We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a conversation or a presentation and suddenly your mind goes blank. What was that basic word, the one that I really really should know? Your panicked reaction to this untimely brain freeze only makes things worse, as your mind desperately scrabbles for an alternative. Any alternative. “Shiny crumb,” was what University of Cambridge physicist Paul Coxon eventually blurted out, having inconveniently slipped over the word “photon, ” a term that he would otherwise casually refer to several times a day. Naturally, his fellow scientists found it hilarious that Paul, with a Ph.D. in physics, was capable of such a catastrophic brainfart. It happens to the best of us! Paul took to Twitter to share his embarrassment and found that he certainly isn’t alone! Scroll down to read people’s own hilarious stories for yourself, and share your own in the comments!
“I was talking with a colleague about how we can control the routes photons, ie particles of light, can take as they pass through the various solar photovoltaic materials and my mind just went blank,” Paul explained to Bored Panda
“We were in the department tea room and there were crumbs on the table so I guess my mind just jumped and switched photons – a word I must say dozens of times a day, for “shiny… crumbs”. I can’t properly describe it. We both saw the funny side.”
“My department has lots of very bright students and researchers from all over the world and I have immense respect for my colleagues studying for PhDs in what may be their second or even third language.”
“Since my Tweet lots of people on Twitter replied sharing the times their minds have gone blank and forgotten words, and lots have been hilarious. The human mind is remarkable.”
“I’ve also received several very nice emails from people with cognitive conditions, or are undergoing medical treatment which can cause some language impairment, saying how much they enjoyed to see folk “even those with advanced degrees” struggling with words too and it made them feel less alone, knowing that it happens to everyone.”
“My research lies between physics and chemistry, investigating ways to improve the light-trapping abilities of surfaces of solar cells which can generate electricity at higher efficiencies. It’s a really interesting field of research. I use molten salts, very high temperature liquids, which are really good at conducting electricity or transporting certain kinds of charged particles, ie ions, between electrodes.”
“We do this so we can perform electrochemical reactions at surfaces. By changing the chemical mix of salt (and yes, you can use sodium chloride, table salt, like we use in cooking) we can can control which ions move. It’s known as the FFC-Cambridge process and was developed in our lab about 20 years ago, and can be used to produce a range of new and interesting materials: critical metals for high-value applications, new alloys, super thin carbon sheets like graphene etc. It even features in Andy Weir’s latest sci-fi novel, Artemis.”
“I use the process to change the surfaces of silicon — which most solar cells are made from today — and give them a very tightly texturised surface. It’s a random layer of spikes and holes only a few thousandths of a metre thick, and this structure helps the light bounce around and get absorbed by the silicon.”
“It’s slightly similar to the surface you find on certain moths’ eyes to help them see in low light conditions. Typical silicon wafers will reflect 30-40% visible light, but with this texture hardly any is reflected – which makes them appear very black.”
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