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How to plan your shopping run, the Travelling Salesperson Problem, and P vs NP

It is a problem encountered by everyone almost everyday – what is the most efficient way to travel between a number of given places? In the real world, we will often encounter this a series of errands we need to run for the day, for example going shopping and figuring out the most efficient route to get to the butcher’s, the greengrocer’s, and the baker’s. In fact, any journey that isn’t simply between two points forces us to consider a version of this problem, but in general, it remains unsolved by mathematicians, and may hold the key to one of the biggest questions in maths. This is the Travelling Salesperson Problem, or TSP, named after a statement of the problem that considered the most efficient route for a door to door salesperson.

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What happens when you fall through a planet?

After millennia of searching, scientists on earth discover a planet that appears to be almost exactly like earth in every respect. It has the same radius and they figured out it has the same mass. Because it is so far away, they can’t really see what it looks like properly though, so they decide to investigate. When they arrive, after a very long journey, they discover a couple of strange things about this planet. Firstly, it isn’t spinning…at all. Secondly, it has no atmosphere. In other words, it is large, earth-shaped piece of rock floating around.

The scientists decide to drill all the way through this rock to discover more about. Once they eventually reach the other side, they realise also that all the mass is evenly distributed throughout the planet. They are very pleased as they have discovered this strange specimen and in their moment of triumph  they celebrate with some champagne. One of the scientists, let call him Larry, losses his balance and falls into the hole they had just finished drilling. Now, this is where it gets interesting…

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What Is Information?

When you think of information, what do you see? Computers? Hard drives? A string of 1s and 0s? What about Black-holes, or electrons or a ray of light?

We hear about information a lot in our modern era, particularly in reference to technology, but information has a different meaning in physics than in computing as well as in mathematics. In this post, we will discuss what information is in physics, why it is so important to modern physics and how our entire universe could be a hologram.

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Why Is Enthusiasm For Science On the Rise?

Guys, we are back (for real)! After an intensive period of revision and exams, we are returning and should be posting regularly every Sunday again! I decided that for our return post, I would talk on a more personal level. Evidently I love science, and I’m not the only one! We are seeing an increase in enthusiasm for science, especially in young people; in the last 8 years, there has been a 50% increase in the number of people doing a physics degree in the UK and applications are up 40% in the last year. I am going to explain to you why I think that this is happening.

Ok, I’m going to jump right in here. There are four main reasons that I think enthusiasm for science is on the rise. The first reason, and the one that really allowed the others develop, has been the change in attitude towards those that enjoy science and those that work in science fields.

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The Forgotten Subjects – The Decline Of The Sciences In The UK

Hey guys! This week’s post is a little different to our usual structure. Unlike normal, where we try to give you information without opinions, this week our post is an opinion piece. This is something I feel very strongly about, and I would love if we could get a discussion going. Please email us or comment!

We have a problem in the UK.  We were once the greatest scientific and industrial nation in the world, however no longer.  Overall, we spend about £25bn a year on science as a country, seventh highest in the world. Although this appears large, it is a mere 1.77% of our GDP and falls short of both the boundary set by the government of 2.5% and the EU target of 3.8%. In comparison, Israel spends 4.6% of its GDP on research.

You would expect both our government and our people to have prevented this decline. After all, we are a very patriotic nation. As we saw with the Olympics this year, we have no problem investing money in activities that we excel at. So why haven’t we done this for science and why do we need to take action now?

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Pauli’s Exclusion Principle: Quantum Physics is weird, vol. 7 (or so)

Hey guys. I think I have portrayed to you already that Quantum Physics is really strange. As in, not even quantum physicists understand it. Particles disappear and reappear through apparently solid barriers; particles and waves are interchangeable and zombie-living cats apparently exist (don’t worry, none of them have escaped into the world…yet). So welcome to another edition of: Quantum Physics is weird brought to you by The Aftermatter.

Today, we are going to be talking about electrons. The little charged guys that wizz around the atom and lead to the properties of ever material we will ever see:

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The real cost of the Death Star: Mr Obama, it can be yours in just 15 years!

Recently, the White House responded to a petition to “begin construction of a Death Star (the planet buster from the Star Wars movies) by 2016. They declined, partially on the grounds that it would be too expensive, with the numbers having been crunched by the folks over at centives.net, saying that the steel would cost around $852 quadrillion. However, we think that in reality, it would actually be much cheaper, and is a proposition that Mr Obama should reconsider.

Firstly here is a link to the original post analysing the cost on centives.net, an excellent blog on “quirky economics” from how much of a cut Domino’s take on your toppings to the game theory involved in The Hunger Games. I recommend that you take a bit of time to read this before getting started on our article.

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Physics in brief: What is Schrödinger’s Cat?

Schrödinger’s cat is one of the most famous physics thought experiments. In this post, I will explain what the thought experiment is, the weird phenomenon it seeks to express and the origins of it.

So lets start with what Schrödinger’s cat really is. Erwin Schrödinger was a fantastic physicist in the 20th century. His influence spread across numerous fields, but he is best known for his work in quantum mechanics, even forming a whole new part, involving waves and which spawned the second most famous physical idea with his name associated with it, Schrödinger’s wave equation. But that isn’t what we are talking about today. Quantum physics is a very strange subject, we have talked about it before so I’m not going to go into much detail, but because of its complexity, there are many ways to interpret it. At Schrödinger’s time, the most popular was something called the Copenhagen interpretation.

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How to win at Monopoly: how Game Theory shapes your family games

It’s just after Christmas: and many of you will be sitting around with your family playing board games. Contrary to popular belief, these games are not about family spirit, instead they are about bringing out your competitive side and asserting your supremacy over the family, so let’s have a look at the statistics of Monopoly, and how to play these to your advantage!
So we all know the classic family board game, Monopoly, where players roll dice to move round the board, and purchase and improve their properties. If you land on an opponent’s property, you have to pay them rent. This rent is higher if they build houses or hotels on these properties, but you can only build on a property if you own all the properties of that colour group. If you land on a property that you cannot pay the rent for, you are bankrupt and out of the game. The winner is the last remaining player after everyone has been bankrupted.

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Santa Claus is coming to town and it is going to cost him £40m this year!

Christmas is a magical time all around the world. Tomorrow night, millions of children will be putting out their stockings, ready to wake the next morning to delights delivered by the fat red man (and his reindeer) we all hold close to our hearts, St Nick himself, Father Christmas, Santa Claus. However, his one-night-only trip may just cost nearly the same as a luxury yacht, and that doesn’t include the presents!

In this post, we are going to be talking about how Santa will travel. I’m sure I’m not the only one that wondered about the logistics of one man, with a vehicle powered by flying reindeer, visiting every celebrating child in world so this year, I decided to actually look into it! We will be looking at the distance he travels, how much energy he needs and how much that could cost.

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