Celebrating Cassini: The Ethics of Plutonium Energy

When Cassini was being designed in the 1980s, an innovative plutonium energy source was developed to sustain it’s long journey. A source that would and still does carry considerable ethical considerations.

Asimov’s psychohistory in maths

Could Mathematics hold the key to predicting the future? According to Professor Dan Crisan, possibly yes. During his inaugural lecture at Imperial College Professor Crisan used some complex mathematical formulae to show how a branch of mathematics – stochastic analysis – can be used to understand the link between microscopic and macroscopic events. Using a […]

News Round-Up: New Moon, Solar Windows, ‘Green’ Algae, Namibian Water

Pluto’s fifth moon discovered Image: Hubblesite A new moon has been found orbiting Pluto, bringing the number of satellites known around the former planet to five. P5 – the moon’s temporary designation – is between 10 to 25 km across (less than the diameter of London’s North Circular Road), and was discovered by scientists at […]

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the greenest of them all? Eco-conscious consumers are increasingly trying to make decisions based on a company’s green credentials. But beneath all the marketing rhetoric, how can we really tell the environmental heroes from the villains? I’m not very good at recycling. Quite frankly, I struggle to see the […]

The Great Gulf Experiment

Two years ago today, a huge natural experiment was set in motion. Its costs were enormous. The explosion of British Petroleum’s Deepwater Horizon rig resulted in the loss of eleven lives and the spillage of an unprecedented 4.9 million barrels of oil into the surrounding Gulf waters, leading BP to put aside $20 billion to […]

The Arrow of Time (Part 2)

The Thermodynamic “Arrow of Time” in Physics (And to a Lesser Extent, in Snooker) PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 Jiggling Particles Let’s look again at the third film. The rolling ball possesses an initial kinetic energy, which gradually dissipates away through friction: the particles in the fabric that the ball travels over, […]

1932: Physics goes ‘Anti’ – Part I

The word “anti” comes from ancient Greek, which literally translates as “against” or “opposite to” and nowadays is very commonly used in many contexts from social-politics (anti-social, anti-capitalism) to medicine (antibiotics, antidepressive) and even religion (Antichrist). In 1932 “anti” prefix officially entered in the world of physical science. Carl Anderson in Pasadena, California, had started […]

Is this the end for space travel?

Atlantis, the Space Shuttle, landed for the final time last week and ended thirty years of routine space flight. NASA has since been fighting to prove it’s not given up on space exploration, and that there are plenty more missions to make with new, better technology. “The things that you’ve done will set us up […]

Elusive energy

By 2025, the UK Government has promised to halve carbon emissions. Clean energy looms large on the political agenda, granting science a lot of room to influence the direction of current and future energy policy. But how much does science really have to say about clean energy? Time and again, we’ve heard the promises of […]

Breathing life into spaceplane technology

The dream of spaceplanes has often been dismissed as fantasy, born out of bad 1950s science fiction films. According to most industry analysts, the rightful place of the spaceplane – along with food pills, floating cities and personal jetpacks – is consigned to the dustbin of history. However, one small company in Britain doesn’t seem […]

Fresh water from sunlight

The Sun has finally got his London hat on.  So to celebrate, here’s a warming story about smart scientists using solar energy to alleviate water poverty. The Middle East is almost always sunny.  Jordan, for example, gets some of the highest levels of solar energy in the world – seven times as much as London […]

Hydrogen hope

Imagine filling your car with fuel and driving as far as your dreams could take you without worrying one little bit about your green credentials. Well, you could… if that fuel was hydrogen.  Clean, full of energy and zero carbon, hydrogen is the fuel of the future, and scientists in China have just taken us […]

Green Britain

The UK needs to increase investment in renewable energy sources if it is to meet EU climate change targets, according to a report out this week. The report was published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), an independent body set up to advise the government on reducing the UK’s carbon footprint. The report advocates […]

High as a kite

Big ships are using a brand new means of propulsion – the wind. This isn’t a hark back to romantic days of white sails and stripy jumpers. This time it’s kites. Huge ones. Hundreds of metres in the air. And now scientists can predict exactly how much power the shipping companies will save. Big ships […]

Germany opens first commercial offshore wind farm

Germany has unveiled its first commercial offshore wind farm in the North Sea. The wind farm, which has been given the name ‘Bard Offshore 1’, lies approximately 55 miles north west of the German island of Borkum. Bard Offshore 1 is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012, by which time it will have […]