World Space Week has prompted myself and colleagues at the Open University to discuss the question: ‘Is there life beyond Earth?’ The bottom line is that we are now certain that there are many places in our Solar System and around other stars where simple microbial life could exist, of kinds that we know from various settings, both mundane and exotic, on Earth. What we don’t know is whether any life DOES exist in any of those places.
Today, 60 years ago, the visionary convention establishing the European Organization for Nuclear Research — better known with its French acronym, CERN — entered into force, marking the beginning of an extraordinary scientific adventure that has profoundly changed science, technology, and society, and that is still far from over.
2014 marks not just the centenary of the start of World War I, and the 75th anniversary of World War II, but on 29 September it is 60 years since the establishment of CERN, the European Centre for Nuclear Research or, in its modern form, Particle Physics.
René Descartes wrote his third book, Principles of Philosophy, as something of a rival to scholastic textbooks. He prided himself in “that those who have not yet learned the philosophy of the schools will learn it more easily from this book than from their teachers, because by the same means they will learn to scorn it, and even the most mediocre teachers will be capable of teaching my philosophy by means of this book alone” (Descartes to Marin Mersenne, December 1640).
The discovery of the periodic system of the elements and the associated periodic table is generally attributed to the great Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev. Many authors have indulged in the game of debating just how much credit should be attributed to Mendeleev and how much to the other discoverers of this unifying theme of modern chemistry.
Dmitri Mendeleev believed he was a great scientist and indeed he was. He was not actually recognized as such until his periodic table achieved worldwide diffusion and began to appear in textbooks of general chemistry and in other major publications.
Time is running short. When the IPCC published its first scientific report in 1990 on the possibility of human-caused global warming, the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) was 354 ppm. It is now 397 ppm and rising. In spite of Kyoto, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Doha, atmospheric CO2 continues its inexorable upward path.
The past couple of years have seen the celebration of a number of key developments in the history of physics. In 1913 Niels Bohr, perhaps the second most famous physicist of the 20th century after Einstein, published is iconic theory of the atom.
Lipids (fats and oils) have historically been thought to elevate weight and blood cholesterol and have therefore been considered to have a negative influence on the body. Foods such as full-fat milk and cheese have been avoided by many consumers for this reason. This attitude has been changing in recent years.
At the end of last year, Eli Lilly’s mega-blockbuster antidepressant Cymbalta went off patent. And Cymbalta’s generic version, known as duloxetine, rushes in the market and drives down the price, making it more affordable.
By Marjorie Senechal
It was eerie, a gift from the grave. But I thank serendipity, not spooks. The gift, it turns out, was given forty years ago.
By Sarah Dry
Nearly three hundred years since his death, Isaac Newton is as much a myth as a man. The mythical Newton abounds in contradictions; he is a semi-divine genius and a mad alchemist, a somber and solitary thinker and a passionate religious heretic. Myths usually have an element of truth to them but how many Newtonian varieties are true? Here are ten of the most common, debunked or confirmed by the evidence of his own private papers.
By Kersten Hall
It is a safe bet that the name of Pierre Rolland rings very few bells among the British public. In 2012, Rolland, riding for Team Europcar finished in eighth place in the overall final classifications of the Tour de France whilst Sir Bradley Wiggins has since become a household name following his fantastic achievement of being the first British person ever to win the most famous cycle race in the world.
By Tom Lancaster and Stephen J. Blundell
Sometimes it’s the fly in the ointment, the thing that spoils the purity of the whole picture, which leads to the big advances in science. That’s exactly what happened at a conference in Shelter Island, New York in 1947 when a group of physicists gathered to discuss the latest breakthroughs in their field which seemed at first sight to make everything more complicated.
By Richard Dawid
“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”. Thus Arthur Conan Doyle has Sherlock Holmes describe a crucial part of his method of solving detective cases. Sherlock Holmes often takes pride in adhering to principles of scientific reasoning.
Have you often lain awake at night, wishing that you knew more about cheese? Fear not! Your prayers have been answered; here you will find 18 of the most delicious cheese facts, all taken from Michael Tunick’s The Science of Cheese. Bon Appétit.