The number of protons defines an element, but the number of neutrons can vary. We call these different flavors of an element isotopes, and use these isotopes to solve some challenging mysteries in physics and astronomy. Some isotopes occur naturally, and others need to be made in nuclear reactors and particle accelerators.
A new series of BBC Radio 4?s All in the Mind has just kicked off and to celebrate 25 years of broadcasting they’ve just had three great episodes looking back on the last quarter century of psychology, neuroscience and mental health. Each make for a interesting discussion of how science and attitudes have changed. As […]
As we’ve mentioned before, the Sun is a terrifying ball of plasma. It’s a good thing we’re keeping an eye on it. And that eye is the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, or SOHO. Operating for more than 18 years now, SOHO has been making detailed observations of the Sun’s activity though an almost entire solar cycle. Show More Summary
Sometimes the Sun is quiet, and other times the Sun gets downright unruly. During the peak of its 11-year cycle, the surface of the Sun is littered with darker sunspots. And its from these sunspots that the Sun generates massive solar flares, which can spew radiation and material in our direction. Show More Summary
Our Sun isn’t just a terrifying ball of white hot plasma, it’s actually a lot more complex. It’s got layers. And today, we’re going to peel back those layers and learn about the Sun – from the inside out.
Although the Zodiac is best known for astrology nonsense, it has a purpose in astronomy too. The constellations of the Zodiac define the plane of the ecliptic: the region where the Sun, Moon and planets appear to travel through the sky. What are the constellations of the Zodiac, and how do astronomers use them as waypoints?
Fragments of ancient music have been found going back as far as the eighteenth century B.C., the most ancient ones recorded on cuneiform tablets, but there is only one complete song from antiquity known to have survived: the Seikilos epitaph. It was discovered carved on a marble column-shaped stele in Tralleis, near Ephesus, Turkey, in [...]
Sometimes you’ve just got to get away from it all. From your planet, your Solar System and your galaxy. If you’re looking to escape, you’ll need to know just what velocity it’ll take to break the surly bonds of gravity and punch the sky.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to visit one of the big research observatories, like Keck, Gemini, or the European Southern Observatory? What’s it like to use gear that powerful? What’s the facility like? What precautions do you need to take when observing at such a high altitude?
A few weeks ago I posted an edited text of an interview I did with Michael Atiyah in Heidelberg. Here is the audio of our conversation in MP3 format [25 MB]. Photo by Bernhard Kreutzer
Sometimes you can do science by watching patiently, and sometimes you've just got to get your hands dirty with an experiment or two. These two methods have their advantages and disadvantages for revealing Nature's secrets. Let's talk about how and why scientists choose which path to go down.
The BBC World Service just broadcast an amazing radio documentary on the experience of isolation – talking to people who have experienced intense remoteness from other humans including polar base residents, astronauts, prisoners and people who completed the Mars-500 simulated mission. Firstly, it’s just beautiful. If there’s such a thing as an ambient documentary, this […]
Who knew that destruction could be so informative? Only by smashing particles together with more and more energy, can we truly tease out the fundamental forces of nature. Join us to discover the different kinds of accelerators (both natural and artificial) and why questions they can help us answer.
I’ve just found one of the best discussions on the importance and limits of the concept of post-traumatic stress disorder on a programme from the Why Factor on BBC World Service. It’s a brief programme, only 18 minutes long, but packs in a remarkably incisive look at PTSD that tackles its causes, its cultural limits […]
Daisuke Inoue of Hyogo, Japan, was awarded the 2004 Ig Nobel peace prize for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other. For the very few of our readers who might not know what karaoke is – we offer this description : ‘It’s a form of interactive […]
The Earth is wobbling on its axis like a top. You can't feel it, but it's happening. And over long periods of time, these wobbles shift our calendars around, move the stars from where they're supposed to be, and maybe even mess with our climate. Thank you very much Precession.
Why don’t we have insects the size of horses? Why do bubbles form spheres? Why does it take so much energy to broadcast to every star? Let’s take a look at some non-linear mathematical relationships and see how they impact your day-to-day life.
Put that pedal to the metal and accelerate! It's not just velocity, but a change in velocity. Let's take a look at acceleration, how you measure it, and how Einstein changed our understanding of this exciting activity.
In honor of labor day here are a number of resources on the most pro-labor policy in the world, open borders. 1. OpenBorders.info, the uber-resource and the spearhead of the movement. 2. The Michael Clemens classic, Economics and Emigration:...Show More Summary
A musical pig credited with saving the life of its owner, Edith Rosenbaum, during the sinking of the Titanic on April 14th, 1912, has been silent for decades. Now, thanks to the wonders of technology, the pig’s song can be heard again. Edith (she would legally change her last name to Russell in 1918 out [...]