Perpetual motion would be a wonderful thing, if only it were possible - being able to set some machine going and then it would power itself and just carry on & on without end. Free energy from nothing! Which is, of course, why it is impossible - but this wasn't provable until relatively recently. Discussing the search for, and disproof of, perpetual motion on In Our Time were Ruth Gregory (Durham University), Frank Close (University of Oxford) and Steven Bramwell (University College London).
Glass is odd stuff. We've been making it so long that one tends to forget that it's both artificial and really quite odd. The In Our Time episode about glass talked both the science of glass and glass-making, and the history of it. The experts discussing it were Dame Athene Donald (University of Cambridge, current Master of Churchill College, my old college, but here in her context as a physicist), Jim Bennett (University of Oxford) and Paul McMillan (University College London).
Despite being relatively close to us the inside of the Earth, and particularly the core of the Earth, is difficult to investigate. Primarily because we can't just look at it - and the deepest mines or boreholes are only 10km deep which is tiny compared to the 6,000km that is the Earth's radius. So everything needs to be logically deduced from the readings that we can take.
I know of Robert Boyle because of Boyle's Law (which I must've learnt in GCSE physics about 25 years ago although I couldn't give you the details now), but as In Our Time explained his part in developing the scientific method is probably the more important part of his legacy. And in his own time his piety and religious writings were also important. The three experts who discussed it were Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge), Michael Hunter (Birkbeck College, University of London) and Anna Marie Roos (University of Lincoln).
We finished three different series over the last week so I wasn't going to write about any of the one-off programmes as well, but Heart vs Mind: What Makes Us Human? irritated me sufficiently that I wanted to say why! The premise of this film was that the presenter, David Malone, had always thought of himself as a wholly rational person but then his life had become derailed - his wife had started to suffer from severe depression and it was as if the person she had been no longer existed.
Sunday morning we listened to the In Our Time episode about the invention of radio, which we've had sitting on the ipod for a while - it's not a subject that caught either of our imaginations in advance. It did turn out to be interesting, but it also felt like a series of vignettes - this person, this date, this advance, now move on to the next - so I'm approaching writing it up with some trepidation!
We're back to listening to episodes of In Our Time on Sunday mornings. The one we listened to this week was about that staple of 1930s science fiction - cosmic rays. The three experts who were talking about the reality of this phenomenon were Carolin Crawford (University of Cambridge), Alan Watson (University of Leeds) and Tim Greenshaw (University of Liverpool).
The first planet orbiting a star other than the Sun wasn't discovered until 1992 and since then the subject of exoplanets has gone from being something you argue about the existence of to a rapidly expanding field with new discoveries all the time. The experts who discussed exoplanets on In Our Time were Carolin Crawford (University of Cambridge), Don Pollacco (University of Warwick) and Suzanne Aigrain (University of Oxford).
On Sunday Diane Johnson came to the Essex Egyptology Group meeting to talk to us about meteorites in Ancient Egypt. She's a physicist who works at the Open University on meteorites, and is also interested in Ancient Egypt. She is combining the two by examining ancient iron objects from Egypt to see if they derive from meteorite iron & has recently published a paper about a bead found in a pre-historic tomb.