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Ask a Physicist: Balancing Gravity

Greyson wrote in this week to ask: What would happen if you put a metal object in between the earth and a magnet that had the same pull as gravity? Greyson,The short answer is that it’d be very hard to balance the two forces, and your piece of metal would likely end up either falling […]

Getting to the Heart of Circuit Breaker Arcs

If you want to see a stunning demonstration of nature colliding with modern technology, do a simple image search for lighting strikes a power line. A chance strike can wreak havoc on the daily lives of those nearby and on the wallets of those responsible for restoring power. Most of us lucky enough to live […]

Patronage as a research crowdfunding model

Martin Pfeiffer with a box of National Nuclear Security Administration FOIA documents. Used with permission. Meet Martin Pfeiffer. Martin uses anthropology to investigate nuclear weapons. That’s amazing, in and of itself. Even more interestingly, Martin is crowdfunding his research and I’m all in favour of research crowdfunding. What really got me excited, though, was how […]

Kid Art Update [Uncertain Principles]

Our big home renovation has added a level of chaos to everything that’s gotten in the way of my doing more regular cute-kid updates. And even more routine tasks, like photographing the giant pile of kid art that we had to move out of the dining room. Clearing stuff up for the next big stage […]

Primordial Particle Soup Smashes Spin-Speed Record

The particles in your body, the device you’re reading this on and everything else around you once swam in a primordial soup that existed just after the universe came into being. This bizarre fluid is the hottest, densest and freest-flowing substance ever known to exist. And the physicists who recreated it believe it can claim […]

Mourning writer Lizzie Grossman: The Pump Handle readers will miss her [The Pump Handle]

Our colleague Lizzie Grossman, a contributing writer at The Pump Handle, died earlier this month from ovarian cancer.  She was a long-time freelance writer who specialized in environmental health topics. Her books included Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry (2011) and High Tech Trash: Digital Devices, Hidden Toxics, and Human Health (2006). Lizzie began […]


Rusty horse (Photo by Marcus Schwan) | flickr.com I was reminded recently of how much you need to keep exercising some skills as a scholar. What you learn in academia isn’t like ‘riding a bike’ and there are skills that can be forgotten. In my case, I should probably confess that I don’t even know […]