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Here are some links to pages which can give you additional information on some of the topics we discuss, both here and on our travels.
We're going to build up gradually as we come across interesting news and stories, and here's a good start – Bobby McFerrin at the World Science Festival in New York, involving the audience in a demonstration of the pentatonic scale.It was a panel event on the nature of music and its links with our brain. The pentatonic scale has five notes in the octave as compared to the more familiar seven, and the pentatonic sound is an old one, heard in some types of folk music and also in the Highland bagpipe. But it's also used in jazz, blues and rock, and can be found in tunes from Amazing Grace to Ol' Man River. So here's Bobby McFerrin, and for some background, a Guardian feature on the remarkably talented man himself.
Physics involves looking at things from different perspectives, and Chad Orzel, a quantum theorist at Union College, New York, takes this a bit further by considering how physics might seem to his dog. His conclusion is that the dog might have less difficulties with it than humans.
“If you can put aside a few of your usual notions of how the world works, and think about how things look to a dog, some aspects of physics that seem absolutely impossible to accept become a lot more approachable.”
For instance, the idea of virtual particles flickering into transient existence out of nothing – a hard concept for us to take in, but not for a dog.
“The dog is perfectly comfortable with the idea of stuff popping into existence out of nowhere. If a great big steak were to suddenly appear on your dining room table, you'd probably be a little perturbed. The dog, on the other hand, would feel it was nothing more than her due.”
For more, see How to Teach Physics to Your Dog.
And indeed, your dog will be able to teach you some physics – in the way it drinks. See the results of the latest research on the subject – proving that dogs (and cats as well) can apply a fine balance between inertia and gravity. 'We felt we should stand up for the dogs and write this paper,' said Professor Alfred Crompton of Harvard University.
Meanwhile if you want to find out about the chemical elements, you can see a video about each one, as part of a site developed by the University of Nottingham. It starts with the periodic table of the elements, and you click on any part of it to get a video of the appropriate element. And if you want to learn the full list of chemical elements by heart, there's only one way – Tom Lehrer. There's a variety of sites with the song, some with the elements themselves, and some displaying the words as well.
And here's a song by some one else about photosynthesis.
Various physicsts, including Frank Wilczek and Max Tegmark, have written poetry, and various examples appear on a physics forum discussion. It also includes John Updike's poem on neutrinos.
For something more reflective, here is the story of Einstein's wife, with insights into the life and work of Albert Einstein, the contribution made by his first wife, Mileva Maric, and the sad ending to their relationship.
If you enjoy modelmaking, you might like to visit Phun, a site where you can construct machines out of gears, levers, motors and whatever shapes you'd like to draw. Phun began as a Swedish student's research project, and he has gone on to develop Algodoo, where you can build lenses and laser beams as well.
If you'd like to find out more about glaciers, how they form and how they flow, the place to go is Glaciers Online, with beautiful images from all over the world. You can see how glaciers on high mountains and squeezing through narrow valleys, glaciers with volcanoes, and the sun glittering off sheets of ice in spectacular scenery.
For beautiful images from another world, there is a great site about Mars, featuring images from the Mars Odyssey spacecraft. It's been sweeping round the planet in a 2-hour orbit since 24 October 2001, and continues to send its images from a powerful heat-seeking camera (THEMIS) aboard. The outcome is the best map of Mars ever, plus a list of discoveries, from salt deposits to ground ice – and you can help them sift through the pictures. Indeed, a recent discovery of a cave was made by a group of American school pupils.
Meanwhile we have a Mars Rover that sometimes joins us on our travels, and we hope that the day will come when we can be accompanied by some football-playing robots as well; here are pictures of some of today's generation in action.