Flickr Bug

Budding entomologists might want to think about casting aside butterfly net and pooter. A paper published in ZooKeys last week reports the discovery of a new species of lacewing, Semachrysa jade. But the unusual thing about this new insect was that it was first spotted not in the field but on Flickr. Insect biosystematist Shaun […]

Bananas, Barcodes and Carbon

Enjoying that cup of coffee? That’ll be 21g of CO2 emissions, please. The sandwich is 40g, the crisps 15g, and the banana 80g. And while 3g for flushing the toilet is thankfully a bargain, washing and drying your hands will cost another 35g. How do I know this? My phone told me. And if David […]

Science Behind the Photo #40

The Colour of Leaves Across the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere, deciduous trees are pushing out bright green new leaves that unfurl from buds like verdant moths thrust slowly from winter cocoons. The green colour of these new leaves is, of course, due to the pigmentation of chlorophyll. In green plants, chlorophyll molecules absorb […]

Pet Planarians: They Don’t Die

Last month saw scientists and philosophers facing off over some big questions. The Royal Institute hosted a debate (Storified here) on whether neuroscience will explain consciousness. Then philosopher Roger Scruton wrote about the limitations of “neurononsense” in the Spectator, which prompted the Guardian’s Neurophilosophy blogger Mo Costandi to scold him publicly for attacking a straw-neuroscientist. […]

Lanier vs Zuckerberg

[Visualisation of the world’s Facebook relationships. Click image for large version.] This article is taken from the Winter 2011 issue of I, Science. Douglas Heaven reviews Jaron Lanier’s You Are Not A Gadget (Penguin, 2010) and the BBC’s documentary Mark Zuckerberg: Inside Facebook (December 2011). In You Are Not A Gadget, Jaron Lanier – computer […]

Science Behind the Photo #37

Sure-footed Some lizards can walk on water, others can walk up walls. It’s hard to tell from the photo whether this gecko is walking on the floor, up a vertical surface, or upside down across the ceiling. And from its point of view, it probably doesn’t make much difference. Geckos’ amazing adhesive feet work by […]

Lessthanthree

Long thought to be the seat of the soul, the heart remains an emotive symbol of passion and there’s apparently still no better way to proclaim an infatuation than with a big pink heart stamped on glossy cardboard. The heart “nourishes, cherishes, quickens the whole body, and is indeed the foundation of life, the source […]

Interview With Survival International

This interview accompanies our Uncontacted Tribes article. Stephen Corry of Survival International took issue (in a comment thread here) with the claim made by Dr Michael Stewart in that article that “uncontacted tribes” were a fantasy. I invited him to outline Survival International’s position. DH: How and why was Survival International set up and what […]

Multiple Kittens, Polydactyl Mittens

Welcome to The Dog & Pony Show! Let’s talk about cats. Not all cats are created equal. A couple of days ago, the BBC posted an article about a pair of polydactyl kittens. (If you’re wildly picturing a chimera of cat and pterosaur, you’ve headed off in the wrong direction. Come back.) Polydactyly is an […]

Science Behind the Photo #34

Moon Bouncing Taken in 2008, this pair of telecommunications masts in downtown Atlanta, USA carry a mix of phone, TV and radio relay dishes. Telecommunication towers have been around since the early 1900s. It was Nikola Tesla, in the 1890s, who first proposed that radio waves might be used for the communication of information. The […]

In Trials We Trust

All science depends on trust. Trust that experiments are repeatable, observations objectively made, and research conducted without bias. We trust the reputation of journals and the expertise of reviewers. With the fragmentation and specialisms of modern science, trust is perhaps more important than ever, but it’s been necessary from the start. When Galileo claimed there […]

Gamers 1, M-PMV Retroviral Protease 0

In the crossover news of the week, gamers have discovered the structure of a protein-cutting enzyme that plays an important role in the spread of an AIDS-like virus in rhesus monkeys. Knowing the structure of this enzyme – the M-PMV retroviral protease – might make it possible to design drugs to beat the virus, but […]

Light Conversation

Harald Haas and his team from the University of Edinburgh have invented what he calls “speaking light”. In a TED talk on 15 July, Haas demonstrated the wireless transmission of HD video via a rapidly blinking desk lamp. The trick involves quickly modulating the intensity of “high-brightness” LEDs, allowing binary-encoded data to be sent to […]

A PC in Every Home and Wi-Fi in Every Window

When nobody’s fussing about Wi-Fi in schools and when there’s a lull between reports on the injurious effects of mobile phones I suspect few of us give much thought to the fizzing ocean of radio waves crashing over us silently, invisibly, continuously, ceaselessly. We take it for granted that the phone in our hand can […]

The Elusive Element 118

This is the first of  a series of posts looking back at the science news of 10 years ago. Read on to see how much things have changed (or perhaps how much they haven’t). In August 1999 Physical Review Letters, one of the most prestigious journals in physics, published a report from a US team […]