Fascinating Science

A. Science Links

Science History



Science Modern


Science News

The Ship That Sails Vertically

The boat that sails vertically sticking out of the water:

               See:  Flip.

Water - The Commonest And Most Bonkers

We all take water for granted but look a little closer and one starts to realise that the pattern for all other substances is wildly not true for the substance that is completely in or on everything on the surface of our planet (but not other planets as far as I’m aware). Apparently it’s the most weirdly behaved substance known. London South Bank University have given us an insight into water’s odd structure and science (see link to the right). I’m a Physicist who has practised as an Engineer all my life and I’d heard of a few anomalies but never realised how wide and how long water is playing its own game; even above and below the magical  50ºC so here’s a bit to turn your preconceptions up-side-down:

Correcting History

Joseph Wilson Swan is hardly ever mentioned because it is in the common consciousness, especially in USA, that Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb. Whilst it is true that he held many patents and made improvements to the original design his skills lay in exploiting good ideas and mass producing them. Lewis Latimer was his draughtsman and actually held the vital filament patents. The invention, as so many, was a chain of steps taken as new discoveries were made. Wikipaedia says:

  1. In America, Edison had been working on copies of the original light bulb patented by Swan, trying to make them more efficient. Though Swan had beaten him to this goal, Edison obtained patents in America for a fairly direct copy of the Swan light, and started an advertising campaign which claimed that he was the real inventor. Swan, who was less interested in making money from the invention, agreed that Edison could sell the lights in America while he retained the rights in Britain.

  2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Edison


  1. In Britain, the Edison and Swan companies merged into the Edison and Swan United Electric Company (later known as Ediswan, and ultimately incorporated into Thorn Lighting Ltd). Edison was initially against this combination, but after Swan sued him and won, Edison was eventually forced to cooperate, and the merger was made. Eventually, Edison acquired all of Swan's interest in the company. Swan sold his US patent rights to the Brush Electric Company in June 1882.

  2. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Incandescent_light_bulb

In reality Humphrey Davy started it all in 1802 with his search for encapsulated mining arc lamps. Then William De la Rue first passed electric current through a platinum wire in an glass envelope for his invention of the thermionic valve but Joseph Swan was the first attempt to do the same to make light in 1878. His invention was used to illuminate Lord Armstrong’s house, eventually he was granted British Patent Number 4933. Later the Savoy Theatre was kitted out where Marconi was to demonstrate radio for the first time many years later.

Of course little is said of Edison’s abortive Direct Current distribution having a limit of 1 mile from the power station. He vocally smeered the superior Alternating Current system which was so easy to transmit over long distances that was until he went out of business and had to sell to AC giant Thomson-Houston to form GEC (America).


Whilst some care has been taken to check externally linked websites no responsibility is offered nor implied for the suitability, legality or reliability of content therein.

Made on a Mac

Early bulbs blackened easily.

B. Science Of Substances

Commercialism, ignorance, politics, religion and even national pride have historically warped people’s understanding of the real world and in some places the internet still does. However I praise it because on the whole science (and that word needs a bit of unwarping) is being continuously forwarded by it and after all that’s what ArpaNet and the first networks were designed to do. So, in a completely unscientific way, here are some excellent sites that caught my eye when wanting to cogitate the meaning of..  well, everything really.

Notable amongst the anomalies of water is the opposite properties of hot and cold water, with the anomalous behavior more accentuated at low temperatures where the properties of supercooled water often diverge from those of hexagonal ice. In particular several properties of water change at about 50 °C just above the body temperature of mammals and about which many proteins denature.

As cold liquid water is heated:   individual molecules shrink, bulk water shrinks and becomes less easy to compress, its refractive index increases, the speed of sound within it increases, gases become less soluble and it is easier to heat and conducts heat better.

In contrast as hot liquid water is heated:  it expands, it becomes easier to compress, it’s refractive index reduces, the speed of sound within it decreases, gases become more soluble, it is harder to heat, and it is a poorer conductor of heat.

With increasing pressure, individual molecules expand, cold water molecules move faster but hot water molecules move slower. Hot water freezes faster than cold water and ice melts when compressed except at high pressures when liquid water freezes when compressed.

(Martin Chaplin, Prof Applied Science, LSBU)

C. Science Of The Unusual

D. Science History

(Once you have viewed the anomalies page click ‘Home’ for a wider insight into its science)

Unusual Aquatic Science

It is said that we know more about outer space than we do about what lives under water here on earth. Here are three very good examples (click on pics below):

1. The Insane Biology Of The Axolotl

Seriously endangered this species gives us hope of one day growing our organs back because it achieves it in a way that our bodies inhibit. The genetics, evolution, behaviour and the rare change to adulthood are tremendously rendered

2. The Insane Biology Of The Octopus

Few of us realise just how staggeringly clever octopi are in order to evade predators because they don’t have a shell. Not only can they squeeze through tiny crevices, regrow limbs, change their colour to match the pattern of the surrounding rocks but their skin can actual mimic rock’s texture. How do they do all that ? Their high intelligence is not like ours but much more advanced -they use distributed processing ! Fantastic photography opens the remarkable biology of these shy creatures..

3. The Insane Biology Of The Platypus

The humble platypus had Aboriginees in awe over millennia and defies simple biological classification by scientists today. It is unbelievably well adapted to its environment but at first suspected to be a ‘hoax’ animal. It is almost blind yet only the most recent research has discovered it’s many unusual senses eg 70,000 electrical sensors in its beak. Again tremendous HD footage with explanation of the latest conclusions of its possible genetic roots.

Antikythera Mechanism

Certainly Eric Carter’s discovery of Tutankamun’s burial chamber confirmed and expanded our knowledge of the Egyptians (but did you know that how they made his chest borooch remains a mystery see here). However until 1901 no find had ever re-written history like Antikythera Mechanism. Whilst this remained marvelous to guess at it wasn’t until the Derek de Solla Price attempted a model of it in 1971 that true understanding started. Then, over a 25 year period, the Science Museum’s Dr Michael Wright, who worked with my good friend Dr Alan Partridge of Meccano fame, made a superior model of it that unravelled most of it’s unbelievable maths.

This BBC video by UCL’s Prof Tony Freeth tracks the whole story to the final advanced explanation of how the Greeks from Corinth built the world’s first computer that could predict any eclipse of any known planet !