This is Why … Water Striders and I Are Kindred Spirits

( ID 1724117857) A couple of summers ago I signed up with the Wellington Sculling Club for their Learn To Row* program. Coached by an amazing group of people, I successfully completed the course and joined as a full member, but I still have plenty to learn so I head down to the lake asContinue reading “This is Why … Water Striders and I Are Kindred Spirits”

This Is Why … Microscopic but Mighty Cyanobacteria Deserve Our Respect

Science Twitter is a great place – for education and entertainment. This ‘cyanobacteria meme’ was tweeted by Jaida Elcock, also known as @soFISHtication, on June 15, 2020, and quickly racked up more than 1000 retweets and 5000 likes. As a physicist with a somewhat sketchy memory of first-year biology, I felt like I needed aContinue reading “This Is Why … Microscopic but Mighty Cyanobacteria Deserve Our Respect”

This Is Why … Zebras Have Stripes

(“IMG_2095” by expat696969 is licensed under CC0 1.0) Ok, I’ll admit that I was more than a little skeptical when my 15-year-old daughter asked me to buy a zebra-print flysheet for her horse. I may even have scoffed, saying something along the lines of “Why would you want to make your horse look so silly?” When Hannah replied: “BecauseContinue reading “This Is Why … Zebras Have Stripes”

This Is Why …it’s good to be hard-headed, if you’re a woodpecker

The soundtrack to my walk in the woods last weekend was incredible. The forest was alive with creatures big and small, busy with the tasks of a new season: the spring peepers were cheerfully peeping, the partridges were drumming on hollow logs, tom turkeys were gobbling at full throat. And, above it all, the incrediblyContinue reading “This Is Why …it’s good to be hard-headed, if you’re a woodpecker”

This Is Why … physics leads to love for western grebes

(Photo by Keneva Photography) This elaborate courting display is known as rushing, a mating ritual that is unique to the western and Clark’s grebes (Aechmophorus occidentalis and Aechmophorus clarkii). In showing off for nearby potential mates, grebes in twos and threes run side-by-side across the water for 10 to 20 metres at a time, whichContinue reading “This Is Why … physics leads to love for western grebes”

This is Why … snails are brilliant engineers!

I really shouldn’t be so discriminatory here. All gastropods (the class name for snails and slugs) are brilliant engineers. First of all, they grow their own home; a pretty impressive feat. But that’s a topic for another day … this story is about the incredible properties of their slime. Snail slime does two jobs: itContinue reading “This is Why … snails are brilliant engineers!”

This Is Why … Mother Nature is a physics genius!

Have you ever found yourself lying on the lawn on a summer day, absentmindedly examining the dandelions there? The cheerful yellow flowers, bowing their heads under the weight of bumblebees feeding on their nectar. A nearby collection that has gone to seed, with dense pods at the base of long, delicate stems and a bundleContinue reading “This Is Why … Mother Nature is a physics genius!”

This Is Why … skipping stones is anything but child’s play!

A perfect July morning. You quietly prepare a cup of coffee and slip out of the cottage to head down to the lake. The surface is so still – the treeline on the far shore reflected in the surface like nature’s Rorschach test. That perfect surface calls out for a little physics fun, so youContinue reading “This Is Why … skipping stones is anything but child’s play!”

This Is Why … foodies focus on foil’s physics

(Photo by from Pexels) As a physicist, I don’t really get asked for professional advice all that frequently. Our Carpenter Buddy was super helpful with our deck construction project (Thanks Drew!) and our MD Pal gets asked about questionable moles (and more exotic things) all the time. But it’s not often that a social gathering sees someoneContinue reading “This Is Why … foodies focus on foil’s physics”

This Is Why … equestrians trust their lives to physics!

It’s ridiculously early on a cold January morning. I’m shuffling my feet to keep warm and to burn off some of my nervous energy. As I hold my breath, my teenage daughter trusts her life to her horse and her training, as they dart around the jumper ring at top speed. The goal is toContinue reading “This Is Why … equestrians trust their lives to physics!”