Category Archives: History of Science

Where the Chernobyl Wolf Roams…

A pseudo-photograph focusing on a grey wolf howling, with the abandoned Pripyat amusement park, near Chernobyl, Ukraine, in the background. Collage: NaturPhilosophie (2018)

Pushing the Boundaries

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster left behind a highly toxic landscape.  Thirty-two years hence, the area around the Ukrainian ghost town of Pripyat largely reverted to forest.  Despite the contamination, wildlife gradually took over.  Hints of recovery emerged as animal species began to thrive, free from the disruptive influence of human activity.  And for the first time, researchers recorded evidence of a young wolf boldly venturing away from the danger zone. 

Continue reading Where the Chernobyl Wolf Roams…

The Male Idiot Theory – Sex Differences in Risky Behaviour

A pseudo-photograph showing a man jumping off from an aeroplane without parachute, shouting "I'M AN IDII...OTT!!!".   Image: NaturPhilosophieAre you a Risk Taker?

If so, are you a man??  Mmmh… yes…  The Male Idiot Theory: it’s not new but I thought I’d mention it in passing…  Ladies, enjoy…  Continue reading The Male Idiot Theory – Sex Differences in Risky Behaviour

Life Under The Microscope

A close-up negative photograph of the lenses on my microscope. Image: NaturPhilosophieThe Infinitesimally Small

Viewing tiny objects, like cells, under a microscope is a real game of hide-and-seek with the light.  It follows that the specimen must be carefully prepared, or ‘mounted’ on a slide.  Here we get a little closer to the eukaryotic cell.  The building block of life itself…  Continue reading Life Under The Microscope

And THIS… is an Atom!

A meme attempting to put into perspective the atom's tiny size in David Nadlinger's prize-winning photograph.  A slideshow of closer and closer view entice you to look closer.  The captions are: "Look Closer", "Closer", "Right There!"  Meme: NaturPhilosophie‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’

Scientists accomplish the impossible.  This time, a quantum physicist has only managed to capture the photographic image of an atom with a conventional camera.  And THIS is the photograph…..  Continue reading And THIS… is an Atom!

Closer to Midnight… – The Countdown to Doomsday Earth

Artwork for Trinity Event's Doomsday Clock at One Minute Past Twelve.  Digital Image: NaturPhilosophieWhat Time Is It?

No need to be an atomic scientist, when you’re considering the state of the World today, to understand the picture is an alarming one.  Allegorically-speaking, the Earth is now only two minutes away from impending catastrophe.  Continue reading Closer to Midnight… – The Countdown to Doomsday Earth

Future Floods and Melting Ice Sheets – Predicting with GRACE

A picture showing the artist's vision of the buildings of Parliament and Big Ben clock tower being overtaken by the waves, or more precisely by a muddy version of Hokusai's Big Wave. Image: NaturPhilosophieForecasting Sea-Level Rise

On the whole, Earth scientists agree that melting of land ice greatly contributes to sea-level rise.  And one thing’s for sure.  Future global warming will exacerbate the risks posed to human civilisation.  But…  What if you could forecast major floods?  You can.  Continue reading Future Floods and Melting Ice Sheets – Predicting with GRACE

Fingerprint Forensics Delve Deeper Into Spectrometry Analysis

A drawing showing a fingerprint, and all that it can reveal: Male or Female, Drug Use, Alcohol, Food Types, Hair Gel, Condoms...Another Brick in the Whorl of Forensic Science

Fingerprint spectrometry analysis – a technology which can detect the brand of hair gel or condom used by a suspect – could soon be admissible as evidence in UK courts.  Continue reading Fingerprint Forensics Delve Deeper Into Spectrometry Analysis

On the Rapid Demise of the Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica

A digital image showing the Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica breaking down. Artwork: NaturPhilosophiePine Island Bay, Antarctica

A large chunk of the Pine Island Glacier has broken free today, the media announced.  The giant iceberg is estimated to cover an area of roughly 6,000 km2.  About a quarter the size of Wales in the United Kingdom.  Continue reading On the Rapid Demise of the Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica

Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

Abstract artist impression of the particle newly discovered at CERN in psychedelic colours. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieThe Xi-cc++ Particle

CERN’s LHCb collaboration has announced the discovery of a new “charming” particle, thought to be instrumental to the strong force – the Xi-cc++.  Another particle.  So…? Continue reading Charming New Particle Xi-cc++ Discovered at CERN

The Spark of Being – A Not-So-Brief History of Life and Electricity

An original interpretation in inverted negative colours blue and white of the famous 1901 historical black and white photograph showing ground-breaking inventor and electricity visionary Nikola Tesla sitting in his laboratory at Colorado Springs amid a flurry of artificially-produced lightning discharges. Image: NaturPhilosophieOmnipresent Electricity

Within every object on Earth lies concealed a positive or a negative electric charge.  From the very structure of the atom to the essential functioning of our brains, the natural power of electricity is all around us, and it is one of the most potent symbols of our Modern World.  Making the story of electricity, the story of life itself…  Continue reading The Spark of Being – A Not-So-Brief History of Life and Electricity

The Bizarre Behaviour of Negative Mass

"Hokusai's Wavelet", a take on the bouncing droplet in a Getty photograph (see original below). Artwork: NaturPhilosophieObserving Negative Mass at Washington State University

Negative mass has always been theoretically possible, and the concept has finally made it from a mathematical idea on paper to a reality achieved in the lab.  Scientists at Washington State University have created a fluid with negative mass.  Continue reading The Bizarre Behaviour of Negative Mass

Cloud Atlas – A Manual on the Observation of Clouds and Other Meteors

An oil painting depicting "pile d’assiettes" (or pile of plates) clouds over Mount Fuji in Japan. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieA Cloud Encyclopaedia

Since its first publication in 1896, the International Cloud Atlas has become an important reference tool for people working in meteorological services, aviation and shipping.

Continue reading Cloud Atlas – A Manual on the Observation of Clouds and Other Meteors

Arecibo and the Great Silence – Where We Talk About a Parrot Named Alex

An aerial photograph showing the Arecibo Observatory telescope, with a picture of Alex at the forefront.  The dish reflector of the telescope is built into a valley in the landscape, and the feed antenna is suspended by cables above it. Since the reflector can't be moved, the telescope is steered to point at different regions of the sky by moving the feed antenna $ ($in bell shaped dome$ )$ along on a curving track. The dome shields the feed antenna from interfering radio signals. Collage: NaturPhilosophieArecibo – What a Dish!

The Arecibo observatory is a very large radio telescope located in Puerto Rico.  In 1974, astronomers used it to broadcast a message into outer space intended to demonstrate human intelligence.  Why are we so interested in finding intelligence in the stars, and yet so deaf to the many species who manifest it here on Earth?

Continue reading Arecibo and the Great Silence – Where We Talk About a Parrot Named Alex

Psychometrics and “Big Data” – Who Do They Think You Are?

Dystopian homage to 1984 film set with Donald Trump as Big Brother. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieBig Data is the new Big Brother

The emergence of Big Data has meant that everything we do online leaves digital traces.  “Big data” is fairly new.  It’s huge and it’s scary – very scary.  This revolutionary approach to data-driven communications is said to have played an integral part in Brexit “Leave” campaign and U.S. president Donald Trump’s extraordinary win.  Continue reading Psychometrics and “Big Data” – Who Do They Think You Are?

CIA Releases “X-Files”

A photograph of two very young buddhist monks, showing one of them sitting in an alley while the other is seemingly levitating in front of him. The image is stamped by the Central Intelligence Agency.The Real X-Files

As the X-Files series enjoy a revival on TV, the American spy agency has decided to place thousands of declassified documents detailing government research into UFOs on its website.  The CIA documents also confirm the reality of humans with ‘Special Abilities’ able to do seemingly impossible things.  Continue reading CIA Releases “X-Files”

The Earth, as Seen from Mars

A photograph taken from Mars showing the Earth and the Moon. Image: NASA.Home World

We start the new year with this photograph of the Earth and its Moon, taken from Mars.  Continue reading The Earth, as Seen from Mars

2016: Another Year in Cutting Edge Science

A photo-montage showing pictures of the recent scientific developments of the year 2016. From Major Tim Peake's extraordinary space adventure, to the discovery of the missing elements in the Periodic Table, and the gravitational wave detection from a merger of black holes far away in outer space...  Collage: NaturPhilosophieYou Spin Me Right Round…

Just over a century ago, Einstein proposed the existence of waves in the spacetime continuum – the logical deduction from his Theory of General Relativity.  In February 2016, scientists finally announced the detection of those “ripples” in gravity, using the technique of laser interferometry.  Continue reading 2016: Another Year in Cutting Edge Science

Pie in the Sky

A photo-montage showing the meat and potato-filled pie that was sent up to the edge of the Earth's atmosphere, using a weather balloon. Source: SentInSpace Meat and Potato Pie in the Sky

A meat and potato pie has been attached to a weather balloon, and sent “into space”…  Continue reading Pie in the Sky

Compound Interest: An Antidote to Sarin

A rotating molecular model of Sarin. Animation: NaturphilosophieAbout Sarin

Sarin is a deadly compound.  Colourless, odourless, and fatal even at low concentrations. A new drug designed to fight against the deadly effects of organophosphorous nerve agents, like sarin, is in sight.  Continue reading Compound Interest: An Antidote to Sarin

Feeding of the Nine Billion – The Future of Photosynthesis and Increased Crop Productivity

A photograph showing a young Asian boy eating a corn cob. Artwork: NaturphilosophieImproving on Nature’s Photosynthesis

Agronomic engineers have managed to improve upon one the most important biological process on the planet – photosynthesis.  The increased yield in crop could be as much as 15%.  Continue reading Feeding of the Nine Billion – The Future of Photosynthesis and Increased Crop Productivity

Fifty Years of Turmoil in One Minute – The Recent Living Respiring Dynamic Earth

A screenshot of the Global Volcanism Program's Map of Eruptions, Earthquakes and Emissions $ ($E3$ )$ from The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, taken at time t = August 2010, showing details of the Icelandic volcano eruption of Eyjafjallajokull on 14th April 2010.Visualizing Dynamic Earth

We live on the ever-changing planetary surface of Earth.  Now, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s “Eruptions, Earthquakes, & Emissions” (“E3”) web application reveals a time-lapse animation of the data held on volcanic eruptions and quakes on Earth since 1960.  The dynamic Earth at one glance!
Continue reading Fifty Years of Turmoil in One Minute – The Recent Living Respiring Dynamic Earth

Sailing the Lower Midnight… – The Uncharted Frontier of Modern Deep-Sea Exploration

A photograph of the not-so-friendly, and frankly scary-looking, footballfish, a deep sea-predator from the anglerfish family.What lies 5,000 metres Below Sea Level?

It’s cold down there.  Icy cold.  It’s dark.  Pitch black, in fact.  And the crushing pressures make the deepest parts of the oceans into some of the most hostile places on our planet.  The lowest of the low.  The deepest of the deep.  Only three human explorers ever made it down there.  As a brand new wave of deep-sea exploration begins, we look at the mysterious world where marine scientists will be diving into… Continue reading Sailing the Lower Midnight… – The Uncharted Frontier of Modern Deep-Sea Exploration

Global Winds and the Coriolis Effect – The Ever Changing Atmospheric System

A photograph showing blue sky and the wind blowing through a field of oats.What is Wind?

It comes at you as a breeze.  As a gust.  As a gale.  Or in the scariest of situations as a hurricane or a tornado with wind speeds of up to 400 kilometres an hour.  But what is wind?

Continue reading Global Winds and the Coriolis Effect – The Ever Changing Atmospheric System

Fantastic Beasts of the “Misty Isle” – Welcome to Jurassic Skye!

Artwork collage focusing on a drawing of Megalosaurus dinosaurs running on the shores of the Jurassic Isle of Skye. Image: NaturphilosophieWelcome to Scotland’s Jurassic Park

Welcome to Jurassic Skye!  While dinosaurs might be long dead and no threat to puny humans, the rich fossil record of the Scottish island of Skye – the “Misty Isle” – has provided palaeontologists with important clues to the lives of prehistoric predators and their preys.  Continue reading Fantastic Beasts of the “Misty Isle” – Welcome to Jurassic Skye!

Human versus Nature – The Golden Spike of the Anthropocene

A green nefarious-looking nuclear cloud, based on a photograph of the spectacularly large mushroom cloud resulting from the Trinity nuclear test experiment of July 16, 1945, that was part of the Manhattan Project.  Image: NaturPhilosophieA New Epoch has Begun

The term ‘Anthropocene’ has entered scientific literature as an expression of the fundamental environmental change caused to planet Earth by humankind, despite not being a formally defined geological unit within the geological time scale.  The hunt is on for the “golden spike” – a marker for future researchers to point to in millions of years and identify as the geological start of the Anthropocene epoch.  Continue reading Human versus Nature – The Golden Spike of the Anthropocene