Hydraulic fracturing, more commonly referred to as “fracking” in the media, is the fracturing of rock by a pressurised liquid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally – certain veins or dikes are examples. However, induced hydraulic fracturing or hydro-fracturing is also a long tried-and-tested mining technique that has been most controversial recently… But let’s not panic! Continue reading The Craic about “Fracking” – Technical Facts on Hydraulic Fracturing
Over millions of years, weathering and erosion of sandstone have produced unique landforms, such as arches, alcoves, pedestals and pillars. Until now, the natural process remained a mystery. It was difficult to study, because of the huge time-scales involved in the erosion of natural slabs of sandstone. Gravity-induced stresses had been assumed not to play any role in landform preservation. Instead gravity was thought to increase the rates of weathering and natural erosion… Continue reading Eroded Earth: The Forge of Gravity
Geckos are amazing creatures. They scamper up walls, scuttle along ceilings and hang upside down on polished glass surfaces. However, the secret of their amazing climbing ability remained a mystery until relatively recently. The secret lies in weak intermolecular forces, described by Van der Waals in 1873. Continue reading Van der Waals and the Gecko
What is the difference between heat and temperature? Heat is thermal energy. Temperature is a measurement of the average kinetic energy of the particles which compose the matter being tested. When heat flows into a material, one of two things happen: either the temperature of the material can rise, or there may be a change in its state (such as from ice to liquid, or liquid to vapour). Continue reading Calculating Entropy – The Energy of Change
On 12 June at Arena Corinthians in São Paulo, shortly before 5pm local time, a young paraplegic Brazilian youth will stand up from a wheelchair… walk over to midfield… and take a kick in the opening ceremony of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil! Continue reading Rise of the Exoskeletons – Get Up… and Kick-Off!
Today’s the 60th Anniversary of the Death of Alan Turing – a genial mathematician, a cryptographer and one of the pioneers of computer science at Bletchley Park. He is considered one of the greatest mi More…nds of the 20th Century. Alan Turing‘s life was one of complexity and secret triumphs, overshadowed by a very public tragedy. Continue reading Colossal Genius: Alan Turing
Helium is the second most abundant element in the Universe, after hydrogen. On Earth, helium is relatively rare, because it is one of the few elements that can escape gravity and leak away into space. Therefore, helium exists as a finite resource. But as our reserves of the precious element steadily decreases, helium is in increasing demand. In medicine, helium supports the fight against cancer… Continue reading Helium – Lighter than Air
What is the ultimate strategy for winning at rock-paper-scissors? According to three physicists in China, the answer does not lie in having absolutely no strategy and ensure that your choice of weapon is completely random, unlike previously thought. If that strategy seemed obvious, perhaps you haven’t played the game enough to delude yourself into thinking that this might be a winning strategy… Continue reading Winning at Rock-Paper-Scissors… Lizard-Spock!
Ten years ago, the discovery of the wonder material – Graphene – was announced. Graphene is thin, stronger than steel, flexible, non-metallic, yet electrically conductive. For all these reasons, graphene promises to transform electronics, as well as other technologies. Because of its potential in industry, researchers have been looking for ways to make defect-free graphene in large amounts. Continue reading Graphite to Graphene… in a Kitchen Blender
They are found everywhere in Nature. From the leaf arrangement in plants, to the pattern of the petals of a flower, the bracts of a pine cone, or the scales of a pineapple. The Fibonacci numbers are applicable to the growth of every living thing: a single cell, a grain of wheat, a hive of bees, all of mankind. From sunflowers to sea shells, the same recurrent mathematical pattern can be observed in Nature, again, and again, and again… Continue reading Fibonacci’s Golden Spiral – The Relationship between Maths and Nature
Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry is a technique for separating ions of different masses by measuring the time taken to traverse a fixed distance through a magnetic field. Sounds a bit arcane? The technique is used daily by forensic investigative teams to research criminal profiling and provide reliable evidence for the prosecution… Continue reading We Delve into Time-of-Flight Mass Spectrometry Forensics!
The impacts of climate change include a higher risk of flooding and changes to crop yields and water availability. No single country causes climate change, and no one country can stop it. We need to match the urgency of our response with the scale of the science. Continue reading Global Weirding: Why The World Must Acclimatise
A new global monitoring system, Global Forest Watch has been launched that promises “near real-time” information on deforestation around the World. GFW uses information from hundreds of millions of satellite images, as well as data from people on the ground. Despite a greater global awareness of the impacts of deforestation, the scale of forest loss remains significant. Continue reading Global Forest Watch Map Recording Tree Loss in “Real Time”
Ancients called mercury the “first matter” from which all other metals were formed. For centuries, the heavy metal was also used in medicine. Yet mercury is now in such disfavour that an international treaty exists to curb its use… Continue reading Mercury: Beautiful Poison
Engineers have designed a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil in under an hour. All from a verdant green algae paste with the consistency of pea soup… Continue reading Algae to Bio-Crude Oil in 60 Minutes?
January 20, 2014. 500 million miles from Earth. 09:59:58… 09:59:59… 10:00:00 GMT. After spending two and a half years into deep-space hibernation, Rosetta awakes…
Launched in March 2004 by ESA (European Space Agency), it has since travelled around the Sun five times, picking up energy from Earth and Mars to line itself up with its final destination. Continue reading Waiting for Rosetta to Wake Up…
♫ This is Ground Control to Major Tom… ♫
Commander Chris Hadfield ascended to international stardom when he released his cover version of David Bowie’s 1972 Song ‘Space Oddity’ from the International Space Station. Continue reading Living out in Space: From ‘Major Tom’ to Major Tim
Well, you can try… I love a gothic mystery, don’t you? 😉
You have six weeks to do it – and a staged murder at Strathclyde University’s Ross Priory house – using the techniques of forensic science. Starting NOW. Continue reading CSI Scotland: Murder by the Loch – Studying the Forensics…
Water. H2O. The chemical formula is simple. Two atoms of hydrogen H and one atom of oxygen O, held together by covalent bonds, are all it takes to make what is perhaps the most fundamental substance to life on Earth. Continue reading Water of Life
Just when you had high hopes of getting your hands on the latest gizmos and trendy gadgets in time for Christmas… and Boom! You’re being given a comet! Not just any comet. Comet ISON (C/2012 S1). It’s 4.6 billion years old! And it will pass within 40,000,000 miles of Earth. Continue reading Making Plans on the Comet – C/2012 S1 IS ON!!
Aawww!! What? Not what you were expecting? What are you like… Anyway, it made you look! 😉
This great sex show, the greatest sex show on Earth, happens every year, around about now, in November. When the tides are just right and the Moon is full, the Coral Reef literally erupts! Continue reading November’s Greatest Sex Show on Earth
Have you even heard his name before? Frederick Sanger?
Dr Frederick Sanger, the British biochemist who is considered to be the “Father of Genomics“, died yesterday, aged 95.
Seeing the World in glorious colours is central to our lives. Colours shape the way we behave. They affect our mood and our perception. They can influence the way we interact and respond to social and environmental stimuli, whether we are directly aware of it, or through subliminal awareness of our external world. Again, it is one of those things that most people take for granted in everyday life.
Colour perception is all subjective. Colours only exist when three components are present: a viewer, an object, and light. Continue reading Colour Perception and Retinal Neurons – Attempting to Map the Human Brain
Over 50,000 deaths each year in the UK are attributed to air pollution. Physicist, entrepreneur and father Mark Richards is concerned about the environment and in particular the air pollution that we expose our children to. He has developed a handy machine which can monitor air quality. He wants people to see how bad air pollution is, so that we all think more carefully about our lifestyles and travel methods.