Blog Archives

How researchers rose to the challenge of Ebola

How researchers rose to the challenge of Ebola

Peter Piot was a young researcher training in virology at the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp in 1976 when some unusual samples from Central Africa arrived at the Belgian lab. They had been taken from a Catholic missionary who had died from an unknown disease in a remote village in the Democratic Republic of the […] … learn more→

Comets or volcanoes? Scientists are changing their minds about how the Earth’s water got here

Comets or volcanoes? Scientists are changing their minds about how the Earth’s water got here

The Earth has been the blue planet for as many as 3.8 billion years. Ancient sedimentary rock deposits and lava that cooled into characteristic pillow shapes provide irrefutable evidence that liquid water has existed at the Earth’s surface for at least this long. But given how many barren rocks there are in the galaxy, Earth’s […] … learn more→

Reprintable paper becomes a reality

Reprintable paper becomes a reality

Since its invention around 100 B.C. in China, paper as a material for spreading information has greatly contributed to the development and spread of civilization. Even in today’s information age, with electronic media omnipresent in homes, offices and even our pockets, paper still plays a critical role. Our brains process information differently on paper and […] … learn more→

Robots and AI could soon have feelings, hopes and rights … we must prepare for the reckoning

Robots and AI could soon have feelings, hopes and rights … we must prepare for the reckoning

Get used to hearing a lot more about artificial intelligence. Even if you discount the utopian and dystopian hyperbole, the 21st century will broadly be defined not just by advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, computing and cognitive neuroscience, but how we manage them. For some, the question of whether or not the human race will […] … learn more→

Time crystals: how scientists created a new state of matter

Time crystals: how scientists created a new state of matter

Some of the most profound predictions in theoretical physics, such as Einstein’s gravitational waves or Higgs’ boson, have taken decades to prove with experiments. But every now and then, a prediction can become established fact in an astonishingly short time. This is what happened with “time crystals”, a new and strange state of matter that […] … learn more→

Your dog can remember more than you think

Your dog can remember more than you think

Any dog owner will tell you how smart they think their dog is. What we usually think of as smartness in dogs is measured or observed in their external behaviour. Being able to respond to commands, for example, or remember the location of a hidden toy. Scientists have long wondered whether what underlies “smart” behaviour […] … learn more→

Introducing the terrifying mathematics of the Anthropocene

Introducing the terrifying mathematics of the Anthropocene

Here are some surprising facts about humans’ effect on planet Earth. We have made enough concrete to create an exact replica of Earth 2mm thick. We have produced enough plastic to wrap Earth in clingfilm. We are creating “technofossils”, a new term for congealed human-made materials – plastics and concretes – that will be around […] … learn more→

Should scientists engage in activism?

Should scientists engage in activism?

Have you heard that scientists are planning a march on Washington? The move is not being billed as a protest, but rather as a “celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community,” although it comes as a direct response to recent policy changes and statements by the […] … learn more→

Defining dual-use research: When scientific advances can both help and hurt humanity

Defining dual-use research: When scientific advances can both help and hurt humanity

Scientific research can change our lives for the better, but it also presents risks – either through deliberate misuse or accident. Think about studying deadly pathogens; that’s how we can learn how to successfully ward them off, but it can be a safety issue too, as when CDC workers were exposed to anthrax in 2014 […] … learn more→

How to build a more organic internet (and stand up to corporations)

How to build a more organic internet (and stand up to corporations)

Internet access has become such a necessary tool for participating in society that it has been declared a “human right” by the UN. Alas, it is a human right not granted to 60% of the world’s population. To bridge this gap, big corporations such as Facebook or Google portray themselves not only as service providers, […] … learn more→