Superhero science

Welcome to Spandex Wizards, a blog where we’ll explore the relationships between science and culture – how do they affect each other, and how have they shaped the world around us? I’ll be taking a look at the unusual places this relationship has surfaced and shaped things in ways that you might not expect. In […]

Invisibility cloaking – hiding a whole new world

The idea of invisibility cloaking – being able to hide things from view – has been a point of interest to humans for thousands of years. Plato wrote in The Republic about The Ring of Gyges which allowed the wearer to become invisible. Within nature there are many different species of creatures that have evolved […]

News Round-up: Higgs (probably), Dark Matter’s skeleton, Private Asteroid Detective, TV-Powered GPS, Libel Dismissed

Higgs boson found … probably Image: CERN Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva have announced the discovery of a new elementary particle consistent with the Higgs boson. The announcement, given to a packed auditorium at CERN and broadcast live over the Internet, was met with standing ovations from scientists across the world. Although […]

News round-up: New elements, Olympicene, Venus, SpaceX & Neutrinos

Guest contributor Conor McKeever kicks off our new fortnightly round-up of the key science news of the last few weeks. Two more place cards at the Periodic Table Video: youtube | periodicvideos Scientists have officially named two elements whose discoveries were announced last year. Element 114, first detected in 1999 by scientists at Russia’s Joint […]

Grow Your Own Quantum Computer

Forget the huge factories of Apple, Samsung and HP: it seems that bacteria might be able to make faster, smaller and more powerful computers than we can. Biologically based wires and tiny hard-drives have been grown in the lab by a team from the University of Leeds and the Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. […]

Podcast: Alan Turing’s Centenary

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Alan Turing’s birth and there are events happening across the UK to celebrate Turing’s contributions to computer science as we know it today. However, not that many people seem to realise the influence Turing’s work continues to have and the stuggles he faced. I went along to Kinetica […]

Three, Two, One: Activate

I’ll be the first to admit that I thought this was a tiny robot dance-off at first, but it’s actually the ROBO-ONE Championship – a humanoid-robot fighting competition that saw its tenth anniversary this year in Japan. The video shows the red-armed GAROO fighting off Gargoyle Mini to take the crown for a second year […]

Podcast: Kinetica Art Fair

Today I had the chance to go along to the preview of this year’s Kinetica Art Fair. I really can’t recommend it enough, it’s an absolute wonderland of art inspired by science and technology – I could have happily wandered around all day playing with the various installations. Have a listen to the podcast to […]

Let’s Get Three-Dimensional

This year at CES, through the swathes of Android phones and tablets, Macbook Air clones or ‘ultrabooks’ as they’ve now been dubbed, 3D reared its head once again. However, this year it was less about 3D TVs (thankfully) and more about 3D printing with the release of MakerBot’s new generation of 3D printers – the […]

Tiny Robots

Apologies, I do realise that the title of this blog kind of implies I wouldn’t be mentioning tiny robots but I figured that by breaking the rules right from the start, at least it can only get better – right? Somehow, there always seems to be an overriding fear that we’re going to be overrun […]

Science Behind the Photo #33

This detailed photograph of our Moon was taken at the University of London Observatory (ULO), on the amazingly beautiful and intricate Fry telescope. Made by famous telescope manufacturer Thomas Cook in 1862, it was moved to ULO in 1930. It is used often to instruct astronomy students and is mainly used to observe planets, solar […]

Two membranes are better than one at purifying water

Globally, polluted water kills 14,000 people every day.  In India, over 350,000 children die of diarrhoea from dirty drinking water every year.  In China, 90% of cities suffer from some type of water pollution.  In the US, a recent study found contaminants in 45% of the country’s stream miles and 47% of lake acres.  Despite […]

Science Behind the Photo #20

  Chicken wire is great for describing graphene – it’s often used by scientists when talking about the new wonder-material. Imagine there’s one atom of carbon at every point of every hexagon and that the wires are bonds joining the carbon atoms together.  Then imagine that the whole photograph is only a few nanometres across (1 nanometre […]

Sting bomb detector

A novel instrument capable of detecting single molecules of explosives such as TNT has been built using carbon nanotubes and, strangely, bee venom proteins. The detector draws upon the discovery that carbon nanotubes emit a specific spectrum of infra-red light depending on the chemical environment. Carbon nanotubes, by themselves, are not able to detect TNT.  […]

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 […]

Top 5 Unseen Weapons

5. The ultrasound gun The sonic devastator Imagine the sound of fingernails scraping down a blackboard, then amplify it to 130 decibels (which is equivalent to a jet plane taking off) and you begin to understand how the Sonic Devastator got its name. Designed for riot control, the hand-held gun’s design restricts its beam to […]

Good Call

I was definitely a slow starter when it came to mobile phones, and so the excitement and anticipation of getting one was almost unbearable. I remember being brought quickly back down to earth as I discovered that the phone didn’t bring as much freedom with it as I had expected. Phone-free zones were everywhere and […]

Waking up to the world’s water waste

In the debates about dwindling natural resources, water is often left out of the picture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we take water for granted – it’s everywhere we look: as rain, the mains supply, reservoirs and oceans… the supply seems endless. The key word here is ‘seems’. Water is a precious resource, fundamental to all life on […]