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Matthew McConaughey embodies the heroic scientist in Interstellar. Paramount

Scientists as Hollywood heroes

Interstellar’s protagonists spend a significant portion of the movie’s 169-minute running time giving mini-lectures – sometimes with props and a little whiteboard – on theoretical physics. The characters…
Dr Andrew Stephenson and Dr Anthony Jacko examine the longest running laboratory experiment in the world.

Explainer: the pitch drop experiment

Something strange is happening within the world-famous pitch drop experiment with the latest drop forming much faster than the last couple of drops. There have been nine drops so far and all attention…
Interstellar stars Anne Hathaway, Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain glitzing it up for the European premiere. EPA/Facundo Arrizabalaga

On Interstellar and ‘real physics’

Poor old Richard Branson. SpaceShipTwo has only just stopped smouldering after struggling to get more than 20km from the Earth and there’s the Nolan brothers getting Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway…
Before the big bang. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Cheaper, more compact particle accelerators are a step closer

Scientists working on an experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in the US have taken a step forward in developing a technology which could significantly reduce the size of particle accelerators…
Frozen cold but not the way beyond absolute zero. Flickr/kriimurohelisedsilmad

The journey to the other side of absolute zero

Absolute zero is the temperature (-273.15C) at which all motion in matter stops and is thought to be unreachable. But recent experiments using ultracold atoms have measured temperatures that are, in fact…
Many different worlds but a finite number. Flickr/fdecomite

When parallel worlds collide … quantum mechanics is born

Parallel universes – worlds where the dinosaur-killing asteroid never hit, or where Australia was colonised by the Portuguese – are a staple of science fiction. But are they real? In a radical paper published…
Don’t fear losing that ball, the waves will bring them back.

Tractor beam generates waves that bring back floating objects

You would normally expect objects that float in water to move in the same direction as waves. But now we can force floating objects to move in the opposite direction. This unexpected effect nicknamed a…
Despite the slightly shallower (and slower) Tollcross pool, Australia’s Daniel Fox set a world record in the Men’s 200m Freestyle S14 heat. Joe Giddens/PA Wire

Why swimming records stand, even with a broken pool floor

You may have seen some controversy regarding water depth in the Tollcross International Swimming Centre being used for competition at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The pool has a movable floor that allows…
Ethane in three forms: subcritical, critical and supercritical. Dr. Sven Horstmann

Explainer: what is a supercritical fluid?

When we boil a kettle, we observe what scientists call a phase transition: the water changes from being a liquid to a gas as water becomes less dense. One litre of water boils to give about 1,000 litres…
Cilcik on the image to learn how stars are made. Picture: NASA.

VIDEO: What are stars?

How are stars formed? What are they made of? And what happens to them when they die? In this week’s TCTV, astrophysicist Akila Jeeson-Daniel explains the physics behind the balls of gas that light up the…
How do they do it? David Davies/PA Archive

Lutz or flutz? The tricky physics of figure skating

Figure skating is always the highlight of the Winter Olympics. With the introduction of a team competition this year, there are five figure skating events. And we’ve already seen much drama with records…
Superheated plasma inside the tokamak reactor, a split second before a fusion reaction. Scott Silburn/James Harrison/Alex Meakins

For decades a distant dream, the countdown to nuclear fusion may have finally begun

The latest results from the National Ignition Facility in the US represent the passing of a nuclear fusion power milestone and come after a year of significant progress at projects in France and the UK…
Electricity – just one bright idea to stem from physics. Flickr/JonathanCohen

Physics: a fundamental force for future security

AUSTRALIA 2025: How will science address the challenges of the future? In collaboration with Australia’s chief scientist Ian Chubb, we’re asking how each science discipline will contribute to Australia…
How long can you stay there depends on practice and physics. elisfanclub

Moon’s gravity alone cannot create the world’s largest tides

“Tide goes in, tide goes out…you can’t explain that.” So claimed US talkshow anchor Bill O’Reilly, in a baffling attempt to discredit atheism which became something of a YouTube sensation. I have been…
Muons, a type of lepton, are studied at the Large Hadron Collider – but what are they? CERN

Explainer: what are leptons?

The giant Large Hadron Collider at CERN’s lab in Europe may be closed until 2015 but experiments will still be run there in the second half of this year on much smaller synchrotrons that examined the decay…

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