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« ghosts of christmas past | Main | CSI lies and suspicious science »


Faraday's Christmas Lectures at the Royal Institution continue today. Each year a guest lecturer delivers 5 hour-long lectures over a week. The lectures are broadcast on national TV in the UK.

A fascinating story! A small correction: Hans Christian ├śrsted wasn't Dutch but Danish, and a personal friend of H.C Andersen. More at├śrsted

Awesome. And obviously he rocked because there's a character in LOST named after him. :-)

Faraday's demonstrations could have been done by anyone with a few bits and pieces in a shed at the bottom of the garden..and, after the event, often have been. His demonstration of converting electrical and magnetic forces into mechanical motion used the most basic possible apparatus. I sometimes wonder if, lurking in a shed or basement somewhere, another pragmatic experimenter is about to demonstrate an application of dark energy in some similar fashion; "Here it we have to figure out HOW!" To us, that would seem just as impossible as that little wire crackling around it's pool of mercury...
The Christmas Lectures are a staple of the festive season; went to one from school and always watch them. Prof. Laithwaite's series sticks in the mind, gyroscopes hanging at odd angles and linear motors.. inspiring stuff.

Fantastic article! The Top Gear reference makes it even better. : )

The YouTube link was malformed. You gave ; what was needed was (missing the 'm' on '.com'). Maybe this was why embedding wouldn't work?

Another thing about the Christmas Lectures - they are still delivered just as Faraday gave them. The lectures are addressed to an intelligent and enquiring person but with no assumptions of prior knowledge and minimal mathematics. Everything - an that includes mathematical or statistical proofs - are demonstrated with a practical demonstration. To illustrate entropy, you might talk about mixing identical objects, and how it was very unlikely to spontaneously unmix them, but in the Christmas Lectures you would get a red dyed liquid and a blue dyed liquid, pick someone out of the audience, and get them to measure the temperature, mix them, then measure the temperature again. It's an unusual way of giving lectures, but very memorable, and Faraday was famous for it. Every Christmas, Michael Faraday lives again.

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    Physics Cocktails

    • Heavy G
      The perfect pick-me-up when gravity gets you down.
      2 oz Tequila
      2 oz Triple sec
      2 oz Rose's sweetened lime juice
      7-Up or Sprite
      Mix tequila, triple sec and lime juice in a shaker and pour into a margarita glass. (Salted rim and ice are optional.) Top off with 7-Up/Sprite and let the weight of the world lift off your shoulders.
    • Listening to the Drums of Feynman
      The perfect nightcap after a long day struggling with QED equations.
      1 oz dark rum
      1/2 oz light rum
      1 oz Tia Maria
      2 oz light cream
      Crushed ice
      1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
      In a shaker half-filled with ice, combine the dark and light rum, Tia Maria, and cream. Shake well. Strain into an old fashioned glass almost filled with crushed ice. Dust with the nutmeg, and serve. Bongos optional.
    • Combustible Edison
      Electrify your friends with amazing pyrotechnics!
      2 oz brandy
      1 oz Campari
      1 oz fresh lemon juice
      Combine Campari and lemon juice in shaker filled with cracked ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Heat brandy in chafing dish, then ignite and pour into glass. Cocktail Go BOOM! Plus, Fire = Pretty!
    • Hiroshima Bomber
      Dr. Strangelove's drink of choice.
      3/4 Triple sec
      1/4 oz Bailey's Irish Cream
      2-3 drops Grenadine
      Fill shot glass 3/4 with Triple Sec. Layer Bailey's on top. Drop Grenadine in center of shot; it should billow up like a mushroom cloud. Remember to "duck and cover."
    • Mad Scientist
      Any mad scientist will tell you that flames make drinking more fun. What good is science if no one gets hurt?
      1 oz Midori melon liqueur
      1-1/2 oz sour mix
      1 splash soda water
      151 proof rum
      Mix melon liqueur, sour mix and soda water with ice in shaker. Shake and strain into martini glass. Top with rum and ignite. Try to take over the world.
    • Laser Beam
      Warning: may result in amplified stimulated emission.
      1 oz Southern Comfort
      1/2 oz Amaretto
      1/2 oz sloe gin
      1/2 oz vodka
      1/2 oz Triple sec
      7 oz orange juice
      Combine all liquor in a full glass of ice. Shake well. Garnish with orange and cherry. Serve to attractive target of choice.
    • Quantum Theory
      Guaranteed to collapse your wave function:
      3/4 oz Rum
      1/2 oz Strega
      1/4 oz Grand Marnier
      2 oz Pineapple juice
      Fill with Sweet and sour
      Pour rum, strega and Grand Marnier into a collins glass. Add pineapple and fill with sweet and sour. Sip until all the day's super-positioned states disappear.
    • The Black Hole
      So called because after one of these, you have already passed the event horizon of inebriation.
      1 oz. Kahlua
      1 oz. vodka
      .5 oz. Cointreau or Triple Sec
      .5 oz. dark rum
      .5 oz. Amaretto
      Pour into an old-fashioned glass over (scant) ice. Stir gently. Watch time slow.