Category Archives: Time

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

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

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

In the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction…

An artist's impression of a post-apocalyptic New York City skyline, with the scorched cracked earth at the forefront and an eerie yellow glow at the background.Exponential Population Growth

The World population has grown to 7 billion, and it is expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050.  In the long-term, this  growth is unsustainable, as vital resources are becoming increasingly depleted and humanity faces a number of threats to its continued expansion.  Many believe that scientists will solve these problems with new technology.  Are humans causing the sixth mass extinction?  What is the reality?  Continue reading In the Midst of the Sixth Mass Extinction…

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!

Defining the Anthropocene – What is the Age of Man?

An artist's impression of a baffled orangutan.The Age of Man

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?

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?

On the Evolution of Darwin’s Finches

A close-up photograph of a female Medium Ground Finch from South Plaza Island.Adapt or Die

Finches in the Galápagos Islands are being threatened by a parasitic fly that attacks their young, placing the same species of birds that helped Charles Darwin refine his theory of evolution in danger of extinction.  But the authors of a new study say that human intervention could alleviate the risk. Continue reading On the Evolution of Darwin’s Finches

The Everlasting Storm of Catatumbo, Venezuela

A photograph showing the intense lightning at Catatumbo in Venezuela. National Geographic MagazineCatatumbo’s Lightning Show

There is a place on Earth where lightning storms last forever.  We are at Catatumbo, in Venezuela.  And this year, Catatumbo was approved for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records, as the place in the World with the most lightning bolts per square kilometre each year at 250.  What causes such a powerful storm to develop in the same spot, up to 300 nights a year? Continue reading The Everlasting Storm of Catatumbo, Venezuela

Forget Me… Not!

A Simpsons' cartoon. The truth according to Homer Simpson? The caption reads: "Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."Forgetting is Easy…

Do you feel overwhelmed with the amount of information you have to deal with?  Do you spend time drawing up a shopping list, only to forget it on the kitchen table when you leave the house?  I know I do.  In the words of Homer Simpson: “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain.”  Don’t worry!  Scientists think that it is perfectly normal, and even an essential part of the brain’s learning process. Continue reading Forget Me… Not!

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 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

Mars Has Water!

Mars has water: An artist's impression of Mars primordial ocean.Liquid Water on Mars

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…

Continue reading Mars Has Water!

Armchair Fossil Hunting in the Turkana Basin

Workers busy documenting a paleontological dig site in a desertic part of the Turkana basin in Kenya where some fossil bones have been found.

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

Three Trillion Trees

A photograph of trees in the Meridon Forest in Central France. Image: NaturphilosophieGreen Planet

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

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

Eyes of the Beholder

Look into my eyes! Image: NaturPhilosophieReading Someone’s Mind through their Eyes?

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

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