Tag Archives: MrReid.org

2014-2015 Review

Mr Reid travelling salesman problem (2000 nodes)

I had a very busy timetable at work this year, so I didn’t blog here as much as I would have liked. Hopefully the 2015-2016 Review will be longer than this one.

I enjoyed writing about rotational kinetic energy in September, and the difference between centre of mass and centre of gravity was something people don’t often think about.

A post on how latitude affects the length of the day was my favourite post from October.

November was one of my favourite months: I particularly liked the posts about fail-safes, citrus fruit and analemmas.

I only made two posts in December, about the colour of diamonds and the possibility of building a vacuum airship, but I liked them both.

January was also a good month. My favourites were two posts about ranking things properly, and the different types of microscope. I also wrote about different naming systems across the world, but I’m not sure I got my facts 100% correct.

A post about the thermal expansion of petrol was easily my favourite post from February.

I liked all the posts I made in March, particularly the posts about colour mixing (why is light red, green and blue, but ink cyan, magenta and yellow?), the order of adjectives in English, and alternatives to GPS.

April was also a good month: I wrote about the nuclear “double flash” and worked out a much better system of coinage for the UK.

A post about how to look at the back of your head using a black hole was my favourite post from May.

I didn’t make any posts in June. :(

I particularly like my post about why some particles don’t decay from July. I also wrote about the different type of multiplication and the world’s longest golf shot.

August was another good month (school holidays!). I wrote about the US’s “soft bomb”longitude, latitude and precision and the Kp index for aurora spotting.

Here’s to 2015-2016. I hope you’ll keep reading.

2013-2014 Review

MrReid.org launched on 30th August 2007. In 2012 I published a Five Year Review, and last year I reviewed 2012-2013, and I thought I’d follow up this year with a review of 2013-2014.


September, like many months this past year, was a quiet one for posts. I looked at where all the elements came from, the differences in the order of subjects, objects and verbs in sentences in various languages, and finally worked out the difference between “tons” and “tonnes”.

Full September archive


I was quite pleased with a post about tritium illumination and telomeres and aging, but my favourite post from October was one about the different types of average. I also wrote about an actual method of turning lead (or something else) into gold.

Full October archive


I liked all my posts from November. The post about different sorting algorithms was probably a bit too long, and could maybe have been a bit clearer, but the ones on the different gases used when breathing underwater and on RAID array types were just right.

Full November archive


The post about the EURion Constellation and counterfeit money was easily my favourite from December, and one of my favourites from the whole year. I also liked Earth Sandwich and the post about inequality and the Gini Coefficient.

Full December archive


There was nothing really outstanding from the month of January, but I did enjoy researching Unconventional Nuclear Weapons.

Full January archive


February was very quiet, with only two posts: one on converting from miles to kilometres by using the Fibonacci sequence which was more popular than I’d expected it to be, and one on decibel weighting and the difference between white and grey noise.

Full February archive


March was not a good month for MrReid.org.


April was much better than March, in that I actually made some posts. MrReid.org joined Twitter, and I wrote another personal favourite post discussing what “Five Sigma” data is. I also corrected a very common misconception, writing about the difference between real and apparent weightlessness.

Full April archive


May was another busy month, with a definite typographic theme towards the end. My personal favourite was Why Tokyo Looks Different From Space, but I was also pleased with Ranking Ratings and UPC Barcodes.

Full May archive


An amazing coincidence in June, when an issue I wrote about in a MrReid.org post (Cousins or Siblings?) came up in an A Level biology final exam question a few days later. I also wrote about where space starts, and the shape of rocket engines and the creation of “shock diamonds”.

Full June archive


July wasn’t a brilliant month, because I was very busy at work. I’m still not quite sure I explained why we can’t get all the way to absolute zero quite well enough, but it’s a post I quite like.

Full July archive


I found The Composition of Earth’s Atmosphere with Elevation very interesting, but I have a feeling I might be the only one. I was also very interested by hydraulic fuses, and I finally worked out the difference between an assault rifle and a carbine. I also explained why it feels hotter when the air is more humid.

Full August archive

Here’s to 2014-15. I hope you’ll keep reading.

2012-2013 Review

MrReid.org launched on 30th August 2007. Last year I published a Five Year Review, and I thought I’d follow that up this year with a review of 2012-2013.


My two favourite posts from September had a common theme: refractive index. Demonstrating Refractive Index, a video of a neat refractive index magic trick, made it to the top of reddit’s r/science subreddit, and My Favourite Photograph from the Olympics continued the refractive index theme, looking at a neat demonstration of total internal reflection.


Surviving Acceleration is a neat post that I’ve referred to on many occasions in my teaching, especially when trying to explain the usefulness of logarithmic graphs, and I’ve also gone back to Tog a number of times, especially when looking at the mathematics of thermal energy transfer and Newton’s Law of Cooling.

How are Mushroom Clouds Formed? answered a question I’d always wondered about, and is something that I point people towards when they (understandably) assume that mushroom clouds and nuclear weapons are intrinsically linked.


An excellent podcast inspired Solved Games, and a couple of interesting papers from the arXiv inspired Earthquake Cloak, a post about shielding buildings from earthquakes. I wrote about Blood Types because I was teaching the topic at the time.


December saw a rare non-science related post as I got obsessed with publishing for BERG’s Little Printer and I finally got around to finding out why resistors have strange values. I also wrote about mach cones and fission-fragment rockets.


In January I looked at Gravel Gerties, which are used for the manufacture and maintenance of nuclear weapons, and Whipple Shielding, which is used to protect spacecraft. I also wrote about a very old-fashioned pregnancy test and looked at GPS in Space.


There were no really outstanding posts in February, but I love the visuals of Rifling and have surprised a lot of people with the Energy Density of Coal.


I love Radomes, so it was inevitable I’d write about them at some point and I was also very interested by the Mean Centre of World Lighting. I found the topic of Depth Perception in Jumping Spiders very interesting, but I’m not sure I explained it particularly well.


April was a busy month, with a trio of posts about nuclear weapons: The Trestle, the Composition of Nuclear EMPs, and Critical Mass and Fizzles. I was also very pleased with a post about Google’s “Leap Smear“.

There was also a dumb April Fools post.


In May I finally worked out what the problem with Disk Drive Sizes is, and looked at the mysterious FOGBANK, as well as touching upon the risk of asteroid collisions and how satellites are pointed.


A post about Automatically Removing Objects from Photographs continues to get a lot of attention and I was also pleased with On the Emission of Light and Laser Gyroscopes.


July was a bit of an odd one, with a bunch of unconnected posts like Fish Ladders, the colour you see with your eyes closed and the Galileo Thermometer.


In August I finally worked out how cooling towers work and what Lagrange Points are, as well as writing a very popular post about bullshit marketing equations.

So here’s to 2013-14. I hope you’ll keep reading.

Five Years of MrReid.org


The first ever post on MrReid.org, on August 30th 2007, was about the Great Blue Hole, and like a number of early MrReid.org posts was posted mainly because the images involved looked great (see for example: the Cave of Swords, Scientists on Money and Big Vehicles). 2007 was the first time I ran a series of posts, in this case about orders of magnitude. There was also a lovely tiny little post about how bad scientists are at predicting the future.


I started 2008 with one of my favourite post titles of all time: Fireball Throwing Robotic Catapult and continued with my second series of posts: Crazy Animals.

Some other favourite posts:

In 2008 I was definitely focusing on quantity rather than quality, and most posts are pretty brief.


Most 2009 posts were very short, and often focused around a single image (e.g. Jellybean universe, Teaching mutation, When physicists marry, etc.)

I think this post about UK postcodes was the first post based on my own original work, and this post about the Physics Factbook the first post in which I recommended someone else’s website. There was also a cautionary tale for physics teachers and lab technicians and some news about an accident at the LHC. During the Swine Flu panic I made a couple of relevant posts: one about putting the deaths due to Swine Flu into perspective and one about using infrared thermometer to monitor passengers for symptoms.

This post about Learning Styles being nonsense is something I’ve gone back to quite often in my work and this post about magnetic levitation on Japanese trains turns up quite often in my lessons. My Decimalising time post eventually ended up being turned into a talk that I gave at Ignite London. I’m disappointed that I didn’t do more with my series on Experiments That Actually Work.

Some other favourite posts:

2009 was of course a sad year, due to the passing of Spacebat.


2010 was a quieter year, with usually only a handful of posts per month as posts began to take on a more personal feel and tended to be based on something I’d done or made. See for example Fruit Gums and graphs (a follow up to Teaching statistics with Fruit Gums), Aspect ratio, Colour Cube, The Half-Time Kettle Effect quantified and How to make an extension cord.

I even took a trip into Pop Culture territory with Resolution and Strictly Come Dancing.

There were rant posts like The “compensation culture” does not exist, and even a special Christmas post: A public service announcement regarding paper snowflakes.

2010 was the first year I blogged about current research, with a post about finding secret nuclear reactors using neutrinos and a post about how people under- and over-estimate energy use and savings.

Some other favourite posts:

P.S. A man has to have a code.


I rarely miss a chance to bash Greenpeace for being opposed to nuclear power on ideological rather than environmental grounds and their publication of some great infrared photographs of nuclear waste being transported was no exception. (I also rarely miss a chance to bash the Daily Fail either.)

A post I wrote about Choosing the “Right” A Levels has been consistently popular, and probably has more comments than any other post on the site. The post about Exam technique in physics is one I revisit every time a set of exams comes around.

The biggest event of 2011 for me was the accident at the Fukushima plant which resulted in a very popular post that got picked up by Kottke and NY Mag. This was very shortly after a post about Understanding radioactive dose and spawned two follow up posts: a timeline of the accident and a post about how Potassium iodide pills are radioactive.

July was a good month for posts, with a number of my favourites: Nobel prize winning sentences, a look at how ultraviolet ink works, a post about revetments and breakwaters (which I am a little obsessed with), a look at Electricity consumption in the production of aluminium, and a post about securing nuclear waste sites with Passive institutional controls.

This post about looking for rogue nuclear reactors didn’t win the Wellcome Trust Science Writing Prize but a post about Hacking QR Codes continues to get a lot of traffic. A post from August about liquid cooling for computer hardware always gets referenced in lessons about heat transfer and specific heat capacity and people continue to be surprised by the fact that lactose intolerance is actually the norm. The recent landing of the Curiosity rover on Mars has resulted in a lot of traffic for a post I wrote about Curiosity’s nuclear power source.

I liked all the posts from October, which might be a first: Why 80mph is not a good idea, Does your weight change in a lift?, Spherical ice cubes and surface area-to-volume ratio, R0, Dating a common ancestor and Looking at constellations from a different angle.

2011 was also the year of the first (and so far, only) MrReid.org guest post, by Leila Johnston, about the Challenger disaster.

Some other favourite posts:


January was a good month, another one where I liked all the posts I made: The cost of coins, Technetium-99 generators, Plug wiring colour scheme and a post about how Night vision works.

A stupid post called How big are pizzas? got far more attention than it deserved. A post about a problem with the RSA encryption algorithm didn’t get any attention, but is one that I’m particularly proud of, as I worked it all out myself and I didn’t see a good explanation anywhere else online.

The man who put his head in a particle accelerator ended up crashing my site when it got linked to by reddit. A post about different types of Smiths ended up being the rarest of posts – one without any links. I was really pleased with my post about the extent of shared genetic material between relatives, but I’m still not 100% sure my figures are correct.

A pupil inspired a post about Why you can’t open aeroplane doors in flight and a tweet inspired a very popular post about Why kettles boil slowly in the US. I wrote about classified space shuttle missions and where the best place to launch a rocket from is.

A post about Making art with the Travelling Salesman Problem led to a talk at the London Graphics Hackspace. During the 2012 Olympics a post about the metallic composition of the Olympic medals was particularly popular.

I was very pleased with a post about Separative Work Units, but I doubt it’s of interest to anyone but me. I also learned that You can see more than half of a neutron star and that red is not the only colour of blood.

Some other favourite posts:

The Future …

More of the same I guess; I hope you’ll keep reading.