold.  For centuries kings and men alike have chased the dream of turning lead into gold, otherwise known as alchemy. They made one fatal flaw – they never asked a physicist. Turning lead into gold sounds like the reserve of the desperate or the downright crazy, but it is…

Colour Mixing

Fact: The colour purple doesn’t exist. More fake news: purple isn’t a thing. I know you think you know better, but you don’t – there is no such thing as purple. It’s all in your head. How can that be, when you’ve seen it with your own eyes? Well, therein lies the problem. Your eyes…

Wingardium Leviosa

Fact: Everything on the planet is floating – including you. A book on a coffee table, a car on the road and your arse on an office chair – everything on our planet is actually floating a tiny, tiny distance above the ground but never touching it. Everything we see around us is ‘matter’, which…

Cosmic Cocktails

Fact: The centre of our galaxy tastes like raspberries and smells like rum. If you could taste the space dust right the centre of the Milky Way, you might be pleasantly surprised – there’s a good chance it would have the sharp tang of fresh raspberries and the boozy aroma of rum. (As a quick…

Absolute Zero

Fact: The coldest place in the universe is right here on Earth. As we now know, space is actually really hot – or, more correctly, it has a very high temperature. So it may not surprise you that the lowest temperature ever recorded isn’t in some far-flung supernova or at the centre of a black…

You’re Hot Then You’re Cold

Fact: Space is really hot, but you’ll still freeze. Let’s get pedantic: if you really consider the definition of temperature, then space is really really hot, even though it’s really quite cold. Before we tackle temperature, we need to define heat. Rather than thinking about how warm or cold something is, we need to think of heat…

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…