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About Howie Firth

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So far Howie Firth has created 20 blog entries.

Higgs 5: The strong dominate the field

By the mid-1960s, the situation in particle physics was not good. Its aim had been to uncover the basic building blocks of matter, and for a time the end seemed in sight. In 1917 Ernest Rutherford had split the atom and showed it consisted of an electrically positive nucleus

Higgs 6: Can the circle be unbroken?

In the 1960s the tide in physics flowed towards tackling the strong interactions, as those grappling with the weak interactions had come up against an apparently unshiftable block. The technique that seemed to be the most powerful one was the use of symmetry, and the use of Lie groups

Higgs 7: Three roads converge

By 1964 the challenge was clear. The familiar phenomena of electricity and magnetism looked as if they could be part of something even bigger. This 'something' was the electroweak interaction, with the electromagnetic field one of its aspects and the weak interaction another. The reasoning came from symmetry. Looked

Higgs 8: Physics is worth a mass

People remember 1967 for different reasons. It was the year of the Six-Day War in the Middle East and the military coup in Greece. It was the year when North Sea gas came ashore in Britain, when the Beatles issued Sergeant Pepper, and when Celtic won the European Cup.

The North Africa connection

New DNA results on Scots ancestry reopen a century-old theory about a North African language connection. The Scotland’s DNA project has found that no less than 1% of the Scots tested carry a genetic marker which originated in North Africa. The researchers say that the gene, common today amongst

The origami man

Erik Demaine never went to school very often: his longest stint there was a month in Miami Beach. He spent his young years travelling throughout the United States with his father, an artist from Halifax in Nova Scotia, who sold work at craft shows and taught his son for one

Solway shore stories

“Criffel has vanished, blotted out by the rain that is sweeping across the Firth into our faces. We are standing in a row facing the incoming tide; there’s not much talking, just an occasional comment or joke amongst the men. Mark Messenger and I are at the seaward end of

The giant snake from a lost world

It’s the stuff of nightmares – a giant snake so big that it could barely have squeezed through a modern door; as long as a bus and weighing more than a ton. It could swallow a crocodile whole, opening its jaws to almost 180 degrees. It’s thought to be a relative

Damascus swords had vanadium steel

The mystery of a legendary type of sword is gradually being unlocked by scientists and smiths. A sword of Damascus steel was said to be so sharp that it could cut through a gauze kerchief – or a steel helmet – and so flexible that it could bend through

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Notes and neurons

Some lively musical events have come out of a collaboration between two remarkable men. One is Bobby McFerrin, the son of two opera singers, who has a four-octave voice and the ability to produce any sound, from a bass guitar to a church congregation or a passing motorcycle. He started

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