Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Fuels for life found on moon of Saturn – an annotated infographic

April 18, 2017

Nasa’s Cassini spacecraft has discovered hydrogen and carbon dioxide erupting in plumes of vapour from Saturn’s moon Enceladus. These are the critical organic chemical ingredients that sustain microbial life in extreme environments on Earth.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.


Book review: Telescopes, Test-Tubes and Theories – A Scientific Journey

August 24, 2016

By William Harrop

From the belief that maggots simply sprung from dead flesh to the example of Newton plunging a needle into his eye to see if pressure caused us to see colours, this book perfectly encapsulates the absurdity and eccentricity of scientific history.

The Upright ThinkersIn The Upright Thinkers, Leonard Mlodinow takes you on an informative, engaging journey through the 200,000 years of human existence, examining the different scientific super-stars and theorems at each milestone between the establishment of the first civilisations in Mesopotamia and the ‘Quantum Revolution’ of the 20th century. Studded with moments of hilarity and light-hearted anecdotes, the author crafts a books that never loses the attention of the reader, no matter the complexities of the subject matter, by refraining from bombarding us with the bravado of jargon, numbers and formulas one would expect from most science books.

Mlodinow paints a detailed picture of each of the scientific greats since the very first sparks of civilisation, from Pythagoras to Hawking, skilfully fleshing out their characters beyond the formulas and achievements for which they are remembered, including the flaws, which are often glossed over by history. Misconceptions of these figures are brushed aside and replaced with equally intriguing truths – for example, the fiction of an apple falling on Newton’s head is replaced with information on his reclusive and obsessive nature, which drove him to prick his own eye with a needle for an experiment.

As an equally fascinating sidetrack to the book’s subject, the writer effortlessly brings in analogies to his life, including his time writing for the cult classic TV show Star Trek and a period spent working with the illustrious Stephen Hawking. Coupled with this, he also grounds the highbrow science the book discusses by talking about his father, and his amusing way of looking at science through the eyes of an orthodox Jew. Moreover, his father also provides a sobering testament to the harrowing struggle the Jewish people endured during the 20th century, as a Warsaw Jew during the Second World War.

Central to the book is the notion that all scientific theories are relatively ephemeral. They exist only until a better one can replace them – Newton has been replaced, Einstein has been replaced, and soon, perhaps even Stephen Hawking’s theories will be replaced, such is the nature of the ever-turning wheel of scientific progress.

Mlodinow translates his fluently in-depth knowledge of all realms of science into addictive narrative, interwoven with poignant, at-times gritty and sometimes comical anecdotal aids. So, if you’re looking for a book on scientific theories that isn’t denser than dark matter or as hard to comprehend as string theory, The Upright Thinkers is the perfect book for you.

‘The Upright Thinkers’ by Leonard Mlodinow is available in paperback from Penguin (£9.99, ISBN 9780141981017).

Book review: This Book Thinks You’re A Scientist

August 1, 2016

By Louise Fox


Thames and Hudson, August 2016, ISBN 987-0-50-06508-13, £8.95, Paperback

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a child, excited by science for the first time again? Well now you can with the science museum’s newest release ‘This Book Thinks You’re A Scientist’. The interactive book explores seven key scientific areas, including force and motion, electricity and magnetism, earth and space, light, matter, sound, and mathematics.

Through a series of creatively and quirkily illustrated prompts, readers are encouraged to engage in their own hands-on experiments and explore science by questioning everything. It’s a great way for your children to spend the afternoon, out in the sun, experimenting on things you probably never thought they would: creating a new robot language, taking instant photographs with their eyes, making water freeze in seconds and styling their hair with static electricity – easy, fun experiments that can be done anywhere.

To prove this, the E&T writers decided to test a couple of the experiments out and you’d be surprised how easily pleased they are this book can definitely be for adults too! Seeing grown men and women getting excited by the idea of frozen fizzy drinks in the hot weather can really make your day. It’s actually really easy to do as well. The carbon dioxide in fizzy drinks makes them pretty hard to freeze properly, but freeze one for around two hours before unscrewing the lid and the carbon dioxide will escape, and without the gas, the liquid freezes – cue instant fizzy slushy!

It was the little experiments that seemed to make our writers the happiest, estimating how many umbrellas it would take to keep the 305ft tall Statue of Liberty dry from a rainstorm, or how many elephants we could fit into the IET building comes as a welcome distraction from the world of work. There are these so many more experiments like them in this book. It’s pretty basic science, but each page also has a ‘how it works’ box, explaining how the science behind the fun experiments – perfect for children looking for something to do but also for parents wanting to engage restless minds over the summer holidays.

Similar to Keri Smith’s ‘Wreck This Journal’, the book invites you to rip out pages and challenges you to complete tasks based around science before explaining how they works, applying fun activities to real-life situations. Each section focuses on an open-ended question or activity, with space on the page to write, draw or interact with the book before recording findings. While the book itself is aimed at children, the experiments are things that could be fun for the whole family this summer.

#GravityWaves possibly discovered – physics enthusiasts definitely excited – an annotated infographic

February 12, 2016

As predicted by Albert Einstein in his 1916 General Theory of Relativity, astronomers may finally have found the elusive gravitational waves, mysterious ripples in the fabric of space.

As these ripples pass the Earth, local space is alternately stretched and compressed.

Einstein was yesterday said to be “ecstatic” at the news, as he pedalled around the cosmos on his white bicycle.

Albert, Albert, give us a wave

Albert, Albert, give us a wave

The worldwide scientific team behind the project – the LIGO collaboration – observed the warping of space-time generated by the collision of two black holes, a event in space that occurred over a billion light-years from Earth. The findings could offer new insights in to the Big Bang.

The LIGO project involves a number of labs around the world firing lasers through very long tunnels, trying to sense ripples in the fabric of space-time. The anticipated signals are extremely subtle and disturbances picked up by the interferometer detector machines might be merely fractions of the width of an atom in size.

The black hole merger radiated three times the mass of the sun in pure gravitational energy.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Gravitational waves: cooee

Gravitational waves: cooee


Book Review: 30-Second Meteorology – Adam Scaife and Julia Slingo

February 10, 2016

By Jade Fell 

“The storm starts, when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping.” ― Dr. Seuss


Ivy Press, 160 pages, ISBN: 978-1-78240-310-4, Hardback £14.99

Did you know that Horace-Bénédict Der Saussure invented the cyanometer? No? Do you even know what a cyanometer is? Well, having read 30-Second Meteorology I can tell you it is a quantitative scale by which to measure the blueness of the sky.

Want to know more? Read on.

The latest edition from the makers of the 30-second book series – 30-Second Meteorology: The 50 most significant events and phenomena, each explained in half a minute – will introduce you to the science behind, and the history of, the Earth’s most significant atmospherical phenomena in easy to digest, 30-second sections.

The book analyses weather from the basic, to the complex – from chapter one, The Elements, which focuses on the basic features of weather, in the form of air, clouds and rain, right through to the final, Extreme Weather, section which gives time to the wilder side of meteorology, exploring tornadoes, hurricanes, and the terrifyingly named ‘sudden stratospheric warming’, and everything between. Discover the nature of Earth’s atmosphere, the science behind weather forecasts and predictions, and the history of the aptly named trade winds.

If you are put off by the idea of a science book for dummies then rest assured that this book doesn’t just take the science behind meteorological events and cut down into bite-sized chunks

Complete with concise biographical profiles of the top names in meteorological history – including Svante Arrhenius, the man who first noted the link between atmospheric CO2 and the greenhouse effect, and Lewis Fry Richardson, the brain behind modern weather forecasting – and an historical look at the origins of weather systems and the technology used in measuring and predictive metrological events, 30-Second Meteorology is the perfect quick guide to the history of meteorology, which anyone can enjoy.

I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but crack this book open and you can expect to find out, amongst other general knowledge gems, which 17th century Italian physicist invented the barometer.

This book is also beautiful, and a snapshot of the cover image alone doesn’t do that justice. An ugly edition can spoil a good book, but this one does not disappoint – hardbound and fully illustrated with stunning vintage photomontage prints by Nicky Ackland-Snow the book is an actual pleasure to read. I could have spent hours studying the typography and design alone.

Overall, this is a really fun, interesting book to read – a sure-fire success with fans of weather systems and general knowledge alike. With a concise forward by Met Office Chief Scientist Professor Dame Julia Slingo, and contributions from top names in the field of meteorology, 30-Second Meteorology is the perfect book for anyone, outside of the field of academic meteorology, who wants a better understanding of weather systems and the history meteorology as a science.


#Ebola protective suit for healthcare workers wins global competition – an annotated infographic

December 19, 2014

A protective suit devised by a team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, is among the winners in a global competition for solutions to increase the protection and comfort of healthcare workers battling outbreaks of the Ebola virus.

One of the key features of the new suit is that it can be safely removed in seconds, without assistance, rather than the 20 minutes it can currently take wearers of existing protective suits.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Suited and booted to battle Ebola

Suited and booted to battle Ebola

The future of precise time – visiting National Physical Laboratory

December 18, 2014

E&T reporter Tereza Pultarova has visited the ‘guardians of time’ at the National Physical Laboratory to learn how to make future atomic clocks more precise and fit them into hand held devices. Talking to Professor Patrick Gill at the exact same place which redefined the conception of precise time six decades ago, we’ve learned the world may be close to another giant leap in precise time keeping. And let’s not forget to mention the newly launched Quantum Metrology Institute that will help push quantum tech from lab to market.



Scientific highlights of 2014 – an annotated infographic

December 17, 2014

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014 have affected all aspects of modern life, from medicine, to space exploration, to the future of renewable technologies. Boffins from all over the globe have added to our vast banks of scientific knowledge. Thanks, boffins!

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Science achievements 2014

Science achievements 2014

Ebola virus outbreak and how to fight it – an annotated infographic

August 5, 2014

In light of the UK’s Department for Health carrying out tests for the Ebola virus on the elderly female passenger who died after landing at Gatwick Airport from the Gambia on Sunday, today we share this infographic explaining how the Ebola virus propagates itself in the human body. Anyone reading this while eating may wish to check back later before proceeding any further.

The Ebola virus hijacks human cells to inject its genome and turn the cells into virus factories. Recent advances in molecular biology suggest that gene-silencing drugs could block this process.

Over 700 people have already died of Ebola in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone this year in the worst-ever outbreak of the disease.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Ebola infographic

Ebola infographic

#Nanomedicine futures – colon cancer camera pill approved by #FDA – an annotated infographic

April 29, 2014

A tiny indigestible camera pill that journeys through a patient’s large intestine, looking for polyps (tissue growths) and filming as it goes, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration agency.

In this way, the early signs of colon and bowel cancer can be more easily detected. Down the hatch!

E&T magazine covered nanomedicines recently in an article debating what nanomedicines will do for us – eventually. We also have a related feature from a few years ago, looking at quantum dots, nanoshells and nanorods.

Click on the graphic for an expanded view.

Camera pills: what an age we live in

Camera pills: what an age we live in