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On the Radio Yet Again, on Nightlife

Last night (Wednesday 27 January), I was on ABC Nightlife talking with Rod Quinn about the safety of plastics and bisphenol A in the light of the latest Australian Total Diet Study.For those of you who missed my radio performance last...Show More Summary

Ep. 399: Women in Science

Science is typically a male dominated profession, mostly dudes, not a lot of ladies. From researchers to professors, to law makers, woman have a tough time gaining traction in such a heavily gendered field. Today we’re going to talkShow More Summary

The Finn-donesian of "The Force Awakens"

For my language column in the Wall Street Journal this week, I describe how some alien-speak in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" ended up being created a young Finnish YouTube sensation, tailor-made for Indonesian actors. We could call it "Finn-donesian," though the character Finn doesn't actually speak it. Rather, the dialogue was designed for the […]

Ep. 398: Seeing Things: Emitting, Reflecting, Ionizing Light

Astronomers gather electromagnetic radiation with the telescopes: mostly visible light. But sometimes they've got to be clever about where they look for these elusive photons. Light can get emitted, absorbed, reflected, and each method tells astronomers a little more about what they're looking at.

Bob Dylan can't even

For Bob Dylan connoisseurs, the release of The Cutting Edge 1965-1966: The Bootleg Series Vol. 12 is a momentous occasion. It encompasses the studio sessions that gave us the albums Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited and Blonde On Blonde, and it's available as a 2-CD sampler, a reasonable 6-CD version, and an […]

Ep. 397: A Universe From Nothing

One of the biggest, most basic questions you can ask is: “why is there something and not nothing?” The reality is that we don’t know the answer, we might never know the answer. Today we’ll investigate this mystery, recently covered by the physicist Lawrence Krauss in his book of the same name.

Ep. 396: Family Astronomy for the Holidays

Every year, it’s the same dilemma: what gift should you get for the super space nerd in the family? And if someone has a budding interest in space and astronomy, what can you do to feed their hunger for knowledge? Today we’ll talk telescopes, books and planispheres. Everything you need to avoid a holiday gift disaster.

Update: listen to the Tintignac Carnyx

In 2004, archaeologists discovered a hoard of ritually destroyed weapons — a dozen swords, scabbards, spearheads, a shield, bronze helmets, an iron helmet shaped like a swan — a cauldron, animal remains and seven carnyces. Before then, the remains of only five examples of the Celtic man-sized wind musical instrument that was widely used as [...]

Reading the Collections, Week 40: Tullis Russell Oral History Collection

Over the past few weeks there’s been a series of letters to the London Review of Books discussing the phenomenon of ‘cross generational vaulting’ – anecdotes passed down through generations […]

Ep. 395: Baryons and Beyond the Standard Model

In the last few episodes, we’ve been talking about the standard model of physics, explaining what everything is made up of. But the reality is that we probably don’t know a fraction of how everything is put together. This week we’re going to talk about baryons, the particles made up of quarks. Show More Summary

Ep. 394: The Standard Model - Bosons

All fundamental particles are either fermions or bosons. Last week we talked about quarks, which are fermions. This week we’ll talk about bosons, including the famous Higgs boson, recently confirmed by the Large Hadron Collider.

Ep. 393: The Standard Model, Leptons and Quarks

Physicists are getting a handle on the structure of the Universe, how everything is made of something else. Molecules are made of atoms, atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons, etc. Even smaller than that are the quarks and the leptons, which seem to be the basic building blocks of all matter.

Ep. 392: The Standard Model - Intro

Humans, cars and planets are made of molecules. And molecules are made of atoms. Atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons. What are they made of? This is the standard model of particle physics, which explains how everything is put together and the forces that mediate all those particles.

Ep. 391: Entrophy

Have you ever been doing thermodynamics in a closed system and noticed that there’s a finite number of ways that things can be arranged, and they tend towards disorder? Of course you have, we all have. That’s entropy. And here in our Universe, entropy is on the rise. Show More Summary

Ep. 390: Occam’s Razor and the Problem with Probabilities

I’m not saying it’s aliens, but it’s aliens. Actually, it’s almost certainly not aliens, or a wormhole, or a multiverse. When scientists discover something unusual, they make guesses about what’s happening. But Occam’s Razor encourages us to consider the probabilities of different events before making any concrete predictions.

Ep. 388: Megastructures

This week astronomers announced an unusual transit signal from another star. Although it’s most likely a natural phenomenon, one remote possibility is that this is some kind of alien megastructure. Freeman Dyson and others have considered this idea for decades. Today we’ll talk about the kinds of structures that aliens might want to build.

When media gets drunk on absurdity and tries to tell us we’re the ones who sound drunk

Recent claims about Australian English turn out to be unsupported and extremely questionable according to a range of national experts we surveyed. Their responses, only some of which are provided below, make us question whether The Age was irresponsible in publishing them in the first place and sparking their viral and international dissemination.

Ep. 387: Water on Mars… Again

Have you heard the big news? NASA has reported that Mark Watney is alive and well on the surface of Mars. No, wait, they’ve reported that there’s water on Mars. Didn’t they already report this? Today we’ll update you on the latest discovery and what this means for the search for life on Mars.

Ep. 386: Orbiting Observers

The atmosphere keeps us alive and breathing, but it really sucks for astronomy. Fortunately, humanity has built and launched space telescopes that get above the pesky atmosphere, where the skies are really clear. Let’s take a look at the past, current and future of orbital observation.

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