The Ig Noble Awards for Physics

Scientists have been responsible for some amazing discoveries, and the world would be a very different place without serious scientific research. But their choices of research subjects can, occasionally, seem a little peculiar.

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Three Little Pigs, the Big Bad Wolf and Scientific Progress

The results of scientific research as reported in the media can often seem a little confusing. How many times have we read in the press that product X is good for us only to read the opposite opinion sometime later? How can the same set of results give rise to different views of its meaning? Is there something wrong with the science or the way it is reported?

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1 July 1860: Death of Charles Goodyear, American Inventor

For Charles Goodyear, the inventor of vulcanized rubber, life was always a struggle. But even frequent incarceration in debtors’ prisons did not stop him achieving his goal of perfecting the rubber manufacturing process. Unfortunately, he never benefited financially from his hard work.

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Elements of the Periodic Table Articles Moved

The first five articles in my Elements of the Periodic Table series have been moved to pages on this site from their old home at Triond.

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13 June 1983: The First Man-made Object to Leave the Solar System

On 13 June 1983 the Pioneer 10 spacecraft flew beyond the orbit of Neptune and so became the first man-made object to leave the solar system. But this was not the only first during its extraordinary mission.

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13 March 1930: Discovery of Pluto Confirmed

On 13 March 1930 astronomers at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona telegraphed the Harvard College Observatory with the news of the discovery of a new planet, the first since Neptune in 1846. The discovery had been made on 18 February by Clyde Tombaugh less than a year after he had been assigned the task

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24 February 1810: Death of Henry Cavendish, English Natural Philosopher

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the death of Henry Cavendish. During the 18th century he conducted a series of highly accurate experiments, in chemistry and physics, leading to discoveries such as hydrogen and the density of the Earth.

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Boron

The fifth entry in my Elements of the Periodic Table series is boron. Boron was first isolated in 1808 by Sir Humphey Davy, in Britain, and Joseph-Louis Gay-Lussac and Louis-Jacques Thenard, in France, and is the first of the semi metals.

Although pure boron is almost chemically inert, its compounds have numerous uses. These

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Beryllium

First isolated in 1828, beryllium is a brittle, grey alkaline earth metal and the fourth element examined in my Elements of the Periodic Table series. As in the previous three instalments of this series, I examine the history and uses of the element, including its use as a neutron source. Methods of extracting beryllium

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What is St Elmo’s Fire?

St Elmo’s Fire on Masts of a Ship at Sea

The weather phenomenon known as St Elmo’s fire has been described by many writers. The logs and memoirs of the early European explorers, on the voyages led by Columbus, Magellan and others, mention the peculiar ‘fire’ on their ships’ masts. Charles Darwin witnessed the lights

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