Category Archives: Matter

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 revolutionise 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

A Day in the Life of a Plant – Photosynthesis and Phytochemistry

A photograph showing two hands together holding a clod of earth with a small green seedling.Plant Life

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

The Discovery of Gravitational Waves – Merging Black Holes and Advanced LIGO

An animation illustrating two colliding and merging black holes in outer space.

Black Holes Far Ago Have Been Causing a Stir…

You know how when you throw a rock into a pool, that makes ripples in the water?  And how Einstein once upon a time predicted that the very mass of stars and planets should warp spacetime?  Although we have had a justified inkling that Einstein was right for quite some time, we had never before detected such a phenomenon.  Until THIS happened… Continue reading The Discovery of Gravitational Waves – Merging Black Holes and Advanced LIGO

Yes, Calcium is a Metal!

A photographic montage showing a human skeleton pulling on a giant container of calcium supplements.Building the World

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!

You Wait Ages for a Chemical Element, and Then… BINGO!!

A photograph of Kosuke Morita, the leader of the Riken team, posing with a board displaying the new atomic element 113 during a press conference in Wako, Saitama prefecture on 31 December 2015.Four Elements Come Along at Once…

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!!

Lateral Thinking in Science – Who Are You?

A photographic montage showing Laura Dern, Benedict Cumberbatch and Lennie James in various cinematic and TV roles as scientists. The caption asks: "What kind of scientist should you be?"What kind of Scientist are you?

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?

We Do Science on Crack… with Cocaine and the Blood-Brain Barrier

A classic picture showing a line of cocaine, along with a rolled-up dollar bill.Root of All Evil

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

Professor Challenger, The Earth Core and The Moho

A photographic montage featuring a classic Joseph Clement Coll's Professor Challenger character seen running and waving an umbrella against a background of serpentinite. Image: NaturPhilosophieProfessor Challenger, We Meet At Last!

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

COP21 – The Return Les “Entreprenieurs” in Paris

A mock cinemascope picture featuring a well-dressed male in control of green business practices in the background. The prominent white text on the foreground says: "Bronze Age: 3200 BC - 600 BC" and "The Oil Age: 1859 - 2015". Image: NaturPhilosophieCOP21  They’re Back!!!

Better than the A-Team, it’s COP21!  Never have so many World leaders been in the same place on the same day.  This time, they have just ten years to make a difference!  Could the problems be solved?  Will the World finally be saved?  Continue reading COP21 – The Return Les “Entreprenieurs” in Paris

What’s the Matter… with Spontelectrics?

An artist's impression of a blue electric field in gas. Source: Science AlertSpontelectrics

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?

What Lies Beneath – The Toxic Legacy of Post-War Ammunitions Sea Dumping

A stamp from the Faroe Islands depicting a naval ship dumping barrels of chemical warfare agents at sea.A Long Time Ago…

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

On the Trail of Hurricane Patricia

A NASA photograph showing the extent of Hurricane Patricia seen from space - the largest hurricane ever recorded on Earth.The Strongest Ever Hurricane

23rd October 2015.  The ‘strongest ever’ hurricane recorded in the Western hemisphere is about to make a “potentially catastrophic” landfall on the western coast of Mexico.  This is hurricane Patricia.  At that time, the super storm is a Category 5.    Weather scientists predict 20 inches of rain and 200 miles per hour winds… Continue reading On the Trail of Hurricane Patricia

Exoplanet ‘Young Jupiter’ 51 Eridani b

An illustration showing the distant exoplanet 51 Eridani b, nicknamed "Young Jupiter". Source: SETIKing of Planets

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 Future of RadioCarbon Dating – And an Overview of the AMS Technique

A photograph of one of the Dead Sea scrolls - The Isaiah scrollFossil Fuel Emissions Threatens Carbon Dating Accuracy

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

From Super Weed to Super-Capacitors, Another Surprising Use for Cannabis…

A close-up photograph of "skunk" cannabis being poured out of a glass container. The photograph has been stamped with the "Intel Inside" logo.Nano-Cannabis?

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…

Behold… the Mystical Pentaquark! – More Exotic Matter Discovered at CERN

A photomontage showing my two open hands facing the camera, between which a pictorial representation in red of the elusive pentaquark particle appears to be levitating. Image: NaturPhilosophiePentaquark… Eh, WHAT?!

First predicted in the 1960s, like the Higgs boson before it, the pentaquark eluded science for decades until its recent detection at CERN’s LHCb collaboration.  The discovery amounts to finding a new form of matter… Continue reading Behold… the Mystical Pentaquark! – More Exotic Matter Discovered at CERN

We Check the Time of Death with Post-Mortem Degradation of Skeletal Proteins – And Other Gruesome Forensic Facts of Life

A photomontage showing a body outline, "Do Not Cross" yellow police tape, and a magnifier focused on the word "Forensics". The picture also lists the following forensic ways to estimate the time of death - Wait: Determine the time of death; Rigor mortis; Decomposition; Forensic Entomology; Succession on corpses; Other decomposers.Estimating the Time of Death

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

Just a Second…

A close-up photograph of an analog clock showing the hands just reaching the hour.What Does a Second Look Like?

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…

Physics at 13 TeV – Cranking Up the LHC

A composite picture showing inside the underground tunnel at CERN, and a small portion of the giant particle accelerator in artificial colours, with the words 13 TeV superimposed on it. Image: NaturPhilosophieA Vernesque Feat of Human Engineering

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

El Niño – Return of the ‘Enfant Terrible’

A composite picture showing a heat map of the Earth, highlighting the location of the temperature anomaly in the southern hemisphere, with superimposed on it the face of a young child having a tantrum. Image: NaturPhilosophieEl Niño: A Temperature Anomaly

Still in its early stages, El Niño has the potential to cause extreme and even devastating weather around the World.  According to climate graphs, we have reached a 0.6 value for the ENSO.  It’s a 60% probability.  El Niño is now officially back. Continue reading El Niño – Return of the ‘Enfant Terrible’