The discovery of gravitational waves, announced on 11 February 2016 by scientists from the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO), has made headline news around the world. One UK broadsheet devoted its entire front page to a image of a simulation of two orbiting black holes on which they superimposed the headline “The theory of relativity proved”.
During the search for scents of anger and aggression in human beings, several English idioms come to mind relating aggression to odors: ‘To be incensed’ describes somebody feeling angry with the related meaning of the word incense, a substance that produces a strong smell when burned.
The International Space Station was originally conceived as our base camp to the stars – the first step in a long journey of human civilisation exploring new planets, asteroids, and galaxies, and perhaps even helping us to meet other forms of life in the universe along the way. The International Space Station is an incredible feat in human engineering, politics, and bravery.
The Earth we live on was formed from a cloud of dust and ice, heated by a massive ball of compressed hydrogen that was the early Sun. Somewhere along the four billion year journey to where we are today, our planet acquired life, and some of that became us. Our modern brains ask how it all came together and progressed, and what shaped the pathways it followed.
The human brain is a most wonderful organ: it is our window on time. Our brains have specialized structures that work together to give us our human sense of time. The temporal lobe helps form long term memories, without which we would not be aware of the past, whilst the frontal lobe allows us to plan for the future.
Quasars are distant galactic nuclei generating spectacular amounts of energy by matter accretion onto their central supermassive black holes. The precise geometry and origin of this huge activity are still largely unknown, and direct spatial resolution of the emitting regions from such distant monsters is not currently possible.
A galaxy is a gigantic system possessing billions of stars, vast amounts of gas, dust and dark matter held together by gravitational attraction. Typical size of galaxies can be anywhere from a few tens-of-thousands to a few hundreds-of-thousands of light-years.
The recent announcement of the official ratification of four super-heavy elements, with atomic numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118, has taken the world of science news by storm. It seems like there is an insatiable appetite for new information about the elements and the periodic table within the scientific world and among the general public.
In 2012, a team of astrophysicists led by Xavier Dumusque caused a sensation when they announced the discovery of Alpha Centauri Bb: an Earth-sized planet in the Alpha Centauri star system, the star system closest to the Sun. If verified, Alpha Centauri Bb would be the closest known exoplanet to our own Solar System, and possibly also the lowest mass planet ever discovered around a star similar to the Sun.
Holograms are an ironic technology. They encompass a suite of techniques capable of astonishingly realistic imagery (in the right circumstances), but they’re associated with contrasting visions: on the one hand, ambitious technological dreams and, on the other, mundane and scarcely noticed hologram products.
The hologram is a spectacular invention of the modern era: an innocuous artefact that can miraculously generate three-dimensional imagery. Yet this modern experience has deep roots. Holograms are part of a long lineage: the ability to generate visual “shock and awe” has, in fact, been an important feature of new optical technologies over the past century and a half.
Planet Earth doesn’t have ‘a temperature’, one figure that says it all. There are oceans, landmasses, ice, the atmosphere, day and night, and seasons. Also, the temperature of Earth never gets to equilibrium: just as it’s starting to warm up on the sunny-side, the sun gets ‘turned off’; and just as it’s starting to cool down on the night-side, the sun gets ‘turned on’.
Describing the very ‘beginning’ of the Universe is a bit of a problem. Quite simply, none of our scientific theories are up to the task. We attempt to understand the evolution of space and time and all the mass and energy within it by applying Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This theory works extraordinarily well. But when we’re dealing with objects that start to approach the infinitesimally small – elementary particles such as quarks and electrons – we need to reach for a completely different structure, called quantum theory.
There was much more to Max Planck than his work and research as an influential physicist. For example, Planck was an avid musician, and endured many personal hardships under the Nazi regime in his home country of Germany.
Albert Einstein’s greatest achievement, the general theory of relativity, was announced by him exactly a century ago, in a series of four papers read to the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin in November 1915, during the turmoil of the First World War. For many years, hardly any physicist—let alone any other type of scientist—could understand it.
November 2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein’s general theory of relativity. This theory is one of many pivotal scientific discoveries that would drastically influence our understanding of the world around us.