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…

Part 2: Genie In A Bottle

Fact: You can catch lightning in a jar. Anyone remember the story of Benjamin Franklin trying to use a kite and a layden jar (an early piece of tech that we now call a capacitor – think of it as the first battery) to store the power of lightning in a bottle? Luckily for him, that day no lightning…

Part 1: Ding Dong Merrily

Fact: You can ‘unring’ a bell. You thought unboiling an egg was impossible? You haven’t seen anything yet. The famous phrase ‘you can’t unring a bell’ is meant to highlight the consequences of our actions to make us think more carefully about what we do before we do it. But it might be a bit…

Speeding Ticket

Fact: This one time, man travelled 85.76mph… on a bicycle. On the salt flats of Utah, Todd Reichart broke the world speed record for human-powered transport, using nothing but his legs, some excessively large gears and some physics. At high speed, air resistance rapidly becomes the biggest force to contend with (next time you are driving at 85.76…

Storm in a Teacup

Question: Can spinning around really fast make you need a poo? “After going on a spinning fairground ride in Ireland, a few of my friends and I sprinted to the loo out of desperation. Is there any science behind that?” -Toby Finnis and Joe Hipkiss Perhaps surprisingly, there isn’t a lot of direct research on…

Part 3: In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…

Fact: There is a planet that orbits two suns rather than one.  NASA discovered something that should bring all Star Wars fans a little hope: Kepler-16b, a planet in a solar system centred around two suns, rather than one. Who decided that was a better name than Tatooine? The two stars at the centre of…