There is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms. From an all-physical point of view, the former tend to be so much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. At MIT, Jeremy England derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. Continue reading A Theory of Life… The Physics of Cells and Macroscopic Irreversibility
Once a chic resort on the Bay of Naples, Herculaneum was favoured by the finest of Roman’s elite society, who spent the hot Italian summers there… until a catastrophe struck one afternoon in 79 AD. The Villa dei Papiri, excavated centuries later, was found to contain the only library to have survived from the Classical World – a unique cultural treasure, which the eruption of Mount Vesuvius nearly destroyed, and yet preserved all at once. How do you read what is essentially a charred book? Continue reading Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques
Plant life is one of Nature’s miracles. Imagine being a plant and almost all you will ever need to keep on striving is sheer sunlight. In green plants, both photosynthesis and aerobic respiration occur. It’s a lot like the way in which the human body breaks down food into fuel that it can store. Essentially, using energy from the Sun, a plant can transform carbon dioxide CO2 and water into glucose and oxygen… Continue reading A Day in the Life of a Plant – Photosynthesis and Phytochemistry
Most of us are familiar with the idea that our bodies need calcium. And calcium is indeed the key element in our bones. Calcium is the most abundant metal in the human body – and those of animals too. The fifth most abundant element on Earth and our World’s chosen architectural building block. Yes, calcium is a metal. Do we really appreciate its true value? Continue reading Yes, Calcium is a Metal!
We, humans, have driven environmental changes on a scale that is unique in Earth’s history. Human-driven biological, chemical and physical changes to the Earth’s system are so great, rapid and distinct that they may characterise an entirely new epoch – The Anthropocene. Continue reading Defining the Anthropocene – What is the Age of Man?
Just like buses, it seems. But even rarer and a damn sight more exciting to be honest. Ooohoo!!! Out with your old Science books!! HeL-LOOooo elements 113… 115, 117 and 118!! Continue reading You Wait Ages for a Chemical Element, and Then… BINGO!!
Already this article is beginning to sound like one of those sempiternal quizzes you so often get on social media… but it actually shows how science reality connects. Are you having a scientific identity crisis? Continue reading Lateral Thinking in Science – Who Are You?
Goofball, candy, ice, crack, snow, weasel dust, Belushi, Charlie… High in the Andes of South America, Erythroxylum coca grows as a shrub. For 2,500 years at least, its leaves have been known and used for their stimulant properties. Over 5 million people use cocaine and its derivatives in the United States alone. Continue reading We Do Science on Crack… with Cocaine and the Blood-Brain Barrier
The days of Professor Challenger are here. This week, scientists have set out to drill deeper into the Earth’s mantle than has ever been done before. This time, let us hope the World will not scream! Continue reading Professor Challenger, The Earth Core and The Moho
This blog is cool. It’s spontaneous! It’s electric!! But not as cool as it has been at these cutting-edge laboratories on the outskirts of Europe. Scientists there are dealing with an entirely new type of solid matter – ‘spontelectrics’. Continue reading What’s the Matter… with Spontelectrics?
Following World War I and World War II, at least three major powers disposed of massive quantities of captured, damaged and obsolete chemical warfare material by dumping them into the oceans. Mustard gas, phosgene, lewisite… Submerged chemical ammunitions pose very serious ongoing environmental problems. Continue reading What Lies Beneath – The Toxic Legacy of Post-War Ammunitions Sea Dumping
In the run-up to the 2015 physics Nobel prize, which was awarded on Tuesday 6 October, Physics World looked at how Nobel-prize-winning physicists have been moving around the globe over the past century. Continue reading Physics Without Frontiers…
Mars is not the dry, arid planet we once thought it was. Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found. NASA’s announcement has the potential of turning some Red Planet theories on their heads…
Online Citizen Science Project
A new online citizen science initiative, Fossilfinder, is inviting ordinary members of the public to help hunt for fossils in the Kenyan desert. The volunteers will have the opportunity to sift through one million images from the arid Turkana Basin – a key area for fossils of early human ancestors. Continue reading Armchair Fossil Hunting in the Turkana Basin
Modern-Day Hipsters Take Heed…
With his wind-swept mane, the inimitable Richard Feynman looked devilishly handsome. And he darn-diddly knew it too! As for Fritz Haber, Rosalind Franklin and Neil deGrasse Tyson, they were the original hipsters. That’s according to BuzzFeed anyway… Continue reading Proving that Physicists were the Original Hipsters
Once upon a time, Europe was almost covered by one giant forest. Now, it’s almost entirely fields and grasslands. Humans are controlling tree densities. Understanding the global extent and distribution of forest trees is central to our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere. Continue reading Three Trillion Trees
Astronomers have found the smallest exoplanet yet to be directly photographed by a telescope on Earth. A methane-shrouded gas giant. A young Jupiter… Continue reading Exoplanet ‘Young Jupiter’ 51 Eridani b
The radiocarbon 14C dating method has been used for decades to accurately determine the age of a wide range of artefacts. But our relentless use of fossil fuels has pumped a type of carbon into the atmosphere that is starting to confuse the dating technique. By 2050, scientists warn, new fabrics could have the same radiocarbon date as items 1,000 years old! Continue reading The Future of RadioCarbon Dating – And an Overview of the AMS Technique
Waste fibres from cannabis crops can be transformed into high-performance low-cost pseudo-graphene energy storage devices. Cannabis is quite possibly the most versatile, yet highly controversial, plant we have on the planet: from a popular recreational drug to a potential medicine for a range of incurable conditions. If Carlsberg made a weed, this would be it… Continue reading From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…
Look into my eyes. The eyes, the eyes. Not around the eyes. Don’t look AROUND the eyes. Look INTO my eyes. The eyes… [click] You’re not under! But… Can you read my mind? Continue reading Eyes of the Beholder
Forensic researchers from the University of Salzburg have developed a new method for establishing an exact time of death after as long as 10 days – a significant step forward from the current method of measuring core body temperature, which only works up to 36 hours after death. Continue reading We Check the Time of Death with Post-Mortem Degradation of Skeletal Proteins – And Other Gruesome Forensic Facts of Life
1/60 minute. 1/3,600 hour. 1/86,400 day. 1/1 hertz. The duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of a 133 55Cs caesium isotope corresponds to one second. But what does it look like? And where might you find a second? Continue reading Just a Second…
Deep down, in huge subterranean caverns… Underneath the Franco-Swiss border… 300 feet underground… lies a beast of unprecedented power… and mystery. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that man summons to explore the uncharted corners of the sub-atomic realm… After two years of a deep slumber, the mighty beast has awoken… Continue reading Physics at 13 TeV – Cranking Up the LHC
Ever since the early days of human space travel, back in the 1960s, astronauts have run experiments involving plants in space. Over a million seeds of rocket (two kilograms of rocket seeds) are shortly due to take off from Florida, bound for the International Space Station, as part of British ESA astronaut Tim Peake’s six-month Principia mission. Continue reading Space-Age Rocket
One of the all-time most interesting elements in the Periodic Table, nitrogen is a colourless, odourless, inert diatomic gas that makes up to 78% of the Earth’s atmosphere. We breathe it everyday, although an atmosphere of pure nitrogen is nefarious to animal and human life. It is vital to life and plants simply strive on it. Nitrogen compounds are explosive, and nations have gone to war over it. It can feed… or kill. Continue reading Nitrogen – Nature’s Explosive Building Blocks