Blog Archives

Comet families similar to our own are found around another star

Comet families similar to our own are found around another star

A detailed study of comets orbiting the young nearby star Beta Pictoris is published in the journal Nature, and it reveals striking similarities to the comets found in our solar system. Over the past 30 years, 11 stars have been identified that appear to have comets orbiting around them, known as exocomets (akin to exoplanets). […] … learn more→

Speed kills

Speed kills

“Sleeker. Faster. More Intuitive” (The New York Times); “Welcome to a world where speed is everything” (Verizon FiOS); “Speed is God, and time is the devil” (chief of Hitachi’s portable-computer division). In “real” time, life speeds up until time itself seems to disappear—fast is never fast enough, everything has to be done now, instantly. To […] … learn more→

Is artificial intelligence a threat?

Is artificial intelligence a threat?

When the world ends, it may not be by fire or ice or an evil robot overlord. Our demise may come at the hands of a superintelligence that just wants more paper clips. So says Nick Bostrom, a philosopher who founded and directs the Future of Humanity Institute, in the Oxford Martin School at the […] … learn more→

Now you can turn your inkjet printer into a chemistry lab and use it to diagnose diabetes

Now you can turn your inkjet printer into a chemistry lab and use it to diagnose diabetes

If you stop and think about it for a moment, you will realise what an astonishing feat of precision engineering your colour printer is. It can take the primary colours – cyan, yellow, magenta and black – and mix them together carefully enough to achieve more than a million different hues and shades. Not only […] … learn more→

Life on Earth still favours evolution over creationism

Life on Earth still favours evolution over creationism

Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, first published in 1859, offered a bold new explanation for how animals and plants diversified and still serves as the foundation underpinning all medical and biological research today. But the theory remains under attack by creationists in various parts of the world, particularly the US, Turkey, Indonesia and the Middle […] … learn more→

Rosetta lander will seek a close encounter with comet’s ‘primordial soup’

Rosetta lander will seek a close encounter with comet’s ‘primordial soup’

There is much excitement about Rosetta at the moment. The European Space Agency’s spacecraft has already made a successful rendezvous with a comet and the images that are being transmitted back are simply awe-inspiring. There is much more to come – the spacecraft will ride alongside the comet for at least another year. Meanwhile, as […] … learn more→

Thousand-robot swarm assembles itself into shapes

Thousand-robot swarm assembles itself into shapes

There is something magical about seeing 1,000 robots move, when humans are not operating any of them. In a new study published in Science, researchers have achieved just that. This swarm of 1,000 robots can assemble themselves into complex shapes without the need for a central brain or a human controller. Self-assembly of this kind […] … learn more→

Your essential guide to the rise of the intelligent machines

Your essential guide to the rise of the intelligent machines

The risks posed to human beings by artificial intelligence in no way resemble the popular image of the Terminator. That fictional mechanical monster is distinguished by many features – strength, armour, implacability, indestructability – but Arnie’s character lacks the one characteristic that we in the real world actually need to worry about – extreme intelligence. […] … learn more→

Why do some controversies persist despite the evidence?

Why do some controversies persist despite the evidence?

The debate over climate change is relatively young while nuclear power and pesticides have been heated topics since the 1960s, and fluoridation since the 1950s. So what is it about these scientific controversies that makes them seem to go on forever? Some campaigners despair, assuming that those on the other side simply refuse to acknowledge […] … learn more→

How small birds evolved from giant meat eating dinosaurs

How small birds evolved from giant meat eating dinosaurs

Spectacular transitional fossils, many from northern China, provide overwhelming evidence that dinosaurs evolved into birds and thus didn’t all perish when the deadly meteorite struck at the end of the Cretaceous period. We now know that many bipedal, meat-eating dinosaurs (theropods) – including relatives of T. rex and Velociraptor – were adorned with a variety […] … learn more→