Show cover of Physical Attraction

Physical Attraction

The show that tries to explain issues in physics, science, and technology - from the birth of stars to the end of the world.


Climate 201: Climate Doomism (II)
In the last episode, we briefly introduced "climate change doomers" and some of their misleading claims. In this episode, I talk about despair, and why we cannot give in to it.
40:15 03/09/2022
Climate 201: Climate Doomism (I)
We're going there. In this episode, I discuss why civilization is not going to imminently collapse due to climate change, explain why doomism is a new form of denialism, and debunk some of its most misleading claims.
49:09 02/21/2022
UNLOCKED: Book Club: Tim Wu's The Attention Merchants
A new episode released from behind the Patreon paywall. This episode, we'll review and discuss some of the issues raised by Tim Wu's The Attention Merchants, a book that details the history of the advertising industry.
36:48 02/08/2022
Climate 201 NETS XI: Direct Air Capture, p2 and NETS conclusion
In this episode, we will continue our analysis of Direct Air Capture and conclude the series on negative emissions - crucial component of decarbonisation, or a techno-utopian distraction from the real problems we face? [Don't expect an actual answer]
41:21 01/24/2022
Climate 201 NETS X: Direct Air Capture, part 1
Direct Air Capture - machines that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Could this be the solution to a scaleable negative emissions industry? We'll discuss the pros and cons of the technology in this episode.
37:57 01/10/2022
BONUS: Black Mirror IRL pilot - Be Right Back
Hi all! This is a slightly special bonus episode. Some years ago I had plans for another series "Black Mirror IRL", which was going to be a series of episodes looking into the technologies mentioned and featured in the Netflix Series Black Mirror. Is anyone working on these technologies in real life? What would their potential social implications be if they were developed? How scientifically feasible would it actually be to develop something like this? The plan would be to explore one technology alongside each episode of the show. However, time has passed and I've moved onto other projects, and now I have nowhere near enough time to finish this series alongside everything else, so I only ever got around to recording a single, pilot episode for that putative series, which has been sitting on my hard drive for ages. Rather than let it go to waste - as it could be years if ever before I get back around to this project again - I am releasing it as a bonus episode for you to enjoy. But one thing I would say is that I would really appreciate your feedback on this episode. Do you think the series is a good idea? Would you like to see more episodes along these lines? How do you think I could improve it? Any and all suggestions are gratefully received. Maybe someday the series as a whole will return. Thank you all as ever for your support for the show.  
40:10 12/28/2021
Climate 201: NETS VII: Ecosystem Restoration and Mangroves
What are "nature-based solutions" to climate change? Can we restore the ecosystems that we've destroyed? And how can restoring mangroves help us to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere?
42:33 12/19/2021
Climate 201, NETS IX: Ocean Iron Fertilization
"Give me a tanker full of iron, and I'll give you a new Ice Age." It might sound like something Hank Scorpio would say, but this episode will deal with the very real idea of stimulating plankton blooms to remove CO2 from the atmosphere - ocean iron fertilization.
30:12 11/29/2021
Climate 201: NETS VIII: Enhanced Weathering
How could grinding up rocks and sprinkling the dust over vast areas help to combat climate change? In this episode, we deal with "enhanced weathering" as a potential source of negative emissions.
29:32 11/16/2021
Climate201 NETS VI: Planting Trees and Afforestation
Mention carbon capture, and the refrain you'll often hear is "why invent a machine that captures CO2? We already have one - it's called a tree." But is large-scale afforestation as a negative emissions solution so simple? We dig into its potential in this episode of our series on negative emissions.
51:24 11/01/2021
Climate 201: NETS V: Carbon Capture, Utilisation, and Storage
N/B: Owing to a ridiculously hectic schedule until the end of the year, episodes will continue to be released on a fortnightly basis until further notice - thanks for understanding.  We hear an awful lot about carbon capture, utilisation, and storage as a technology that could help to mitigate climate change. In this episode, we review the science, the policy, existing CCS plants, and the potential for the captured carbon to be utilised. Will CCS ever materialise?
55:15 10/18/2021
Climate 201: Negative Emissions IV: Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS)
In this episode, we get into some of the specific technologies that might be called upon to deliver negative emissions at scale. Specifically, we're looking at the advantages, disadvantages, and concerns surrounding BECCS (Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage.)
64:56 10/04/2021
Climate 201, Negative Emissions III: Technological Promises, or Prevarications
In this episode, we discuss whether the promises that some new technology - like negative emissions - will come along and "solve climate change" for us are genuine, or if they have instead shaped climate policy into prevarication and procrastination.
65:34 09/21/2021
Climate 201: Negative Emissions (II): We'll Always Have Paris?
Increasing levels of negative emissions are envisioned by models in climate-change scenarios that are compatible with the Paris Agreements. In this episode, we talk about some of the geopolitical implications for trying to deliver this, and the alternative futures that we can envision. Do "thinly-veiled techno-utopias shore up the Paris Agreement?"
44:17 09/13/2021
Climate 201: Negative Emissions I: The Last Thing We Should Be Talking About?
Negative emissions technologies (NETs), also called carbon dioxide removal (CDR), are seen by many as an increasingly essential part of climate change mitigation. Many of the scenarios that the IPCC suggests for meeting the Paris Agreement goals suggest that we will suck billions of tonnes of CO2 out of the atmosphere by the end of the century - using technology which has barely made it past the pilot project stage. In this episode, I ask: how did we get here?
43:55 09/06/2021
Book Club: Jason Hickel's The Divide, Part II
The book club returns, with a two-part review and overview of anthropologist Jason Hickel's book "The Divide", about global inequality, its historical origins, and possible solutions in the future.
49:47 08/30/2021
Book Club: Jason Hickel's The Divide, Part I: The Origins of Global Inequality
The book club returns, with a two-part review and overview of anthropologist Jason Hickel's book "The Divide", about global inequality, its historical origins, and possible solutions in the future.
59:37 08/24/2021
Cosmology, VII: Cosmological Contradictions
In this episode, we discuss the ongoing battle throughout the 1930s and 1940s between those who believed in a steady-state Universe, and those who thought it was expanding - and how it took more observations to overcome these cosmological contradictions.
33:45 08/16/2021
TT: Climate, CCS Struggles as Adaptation Stalls
To close out this series of news episodes, we discuss the depressing failure of carbon capture and storage projects in Australia, as well as the far-too-slow approach to climate change adaptation across the world.
45:09 08/07/2021
Thermonuclear Takes: Amazon Carbon Stocks and Global Green Recovery Progress Update
In this episode of Thermonuclear Takes, we tackle a couple of recent climate-related news stories - the "tipping point" carbon flux measurements from the Amazon rainforest, and the IEA's progress report on a global green recovery.
28:15 08/03/2021
Thermonuclear Takes: The Little Robot That Couldn't
Updates on the Softbank Vision Fund and the sad fate of Pepper the robot.
24:58 07/30/2021
Thermonuclear Takes: Muon Madness Melting Models... Maybe?
In this news episode, I discuss recent anomalies around the muon - B-particles decaying into muons, and the muon's anomalous magnetic moment - and whether they herald the glorious dawn of a new era of physics, or are just a mistake.
27:41 07/26/2021
Thermonuclear Takes: Show updates, cosmology feedback, particle physics
In this news-y episode, I will give you some updates on how the show is progressing, share some listener emails on our cosmology series, and set up next episode's discussion of some recent results in high-energy physics.
33:06 07/23/2021
Cosmology VI: Cosmic Eggs and the Edge of the Universe
In this episode, we cover the different kinds of universal horizon, whether the Universe has an edge, and talk about how theoretical physicists pondered how it all might've began.
30:02 07/20/2021
Cosmology, Episode V: Einstein's Mistake
At the dawn of theoretical cosmology, Einstein introduced the so-called "Cosmological Constant" into his equations to explain how the Universe could be static and unchanging in time. He would later say that it was his greatest mistake.
42:25 07/13/2021
Cosmology IV: Einstein's Cosmos
In this episode, we look at how Einstein's theory of general relativity gave rise to a theoretical framework for examining cosmology - the evolution of space, time, and the Universe in general - as a whole.
33:10 07/06/2021
Cosmology III: Hubble's Law
In 1929, Edwin Hubble published his findings. The redshifts from distant galaxies were proportional to their distance away from us. Theoretical cosmologists would pounce on them as evidence that the Universe must be expanding.
28:49 06/29/2021
Cosmology II: Starting From Nothing
Everything we have been able to infer about the Universe began in total ignorance. Many early theories about how the Universe was structured were wildly incorrect - but astronomers were building up the toolkits that would later allow us to understand.
24:45 06/21/2021
Cosmology, Episode I: In The Beginning
When you're trying to narrate the history of the entire Universe, where do you begin? I decided to start in a radio studio in London in March 1949, when the term "Big Bang" was first coined, in the first on our series on cosmology. 
23:49 06/15/2021
Climate 201: Discourses of Climate Delay II
Arguments surrounding climate change have become subtler. Outright denial is gradually shifting to rhetoric that supports delaying urgent action. In this review of a paper by Steinberger, Lamb et al, I run down the new "discourses of climate delay".
43:23 06/07/2021