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Physics of haiku, blizzards and Thor’s hammer

By Hamish Johnston

Students at Camden School for Girls in London have published a lovely book of haiku about science. Called Sciku: The Wonder of Science – in Haiku!, the volume contains 400 poems and is on sale with proceeds going to upgrading the science labs at the school. The students are not the only ones at the school with literary ambitions. Their science teacher Simon Flynn has also written a book called The Science Magpie, which we reviewed two years ago.

Below is a little taste of what is inside the book of haiku and you can also watch several of the students reading their poems in the video above.

An attractive force
Between all objects with mass
Just like you and me

Who would you want to play you in a film? Stephen Hawking has told The Independent newspaper that the actor Eddie Redmayne’s portrayal of him was so good that “At times I thought he was me.” You can watch Redmayne’s Oscar-tipped performance as the young Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, which is coming to a cinema near you – if it isn’t there already.

In other arts and entertainment news, physicist Jim Kakalios, author of The Physics of Superheroes, turns his attention to the possible physics behind Thor’s enchanted hammer, Mjolnir. Kakalios tries to work out why Thor can easily lift the hammer, whereas other seemingly powerful superheroes can not. The answer lies in this guest post “The physics of Thor’s hammer” on the appropriately named Nerdage blog.

There’s nothing like a good weather story to get people excited and the blizzard this week in Buffalo, New York, was no exception. The latest tally is that a whopping 2 m of snow has fallen on parts of the city, and while thousands of children are enjoying another day off school, several lives have also been lost.

This “lake effect” snow is very common in Buffalo because it sits at the south-east end of Lake Erie. Water evaporates from the warm surface of the lake and is carried by cold north-westerly winds to Buffalo, where the warming effect of the lake vanishes and the water immediately precipitates out as snow.

You could be forgiven for thinking that global warming would be welcome by snowbound Buffalonians – but, paradoxically, a slight warming could actually result in more storms like the one they are currently experiencing. The reason is that lake-effect snow normally only happens in the late autumn and early winter, and will stop when Lake Erie freezes in mid-winter. However, ice cover on Lake Erie and other Great Lakes has been diminishing over the past few decades and scientists have pointed out that places like Buffalo could get lake-effect snow throughout the winter more often. If you want to know more about lake-effect snow and see some spectacular videos of the storm blowing in off Lake Erie, check out the Facebook page of the meteorologist Ryan Hanrahan.


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  1. M. Asghar

    Nice and expresive little poem, but stricly speaking, it is not a haÏku, because a haïku has three parts consisting of 5, 7 and 5 syllables respectively such ase:
    “Night of watchfulness
    Roamed into a morning of
    A white snow landscape”

  2. Trackback: Physics Viewpoint | Physics of haiku, blizzards and Thor’s hammer


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