About this blog


July 2019

My name is Michael de Podesta and from April 2000 until April 2020, I was a scientist at the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL). Prior to that I was lecturer in Physics at Birkbeck College and University College London.

This blog stems from a course called Protons for Breakfast that I ran at NPL from 2004 until 2014. It aimed to help people make sense of some of the science they encounter in everyday life. The course generally entertained, amused and educated  but its primary aim was to empower.

People are generally familiar with many parts of the body of scientific knowledge, but often they do not understand the context of their own knowledge, or how one thing they know relates to another thing they know. Protons for Breakfast was a ‘big picture’ course which aimed to make those connections.

This blog is generally about things in the news which impinge on the topics we dealt with in the course. These include mobile phone safety, climate change and nuclear power. However, there are also personal comments and general proclamations about anything that captures my attention. On occasion I even discuss my work or my feelings. But all opinions expressed are my own and do not represent the views of any organisation.

I started the blog in January 2008 and I moved it to WordPress in September 2009.

Me at work in 2002
Me at work in 2002

14 Responses to “About this blog”

  1. Chris Howes Says:

    Following on from last weeks topic; After playing tennis on artificial carpet courts we often get an electric shock when opening the gates of the courts, but if we use the end of the tennis racket to pull back the door we do not get a shock. Is this because the racket has some sort on insulating element.
    I’m afraid I do have a VERY poor understanding of atoms etc as there is a total lack of science in my formal education.
    Sorry this is so late in the week.

  2. Cathy Goddard Says:

    Please let me know dates of next courses.

  3. Jonathan Corney Says:

    Understand you have retired from NPL but wondered if you could let me know your new email address? There is something I’d like to ask you. thanks

  4. Sam Gibbs Says:

    Hello Michael….Sam from Malaysia here…..would love to re connect if possible. Do please send an email. I have some situations that i would like to discuss with you.

  5. Corey Smith Says:

    Dear Michael, I am secretary of the Cardiff Scientific Society and we would love to invite you to give a public lecture as part of the Cardiff Science Festival in Feb half term 2021. Would you please get in touch if you would like to accept our invitation?

  6. Marc Says:

    Dear Michael,
    Remember Varenna 2016 and 2019? I’d like to get in touch with you, would you mind sending me an e-mail?
    Thanks and kind regards,

  7. Arturo Ariño Plana Says:

    “The Last Artifact” featuring Michael de Podesta made it to the final of the LabMeCrazy! Science Film Festival https://www.unav.edu/en/web/labmecrazy. Join directors Jaime Jacobsen and Ed Watkins for a lively chat during the Festival on Tuesday Feb 2nd at 19:30 CET on Youtube https://youtu.be/z3J2vMyVI_Y

  8. Mike Gunn Says:

    Dear Dr Podesta, I contacted you about your book last year and we have arranged it online for our 250 students via Koretext. I would like to ask you a question about the book but cannot find an email address. Best wishes Mike Gunn, University of Birmingham

  9. David Says:

    The BBC program last night – The Last Artifact – redefining the Kilogram – missed out a important Newtonian principle – gravity
    And did not explain to the public the difference between Weight and Mass – which confuses a lot of people.

    Should we weigh something or measure it’s mass !

    As gravity varies over the earth – that needed a comment in the program

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:


      This aspect is widely misunderstood, most especially by physics teachers who try to tell students that weight should be measured in newtons!

      The key here is that “Measurement is quantitative comparison of one thing against a standard”

      A balance of any kind measures the force of gravity on one MASS against the force of gravity on a STANDARD MASS IN THE SAME PLACE .

      The device is thus measuring mass by comparison against a standard.

      In contrast – and perhaps this is the point you wanted to make – a Watt Balance/Kibble Balance compares the gravitational force (m x local g) against an electromagnetic force measured by a voltage and a current.

      It this requires a local measurement of gravitational field strength which is a fascinating experiment in its own right – it varies from minute to minute and across the floor of the lab!

      Anyway, I think the film makers just didn’t feel able to address this level of detail. Hey ho.

      Best wishes


  10. Judith Burman Says:

    Dr de Podesta, I am shielding so cannot attend your prestation to Twickenham Friends of the Earth. I want us to install air to water heat pump for renewable energy. Could we know the contractor you used? We’d be so grateful, All the best, Sincerely, Judith

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:


      We used a company called Enhabit. I’ll drop you a note by e-mail too.
      Sustainable Bankside II, 25 Lavington Street, London, SE1 0NZ
      T – 020 8380 8908

      (I have removed your e-mail address from the post because bad people can snaffle them!)


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