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Science | The Guardian

Latest Science news, comment and analysis from the Guardian, the world's leading liberal voice

Published: Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:52:16 GMT2018-03-22T07:52:16Z

Copyright: Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. 2018

UK's status as science superpower at risk after Brexit, say MPs

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:57:46 GMT2018-03-21T11:57:46Z

Committee calls on government to commit to next round of EU funding for science and clarify immigration policy

Britain cannot take for granted that it will retain its world-leading position in science and innovation after Brexit, a committee of MPs has warned.

The House of Commons science and technology select committee is concerned that the UK has not yet committed itself to the next round of EU funding which will start accepting bids for research finance in the next few weeks.

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Obesity dulls sense of taste, study suggests

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 18:00:05 GMT2018-03-20T18:00:05Z

Scientists say the findings could help devise new approaches to losing weight, with a greater focus on taste perception

Obesity dulls the sense of taste, according to research that offers new insights into why some people enter a persistent cycle of weight gain.

Researchers found that within eight weeks of becoming obese, mice lost 25% of their taste buds. The findings suggest that weight gain not only changes appetite but may also fundamentally alter the way taste is perceived.

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Cockroaches' DNA reveals why they thrive in filthy places

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:00:43 GMT2018-03-20T16:00:43Z

By identifying which genes are key to the bugs’ survival, scientists hope to find ways to better control them

The secrets of the cockroach’s ability to thrive in some of the most disgusting places on Earth have been discovered in its DNA.

The American cockroach spread around the world after it was introduced to the US from Africa in the early 16th century. Its population exploded as the insects made themselves at home in the dark and moist corners of houses, restaurants and offices, where toilets and kitchens became their favourite haunts.

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Doctors hope for blindness cure after restoring patients' sight

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:22:37 GMT2018-03-19T17:22:37Z

Treatment for common cause of blindness could be available within five years, scientists say

A treatment for the commonest cause of blindness could be available within five years, scientists believe, after revealing the first two patients given a revolutionary stem cell therapy have regained enough vision to be able to read.

The two patients have advanced AMD – age-related macular degeneration – which destroys the central vision. Both were losing their sight. They were, said their surgeon, unable to see a book, let alone the printed letters.

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Virus risk on planes is lower than you might think, study says

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 19:00:18 GMT2018-03-19T19:00:18Z

Unless, that is, you’re directly next to an infected person, or a steward is contagious

Flyers who live in fear of catching bugs on every flight, take heart: the risk of picking up respiratory infections while cruising at 35,000 feet may be slimmer than you think.

Scientists used a computer model to crunch information on how people moved around aircraft on flights lasting three-and-a-half to five hours. They found that passengers sitting one row in front, or one row behind, a person with flu had an 80% risk of catching the bug.

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A Neuroscientist Explains: psychology's replication crisis – podcast

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 06:00:25 GMT2018-03-19T06:00:25Z

Daniel Glaser apprehensively revisits an article of his that saw some fallout due to a study he cited. But that study was not the only one involved in what is now being called a crisis for psychology and further afield

Subscribe and review on iTunes and Acast, and join the discussion on Facebook and Twitter

A Neuroscientist Explains is back for its second season. In each episode, Dr Daniel Glaser and producer Max Sanderson revisit a column from Daniel’s hugely successful weekly column in the Observer Magazine and explore the neuroscience within it. One subject, one interview and many, many interesting questions.

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Abel Prize 2018: Robert Langlands wins for 'unified theory of maths'

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:22:24 GMT2018-03-20T11:22:24Z

Canadian-American wins ‘maths Nobel’ for the Langlands program, which predicts unexpected connections between different fields

Some mathematicians are immortalised by a theorem. Others by a conjecture.

But of the great mathematicians only Robert P Langlands is immortalised by a program.

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Breffu: a slave, a rebel, a fighter – and a woman almost invisible to history

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 08:00:33 GMT2018-03-20T08:00:33Z

The role of women in conflict is often lost to the archaeological record – but Breffu’s story illustrates how sometimes we catch a glimpse of them

Early one November morning in 1733 on St Jan, a small island in the Danish West Indies, two slaves waited outside a small stone house belonging to a family of plantation owners, the Krøyers. The slaves, Breffu and Christian, were listening for the sound of a cannon to be fired by their compatriots at the island’s fort, signalling the defeat of the fort’s soldiers and the beginning of a slave rebellion. The cannon fired and Breffu entered the house, killing the entire Krøyer family.

In May the following year, as the slave rebellion was collapsing, St Jan’s governor, Phillip Gardelin, noted in his correspondence that he had learned with surprise that “one of the leaders of the rebellion, Baeffu [sic], whom none of us knew, and whom we assumed to be a man having murdered my son Pieter Krøyer and his Wife, is a woman!”

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Interstellar visitor ’Oumuamua probably came from a two-star system

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 18:20:14 GMT2018-03-19T18:20:14Z

Astronomers studying the interstellar asteroid ’Oumuamua find that it probably formed around a binary star

The mysterious, cigar-shaped object now called ’Oumuamua was found crossing the solar system last October by robotic telescopes on Hawaii. The trajectory showed it had come from another star system and was already on its way back into interstellar space. This sparked a race against time. Astronomers had just a week before it faded from view.

Identifying its home star system seemed like a hopeless task. Our galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars. Now, however, a new study narrows things down a bit. It concludes that ’Oumuamua, meaning “scout” in Hawaiian, probably came from a binary star.

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Brexit creates big challenges for government science advisers. Can universities help?

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 08:00:27 GMT2018-03-19T08:00:27Z

As the UK disentangles itself from European regulation, it will have to find its own sources of expertise

Brexiters pursue freedom of choice for the UK. After Brexit, even if UK regulations remain harmonised with the EU, it is we – the people of the UK – who will choose to be harmonised. We will be free to optimise consumer protection and negotiate our own trade relationships rather than fit into deals struck by Brussels. That is the theory.

Whatever model of Brexit emerges, government will become responsible for swathes of policy and regulatory functions that have belonged to the EU for decades. Even Brexit enthusiasts would surely agree that there is no point in self-determination unless we use it wisely.

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Modelling the fourth colour: dispatch from de Moriond

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 10:15:31 GMT2018-03-17T10:15:31Z

At the particle physics conference, it’s clear inconclusive LHCb data are stimulating strange new ideas

In the middle of the Rencontres de Moriond particle physics conference in Italy, the scientific talks stopped to allow a standing ovation dedicated to the memory and achievements of my inspirational colleague Stephen Hawking, who we heard had died earlier that day.

The talks quickly resumed, which I think Stephen would have approved of. The most striking thing about the scientific content of the conference this year was that a whole day was dedicated to the weirdness in bottom particles that Tevong You and I wrote about last November. As Marco Nardecchia reviewed in his talk (PDF), bottom particles produced in the LHCb detector in proton collisions are decaying too often in certain particular ways, compared to predictions from the Standard Model of particle physics. Their decay products are coming out with the wrong angles too often compared with predictions, too.

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Have we really found Amelia Earhart's bones?

Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:34:24 GMT2018-03-16T10:34:24Z

A new study claims that the Nikumaroro Island bones are those of the famous aviator. But some researchers remain skeptical

From the headlines last week, you would think that the Amelia Earhart mystery has finally been solved. A new study published in Forensic Anthropology by Richard Jantz claims that a set of human remains found on Nikumaroro Island are likely the bones of the pioneering aviator. If true, this is an exciting development. As the identification of the remains of Richard III illustrated, solving important historical mysteries is extremely satisfying. But unlike the case of Richard III, not all biological anthropologists are convinced by the evidence identifying this mystery skeleton as Earhart.

Earhart, along with her navigator Fred Noonan, disappeared in 1937 in the midst of their famous attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Despite extensive searches, their plane was never recovered. Of the many theories that exist to explain what happened to them, one of the most persistent is the idea that they ended up stranded, and eventually died, on an uninhabited atoll. Skeletal remains discovered on the island in 1940 along with part of a shoe, a Benedictine bottle, and a sextant box are held up as evidence that she was there.

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Why astrology is turning to millennials

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 10:30:05 GMT2018-03-14T10:30:05Z

A recent Observer article insisted millennials are embracing astrology. Like astrology itself, this claim is very questionable

I once wrote a spoof horoscope column for a short-lived comedy publication under the pseudonym “Mystic Bob”. Spoofing horoscopes is a comedy staple, and my own take on it was that given how most horoscopes are largely just a jumble of vague generalisations and unspecific predictions, I figured it would be funny to do ones that were almost terrifyingly precise. The juxtaposition of painstakingly detailed claims in the horoscope section struck me as inherently amusing, So much so that I even repurposed the idea for this very blog some years later.

Hilarious, right? But apparently my mockery was misplaced, what with the recent publication of an Observer article all about how millennials are flocking to astrology. That’ll show me and my snark.

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Why humans are optimised for endurance running, not speed

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:30:02 GMT2018-03-14T08:30:02Z

Other animals have us beat over short distances, but in an interspecies Olympic ultramarathon, Homo sapiens would likely take all the medals

Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile, while a remarkable human milestone, is noteworthy from a comparative physiology standpoint only for its mediocrity. A seminal paper by AV Hill on biomechanics illustrates the point with a table of maximum speeds across the animal kingdom – humans are outperformed by almost every animal on the list, including the wild donkey, the ostrich and the elephant. We just about beat the black rhinoceros, while the cheetah would complete the mile in about a minute.

Related: An updated formula for marathon-running success

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Dinosaurs in the Wild: a palaeontologist's view

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:30:00 GMT2018-03-14T06:30:00Z

A new experience transports you back 67 million years to view time-travelling scientists studying dinosaurs in the wild

Where most efforts at “edutainment” fall down is on being overly bombastic, with too little actual science and far too much whizz-bang. But Dinosaurs in the Wild, a mixture of puppets, models and 3D films (all accompanied by live actors), merges the two brilliantly and is both fun for all ages and genuinely absorbing. It’s also impossible to come away without learning a great deal about the world of the dinosaurs and how they lived.

The central conceit is simple but well presented – tourists are offered the chance to “travel back in time” to a working research lab in what are now the fossil-rich beds of Montana, but 67 million years ago was a location full of dinosaurs, including Triceratops, Tyrannosaurus and the colossal Alamosaurus among others. You get to move between various research stations and see dinosaurs being studied and lab work going on to learn about their biology and behaviour, and also see outside to dinosaurs in the wild.

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One in 10 people have class A drugs on their fingertips, study says

Thu, 22 Mar 2018 07:00:01 GMT2018-03-22T07:00:01Z

Traces of cocaine or heroin were found on 13% of people who said they did not take the drugs

More than one in 10 people who have never used class A drugs may have traces of cocaine or heroin on their fingertips, forensic scientists say.

Researchers found tiny amounts of the illegal substances on 13% of volunteers who took part in a study after declaring they did not take the drugs.

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Helmet-shaped brain scanner allows wearers to move around

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 18:00:12 GMT2018-03-21T18:00:12Z

Scientists hope it will help children with neurological and mental disorders and reveal how brains handle social situations

The world’s first brain scanner that can be worn as people move around has been invented, by a team who hope the contraption can help children with neurological and mental disorders and reveal how the brain handles social situations.

The new scalp caps – made on 3D printers – fit closely to the head, so can record the electromagnetic field produced by electrical currents between brain cells in much finer detail than previously.

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Lower back pain being treated badly on a global scale, study says

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 17:00:11 GMT2018-03-21T17:00:11Z

Vast numbers of people receive high-tech interventions that actually worsen the condition

Vast numbers of people with lower back pain across the world are being harmed, not helped, by the surgery, injections and dangerous opioid drugs they are given, according to a major new report.

More than 540 million people suffer low back pain, the commonest cause of disability in the world. But their condition is often being made worse by costly high-tech interventions and bed rest in what could amount to medical negligence on a global scale.

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Spring equinox 2018: it's official, winter is over – despite the snow

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 11:18:29 GMT2018-03-21T11:18:29Z

It may not feel like spring has arrived, but the days are getting longer and the sun has crossed the celestial equator

With patches of snow still covering the ground in parts of Britain, it may not seem like the first day of spring. But as of 4.15am Tuesday morning, winter was officially over for another year.

The spring, or vernal, equinox marks the point in space and time when the sun moves across the celestial equator, an imaginary circle projected into the sky above the real equator.

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It's beer, but not as we know it: scientists dispense with need for hops

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 01:00:26 GMT2018-03-21T01:00:26Z

Scientists in the US used DNA-editing software to splice in genes from mint and basil plants

Scientists in the US have created a more sustainable pint after discovering a way of getting the distinct hoppy taste into craft beer without the need for water-intensive hops.

Related: Belgian bars put the boot into tourists who steal beer glasses

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Stephen Hawking's ashes to be buried near Newton at Westminster Abbey

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 16:48:23 GMT2018-03-20T16:48:23Z

Physicist’s remains to be interred in thanksgiving service near memorials to other famous scientists

Stephen Hawking’s ashes will be interred at Westminster Abbey
near the grave of Sir Isaac Newton during a thanksgiving service later this
year, a spokesman for the abbey has said.

The dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, said: “It is entirely fitting that the remains of Prof Stephen Hawking are to be buried in the abbey, near those of distinguished fellow scientists. Sir Isaac Newton was buried in the abbey in 1727. Charles Darwin was buried beside Isaac Newton in 1882.

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Pressure on National Portrait Gallery over £1m gift linked to drug crisis

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 15:08:31 GMT2018-03-20T15:08:31Z

British institutions face questions over donations from Sackler family

The National Portrait Gallery is facing scrutiny over a proposed £1m donation from the Sackler family following allegations that the American dynasty’s fortune is tainted by the US opioid crisis.

The gallery is one of a number of British cultural and academic institutions in line for substantial donations from members of the Sackler family, which is locked in a growing controversy over its connection to one of the worst drug crises in US history.

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Richard Dawkins to give away copies of The God Delusion in Islamic countries

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 12:19:18 GMT2018-03-20T12:19:18Z

Author and the Centre for Inquiry planning free ebook versions of his books in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Indonesian following a ‘stirring towards atheism’ in some Islamic countries

Richard Dawkins is responding to what he called the “stirring towards atheism” in some Islamic countries with a programme to make free downloads of his books available in Arabic, Urdu, Farsi and Indonesian.

The scientist and atheist said he was “greatly encouraged” to learn that the unofficial Arabic pdf of the book had been downloaded 13m times. Dawkins writes in The God Delusion about his wish that the “open-minded people” who read it will “break free of the vice of religion altogether”. It has sold 3.3m copies worldwide since it was published in 2006 – far fewer than the number of Arabic copies that Dawkins believes to have been downloaded illegally.

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Fantastic beasts: everything you need to know about conservation studies

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:01:14 GMT2018-03-21T00:01:14Z

The conservation sector requires postgrads with passion, curiosity and a commitment to science

Giving a new tamarin monkey a health check or investigating why a gemsbok died are some of the more hands-on activities on the MSc in wild animal health at the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London (ZSL). Wild animal care and conservation are fiercely competitive areas and a postgraduate course combined with volunteering in the field will boost your career chances no end, say course leaders.

As awareness of the fragility of ecosystems grows, universities around the country are seeing a rise in interest in conservation-focused postgraduate degrees.

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Does testosterone make you mean?

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 06:00:31 GMT2018-03-20T06:00:31Z

The ‘risk-taking’ male hormone is blamed for everything from sexual violence to the financial crisis, but some researchers are starting to question the supposed links

Charles Ryan has a clinic in San Francisco at which he regularly relieves men of their testosterone. This “chemical castration”, as it is sometimes known, is not a punishment, but a common treatment for prostate cancer. Testosterone doesn’t cause the disease (currently the third most deadly cancer in the UK), but it fuels it, so oncologists use drugs to reduce the amount produced by the testicles.

Ryan gets to know his patients well over the years, listening to their concerns and observing changes in them as their testosterone levels fall. Because it involves the so-called “male hormone”, the therapy poses existential challenges to many of those he treats. They know that every day, millions of people – from bodybuilders and cheating athletes to menopausal women – enhance their natural levels of testosterone with the aim of boosting their libido, muscle mass, confidence and energy. So what happens when production is suppressed? Might they lose their sex drive? Their strength? Their will to win?

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‘Steve’: the mystery purple aurora that rivals the northern lights

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 16:41:08 GMT2018-03-19T16:41:08Z

The phenomenon of ‘Steve’ - a glowing arc seen in Alberta, Canada by amateur scientists – has now been named by Nasa

A group of citizen scientists in Alberta, Canada, weren’t sure what the glowing purple (sometimes green) arc in the night sky they had been photographing was. Nor were the scientists Elizabeth MacDonald, a space physicist at Nasa, and Eric Donovan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Calgary; the group – known as the Alberta Aurora Chasers, who photograph the aurora borealis, or northern lights – showed them their pictures in a pub. It wasn’t, Donovan told them, a proton aurora (the northern lights are normally a result of electrons colliding with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere), as they had thought. “They pulled up this beautiful photograph of this thing,” Donovan told the New York Times last year. “And I’m like, ‘I don’t know what that is, but it’s not the proton aurora.’” It needed a name: “Steve” sounded as good as any. [It was inspired by a scene in the 2006 animation Over the Hedge, in which the animal characters are confronted with a mysterious row of shrubs.]

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Starwatch: see a star 'wink' as the moon blocks its light

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 21:30:14 GMT2018-03-18T21:30:14Z

In occultation events on 22 March in Europe, 75 Tauri – and then Aldebaran – in the Hyades cluster will seem to disappear from view

The waxing crescent moon passes through the rich naked-eye star cluster known as the Hyades during the evening of 22 March.

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Stephen Hawking, an appreciation: ‘He had an unquenchable zest for life’

Sun, 18 Mar 2018 08:30:04 GMT2018-03-18T08:30:04Z

Science journalist Roger Highfield remembers Stephen Hawking’s great determination – a steely defiance of the odds that took him to infinity and beyond

Yes, he was the world’s best-known scientist, the galaxy’s most unlikely celebrity, a brilliant mind trapped in a failing body, a global inspiration to disabled people, and so much more.

But there was also a glint of steel in Stephen Hawking. All the accounts that try to capture the spirit of Hawking’s work tend to gloss over a grittier ingredient that was harder to convey: a relentless drive and unquenchable zest for life that has allowed him to achieve so much despite his huge physical challenges. As his daughter Lucy would often say, he was “enormously stubborn”.

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Scientists on brink of overcoming livestock diseases through gene editing

Sat, 17 Mar 2018 09:30:30 GMT2018-03-17T09:30:30Z

Breeders will soon be able to produce animals that are immune to disease, says UK’s top animal scientist

Farming is poised for a gene editing revolution that could overcome some of the world’s most serious livestock diseases, the UK’s top animal scientist has said.

Prof Eleanor Riley, director of the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, said new techniques will soon allow breeders to genetically engineer disease resilience and, in some cases, immunity into pedigree animals, saving farmers millions of pounds a year.

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​It shouldn’t take a nerve agent attack before UK scientists are supported

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 07:17:04 GMT2018-03-21T07:17:04Z

A new £48m chemical weapons defence centre is welcome, but the scientists keeping us safe have faced years of funding cuts

The city of Salisbury has been thrust into the international spotlight after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The area is also home to one of the UK’s most important government defence agencies – the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl). The facility is over 100 years old and houses more than 3,000 scientists, engineers and technology specialists.

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Donald Trump isn’t waging war on science. He just doesn’t care

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 07:00:04 GMT2018-03-21T07:00:04Z

Under Trump, US science policy is on autopilot and largely directionless. Here is how to tackle this lack of leadership

The first time the word “science” appeared in a tweet by Donald Trump was on 13 September 2012, long before he became US president, when he wrote: “Wake Up America! See article: ‘Israeli Science: Obama Birth Certificate is a Fake’.” Since becoming president, Trump has not mentioned the words “science” or “technology” in his tweets, reflecting not so much disdain for these issues but an abject lack of interest.

After the 2016 election, the benign neglect of science policy was not an option anticipated by many, including Jack Stilgoe and me on this blog (though Robert Cook-Deegan did). It may not be a bad thing for the scientific community, but it does leave policy gaps that need to be filled.

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I'm following the footsteps of my Aboriginal ancestors, the first astronomers | IndigenousX

Wed, 21 Mar 2018 00:06:15 GMT2018-03-21T00:06:15Z

My mind was blown away when learning about Kamilaroi and Boorong astronomy

I like to talk about astronomy a lot. No, scratch that, I love to talk about astronomy. All. The. Time. Thank goodness I do just that for a living. I’ve worked at Sydney Observatory for the past two years as an astronomy educator, which is essentially my glorified term for a tour guide. My favourite part about being an astronomy educator is answering questions, although there is one question that I often find difficult to answer, “What is your favourite part about space?”

When you have a passion for such a huge subject with so many great subtopics it really is hard to pick just one. If you go outside on a clear night, the air whistling with a cool evening breeze, no matter whether you’re in the city or out in country, you can look up and see some amazing things. The stars are a gorgeous sight just by themselves, but for an astronomer like me they are just the beginning of an endless cosmos.

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Empty half the Earth of its humans. It's the only way to save the planet | Kim Stanley Robinson

Tue, 20 Mar 2018 11:00:37 GMT2018-03-20T11:00:37Z

There are now twice as many people as 50 years ago. But, as EO Wilson has argued, they can all survive – in cities

Discussing cities is like talking about the knots in a net: they’re crucial, but they’re only one part of the larger story of the net and what it’s supposed to do. It makes little sense to talk about knots in isolation when it’s the net that matters.

Related: The 100 million city: is 21st century urbanisation out of control?

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Is the way we think about overpopulation racist? | Fred Pearce

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 07:00:26 GMT2018-03-19T07:00:26Z

Half the world lives in urban areas, yet environmental concerns about megacities often focus on developing economies. But consumption is as important as population

It is just 50 years since the publication of Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb galvanised the global discussion on overpopulation. Published in 1968, his million-selling Malthusian polemic suggested that over-breeding poor countries were killing the planet. And it began in a megacity: India’s capital, Delhi.

Related: The 100 million city: is 21st century urbanisation out of control?

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Cosmology's brightest star Stephen Hawking dies aged 76 – video

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 06:38:03 GMT2018-03-14T06:38:03Z

Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions, has died aged 76.

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Detailed thermal imaging reveals heat map of a badminton player – video

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 08:00:13 GMT2018-02-14T08:00:13Z

Technology behind thermal imaging is advancing, enabling cameras to produce a detailed heat map of the human body. In this sequence the blood vessels of a badminton player can been seen expanding, becoming brighter and lighter as the body becomes hotter with movement

Photography: Robert Hollingworth

Camera loan: FLIR

Thanks to Stuart Wardell and Wimbledon Racquets and Fitness Club. 

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Watch ants rescue their wounded comrades – video

Wed, 14 Feb 2018 07:06:11 GMT2018-02-14T07:06:11Z

Researchers have observed African Matabele ants treating their wounded comrades. The ants, frequently injured by termites, appear to apply an antibiotic saliva to the wounds of their injured. 

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Single atoms, soap bubbles and soil: scientists capture their research – in pictures

Mon, 12 Feb 2018 13:23:44 GMT2018-02-12T13:23:44Z

The winning entries from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) photo competition 2018, which allows researchers and doctoral students to share another side of their work

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Timelapse of Elon Musk's dummy astronaut orbiting Earth in a Tesla – video

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 09:42:42 GMT2018-02-07T09:42:42Z

Elon Musk's Starman can be seen sitting in $100,000 Tesla Roadster navigating Earth. Musk's plan is for the car, with the message 'don't panic' on the dashboard and David Bowie playing through the speakers, to cruise through high-energy radiation belts that circuit the planet, towards deep space

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Falcon Heavy, world’s most powerful rocket, successfully launches – video

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 22:34:30 GMT2018-02-06T22:34:30Z

SpaceX launch Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, into space from its launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The successful liftoff makes it the most powerful in operation and second only to the Apollo era

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Stephen Hawking, science's brightest star, dies aged 76

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 14:54:15 GMT2018-03-14T14:54:15Z

The physicist and author of A Brief History of Time has died at his home in Cambridge. His children said: ‘We will miss him for ever’

Tributes poured in on Wednesday to Stephen Hawking, the brightest star in the firmament of science, whose insights shaped modern cosmology and inspired global audiences in the millions. He died at the age of 76 in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Related: A brief history of Stephen Hawking's Brief History of Time

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How to survive gaslighting: when manipulation erases your reality

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 10:00:05 GMT2017-03-16T10:00:05Z

Ariel Leve offers strategies to stay resilient in the face of psychological abuse that distorts the truth – much like what’s coming from Trump’s administration

Right now, many Americans listening to their president are experiencing what I experienced frequently a child. Nothing means anything, and reality is being canceled. There is confusion, there is chaos, everything is upside down and inside out. When facts and truth are being discredited, how is it possible to know what to believe, especially when it comes from someone we expect to embody both ethics and etiquette?

Related: Ariel Leve: 'I was the parent and my mother was the child'

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'Mind over matter': Stephen Hawking – obituary by Roger Penrose

Wed, 14 Mar 2018 08:42:41 GMT2018-03-14T08:42:41Z

Theoretical physicist who made revolutionary contributions to our understanding of the nature of the universe

The image of Stephen Hawking – who has died aged 76 – in his motorised wheelchair, with head contorted slightly to one side and hands crossed over to work the controls, caught the public imagination, as a true symbol of the triumph of mind over matter. As with the Delphic oracle of ancient Greece, physical impairment seemed compensated by almost supernatural gifts, which allowed his mind to roam the universe freely, upon occasion enigmatically revealing some of its secrets hidden from ordinary mortal view.

Of course, such a romanticised image can represent but a partial truth. Those who knew Hawking would clearly appreciate the dominating presence of a real human being, with an enormous zest for life, great humour, and tremendous determination, yet with normal human weaknesses, as well as his more obvious strengths. It seems clear that he took great delight in his commonly perceived role as “the No 1 celebrity scientist”; huge audiences would attend his public lectures, perhaps not always just for scientific edification.

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10 grammar rules you can forget: how to stop worrying and write proper

Mon, 30 Sep 2013 16:44:00 GMT2013-09-30T16:44:00Z

Guardian Style Guide author David Marsh set out to master perfect grammatical English – but discovered that 'correct' isn't always best. Here are the 10 grammar laws you no longer need to check

Plus: five rules you should remember
What pop music can teach you about building sentences
A few words on punctuation

Every situation in which language is used – texting your mates, asking for a pay rise, composing a small ad, making a speech, drafting a will, writing up an experiment, praying, rapping, or any other – has its own conventions. You wouldn't expect a politician being interviewed by Kirsty Wark about the economy to start quoting Ludacris: "I keep my mind on my money, money on my mind; but you'se a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind." Although it might make Newsnight more entertaining.

This renders the concept of what is "correct" more than a simple matter of right and wrong. What is correct in a tweet might not be in an essay; no single register of English is right for every occasion. Updating your status on Facebook is instinctive for anyone who can read and write to a basic level; for more formal communication, the conventions are harder to grasp and this is why so many people fret about the "rules" of grammar.

Continue reading...'To go boldly?' 'Negative, Captain, it's fine to split an infinitive.' Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar'To go boldly?' 'Negative, Captain, it's fine to split an infinitive.' Photograph: Cine Text/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

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How dangerous is Jordan B Peterson, the rightwing professor who 'hit a hornets' nest'?

Wed, 07 Feb 2018 15:20:49 GMT2018-02-07T15:20:49Z

Since his confrontation with Cathy Newman, the Canadian academic’s book has become a bestseller. But his arguments are riddled with ‘pseudo-facts’ and conspiracy theories

The Canadian psychology professor and culture warrior Jordan B Peterson could not have hoped for better publicity than his recent encounter with Cathy Newman on Channel 4 News. The more Newman inaccurately paraphrased his beliefs and betrayed her irritation, the better Peterson came across. The whole performance, which has since been viewed more than 6m times on YouTube and was described by excitable Fox News host Tucker Carlson as “one of the great interviews of all time”, bolstered Peterson’s preferred image as the coolly rational man of science facing down the hysteria of political correctness. As he told Newman in his distinctive, constricted voice, which he has compared to that of Kermit the Frog: “I choose my words very, very carefully.”

The confrontation has worked wonders for Peterson. His new book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos has become a runaway bestseller in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France, making him the public intellectual du jour. Peterson is not just another troll, narcissist or blowhard whose arguments are fatally compromised by bad faith, petulance, intellectual laziness and blatant bigotry. It is harder to argue with someone who believes what he says and knows what he is talking about – or at least conveys that impression. No wonder every scourge of political correctness, from the Spectator to InfoWars, is aflutter over the 55-year-old professor who appears to bring heavyweight intellectual armature to standard complaints about “social-justice warriors” and “snowflakes”. They think he could be the culture war’s Weapon X.

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China's Tiangong-1 space station will crash to Earth within weeks

Tue, 06 Mar 2018 01:13:00 GMT2018-03-06T01:13:00Z

Experts say it is impossible to plot where module will re-enter the atmosphere, but the chance is higher in parts of Europe, US, Australia and New Zealand

China’s first space station is expected to come crashing down to Earth within weeks, but scientists have not been able to predict where the 8.5-tonne module will hit.

The US-funded Aerospace Corporation estimates Tiangong-1 will re-enter the atmosphere during the first week of April, give or take a week. The European Space Agency says the module will come down between 24 March and 19 April.

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LSD blurs line between ourselves and others, study finds

Mon, 19 Mar 2018 17:55:21 GMT2018-03-19T17:55:21Z

Drugs targeting similar brain networks as LSD could help with a variety of mental disorders

Apart from the wide-eyed bike ride home from the lab, his neighbour turning into a witch, the threatening behaviour of his furniture and the futile battle to save his ego from collapse, Dr Albert Hofmann appeared to enjoy his first trip on LSD.

Now, 75 years after the Swiss chemist witnessed the full effects of his psychedelic invention, scientists have discovered fresh details of how the drug affects the brain. Scans of healthy volunteers show that less than half the dose that left Hofmann cowering on his sofa makes a person’s sense of self disintegrate.

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Ubble: the online test to predict if you'll die within five years

Wed, 03 Jun 2015 23:01:06 GMT2015-06-03T23:01:06Z

Scientists use questions on smoking, how briskly you walk and how many cars you own to find your risk of death

If you are a middle-aged man and want to know if you are going to die in the next five years, you simply need to ask yourself how healthy you think you are.

Whether you would rate your health as excellent, good, fair or poor is a better predictor of death in the next five years for men aged 40 to 70 than physical measures including blood pressure and pulse rate, according to scientists writing in the Lancet medical journal. Other significant questions include how briskly you walk and how many cars you own.

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