Category Archives: Matter

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…

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

Radioactivity and the Background of Dancing Particles

A picture showing dancing black silhouettes, each one bearing a Greek letter, over an abstract background symbolising a radiation event. Artwork: NaturPhilosophie Natural Radiation

Our environment is permeated by radiation, present around us at all time.  We are constantly exposed to radioactivity from natural sources for the most part naturally occurring radioactive nuclei in rocks and cosmic rays – the ‘background’.  Without ado, this is my lowdown on radioactivity.

Continue reading Radioactivity and the Background of Dancing Particles

Mercury Rising – Climate Change and the Arctic Permafrost

Abstract artwork for Mercury Rising, depicting layers of liquid mercury pooling through the Siberian tundra. Image: NaturPhilosophieAs Permafrost Melts…

Mercury is rising.  And in many more ways than one.  As global temperatures go up, the Arctic ice is melting.  Sea level rises.  Carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere.  But below the permafrost, another threat is lurking. 

Continue reading Mercury Rising – Climate Change and the Arctic Permafrost

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!

Shedding Light on Art – A Particle Accelerator in Paris

A digitally zoomed picture of an antique Byzantine ceramic bowl under archaeological forensic scrutiny by AGLAE, the particle accelerator at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. Artwork: NaturPhilosophieArt in a New Light

The World’s only particle accelerator dedicated to analysing artworks is back online at the Louvre Museum in Paris.  Continue reading Shedding Light on Art – A Particle Accelerator in Paris

The Francis Crick Institute – Open For Boundless Scientific Discovery

A photograph of the beautifully modern and sustainable Francis Crick Institute building, in central London, overlaid with a blue and white neon sign that says "OPEN". Image: NaturPhilosophieOpen For Science

At the heart of central London, opposite St Pancras’ International station, stands the new Francis Crick Institute – a working building with distinctive ultra-modern architecture.  Important science is being done here.  Life-changing science. Continue reading The Francis Crick Institute – Open For Boundless Scientific Discovery

Ten Rivers on Earth – The Great Plastic Tide

Part drawing, part photograph showing a child riding a boat and collecting plastic containers from the clogged up surface of a river. Image: NaturPhilosophieA Plastic Tide

10 rivers on Earth may be responsible for around 90% of oceanic plastic pollution in the World.  Continue reading Ten Rivers on Earth – The Great Plastic Tide

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

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

All of the Water on Earth – A Graphene-Based Sieve for Desalination

A double exposure digital image with repeated graphene patterns and drinking glass at the centre.  Artwork: NaturPhilosophieMaking Seawater Safe to Drink

There are 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of water on Earth.  Nevertheless, ready access to clean drinking water remains a major issue for millions of people.  A much sought-after innovation was developed by a UK-based team of researchers who created a graphene-based sieve capable of removing salt from seawater.  The new technology could aid millions around the World.

Continue reading All of the Water on Earth – A Graphene-Based Sieve for Desalination

Sentinel Is Watching

An artist's rendition of the Sentinel 3-A satellite orbiting over the Earth atmosphere. Image: ESAThe Sentinel Constellation

The Sentinel satellite program was designed to replace the older Earth observation missions, which have reached retirement or are nearing the end of their operational life span.  The satellite array will ensure a continuity of data, so that there are no gaps in ongoing studies. Continue reading Sentinel Is Watching

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

The Fog Harvesters of Lima, Peru

A photograph showing a man collecting drinking water from a fog net installed in the Atacama desert. Tiny droplets of fog condensate in the net and run through pipes ready for collection. Photograph: Neil Hall/Daily MailFog Harvesters

Many places in the World have limited sources of drinkable water, whether it is because of limited rainfall or because of polluted water resources.  Without sufficient potable water, the health of possibly billions of people remains at risk.  In Lima, Perú, a simple technology helps people harvest water from the fog.  Continue reading The Fog Harvesters of Lima, Peru

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

Panacea Nostrum – The Forensic Toxicology of Cannabis

Artwork for Cannabis Panacea allegory, depicting the goddess Panacea seeding cannabis plants. Image: NaturPhilosophieWhat is Your Poison of Choice?

Be honest.  We all have one.  What’s your poison?  Booze, tobacco, prescription drugs… or something a little more exotic?  Cannabis is a controversial plant, regarded by many as a godsend.  If Carlsberg made a ‘erb… Continue reading Panacea Nostrum – The Forensic Toxicology of Cannabis

Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA

Artwork for "Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA" showing the LISA space array, with the caption: "Think Again!" Artwork: NaturPhilosophieMeet LISA!

Erm…No.  Not Mona Lisa!  (Rolls eyes.)  Think again!!  This is LISA – the Lisa Pathfinder satellite, the key element for a grand new project: a space-based gravitational observatory.  Continue reading Hunting Ripples in the Fabric of Space-Time – The Trials and Tribulations of LISA

Optically Brilliant Metamaterials

Artwork illustration for 'Optically Brilliant Metamaterials', depicting a human eye looking at the nanoscopic world with the help of metamaterial molecules. Source: Canada Stock Journal

Smart Materials

They are made from assemblies of multiple elements fashioned from composite materials, like metals or plastics.  And they promise to revolutionize the way we look at things. Continue reading Optically Brilliant Metamaterials

We Consider Human Network Physiology and Medicine – The “Body Electric” – Part Deux

An illustration symbolising network physiology in medecine and the human organism integrated network, as a complex network with the Vitruvian man at its centre. The caption reads: "The human organism is an integrated network where complex physiological systems, each with its own regulatory mechanisms, continuously interact, and where failure of one system can trigger a breakdown of the entire network. A new field, Network Physiology, is needed to probe the network of interactions among diverse physiologic systems."

The Network Within Us

Everything is connected.  And so it is in the human body too.  Everything in the human body is connected.  No doubt that all your organs – heart, liver, lungs – work as one to keep you alive and as close as possible to a healthy state.  Continue reading We Consider Human Network Physiology and Medicine – The “Body Electric” – Part Deux

A Theory of Life… The Physics of Cells and Macroscopic Irreversibility

A meme that reads: "Life has No Ctrl + Z".“It’s Life!  But Not as We Know it…”

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

Between the Lines of the Herculaneum Papyri using X-Ray Imaging Techniques

A photographic montage showing a calcinated Herculaneum papyrus scroll on a Greek scriptures background. Scrolling Back the Past at Herculaneum

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