This is Why … Ducklings Form Single-File Flotillas Behind Mumma

This adorable example of everyday physics took me entirely by surprise. We’ve all seen a sweet little floating parade in the springtime at our local river or pond, with a mumma duck or goose followed closely by a line of babies paddling quickly to keep up. But I never really noticed that the spacings ofContinue reading “This is Why … Ducklings Form Single-File Flotillas Behind Mumma”

This is Why … My Zen Space Sometimes Smells Like Cotton Candy

(Alt text – A cotton candy vendor walking under the forest canopy during a morning in Bardiya National Park in Nepal, light filtering through the canopy. By Gaurav Aryal, Like everyone else, the start of the new school year has been incredibly stressful for me. Going for walks in the arboretum on campus has beenContinue reading “This is Why … My Zen Space Sometimes Smells Like Cotton Candy”

This is Why … Geese Are Yoga Gurus

(An ashy-headed goose demonstrating its exceptional balancing ability; image from The other day I spent some time exploring the “arm” at Guelph Lake, curious to see how far up the Speed River I could get in my kayak before bottoming out. (Turns out, not very far. Water shoes would have been a good idea.Continue reading “This is Why … Geese Are Yoga Gurus”

This is Why … Falling on the Ice May Have Saved My Life

On an icy cold morning at the end of February, I tentatively headed down the slope behind our house, on my way out for some daily exercise. As I stepped off a retaining wall down to the walkway below, my foot went right out from under me and I crashed down, hard. The small of my back came down on the edge of the six-inch high concrete step as the rest of me landed on the lower level − I experienced the most intense pain I have ever felt. And that includes the drug-free labour and delivery of our first child.

This Is Why … Rainbows Have Nothing to Hide

A few weeks ago during dinner there was a sudden burst of sunlight in the midst of a rain shower. Knowing that these were ideal rainbow-making conditions, we jumped up from the table and ran out to investigate. Sacrificing our meal was entirely worth it: this photo was taken just a few hundred metres downContinue reading “This Is Why … Rainbows Have Nothing to Hide”

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Lecture Hall…

As I strode across campus to meet my second-year physics students in our Electricity and Magnetism class a few years ago, it suddenly struck me that I had the makings of a fantastic opportunity tucked under my arm. My teaching assistant had returned their last assignment of the semester to me, so I quickly formulatedContinue reading “A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Lecture Hall…”

This is Why … Campfire Smoke Follows You Around

They said someday you’ll find All who love are blind When your heart’s on fire You must realize Smoke gets in your eyes Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach, 1933 (“Watching the Campfire” by Mr Moss is licensed under CC BY 2.0) Despite legions of campers swearing to the contrary, campfire smoke does NOT actually follow you around like yourContinue reading “This is Why … Campfire Smoke Follows You Around”

This is Why … The Snowflake is “Six-Cornered”

Image: Back in 1611, Johannes Kepler, court mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, found himself flat broke in the lead-up to the holiday season. (Apparently Rudolf didn’t pay his court all that regularly.) As he wandered across the Charles Bridge in Prague, he noticed a delicate snowflake attached to the lapel ofContinue reading “This is Why … The Snowflake is “Six-Cornered””

This is Why … The Beautiful Game is Beautiful Physics

(Image of football/soccer player in the rain under stadium lights, from A few days ago, my football-obsessed cousin, James, commented on Twitter on a video of an incredible header by superstar athlete Cristiano Ronaldo, concluding that the “laws of physics don’t apply to [Ronaldo]”. It wasn’t intentional, but a statement like that is aContinue reading “This is Why … The Beautiful Game is Beautiful Physics”

This is Why … campfire smoke may have played a surprising role in our evolution

Like me, you may have spent a significant amount of time around a campfire this past long weekend. Singing songs, roasting marshmallows, debating the optimal wood configuration, discussing the connection between campfire smoke and eating placenta …. No? Not the last one? Well buckle your seatbelts, kids, let’s dive right in!