How Big is the the Universe?

Our planet, Earth, is one of eight planets orbiting the sun. The sun is merely one of many hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy known as the Milky Way. And the Milky Way is merely one of many trillions of galaxies in the known universe. The universe is so large that it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine its size. But let’s try and do exactly that. Let’s dig a little deeper and see if we can figure out just how big it really is.  Read More →

How Species Extinction Affects Ecosystems

Research by the University of Southampton has found that methods used to predict the effect of species extinction on ecosystems could be producing inaccurate results. This is because current thinking assumes that when a species vanishes, its role within an environment is lost too. Read More →

Can Nuclear Power Meet Future Energy Demands?

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An international team of scientists suggests that we must ramp up energy production by nuclear power if we are to succeed in warding off the worst effects of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change. Writing in the International Journal of Global Energy Issues [Citation below], the team suggests that beginning in 2020, we could achieve an annual electricity output of 20 terawatts without needing to develop carbon dioxide trapping and storage technology for the tens of billions of tons of emissions that would otherwise drive global warming to catastrophic levels. Read More →

Solving a 300-Year Old Murder With DNA Analysis

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A skeleton was found during construction work at Leine castle in Niedersachsen, Germany in the summer of 2016. This is where Swedish count Philip Christoph Königsmarck disappeared 322 years ago – could it be him? Lund University in Sweden follows the dangerous love story between Philip Königsmarck and Georg Ludwig’s wife Sophia Dorothea through the love letters they wrote to each other, currently preserved at the University Library. Read More →

The Moral Implications of Autonomous Car Design

Autonomous Cars

The first autonomous vehicles are expected in the next few years. They should ease traffic and reduce pollution and accidents compared with today’s cars. But these self-driving cars (SDC) will face tragic dilemmas: for example, they will have to choose between saving the lives of their passengers or those of pedestrians. Read More →

How Planetary Age Reveals Water Content

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Water is necessary for life as we know it, but too much water is bad for habitability. Therefore, to study the habitability of extrasolar planets, determining the abundance of water is a key element. Yann Alibert, Science Officer of PlanetS at the University of Bern, shows that the observation of exoplanets at different ages can be used to set statistical constraints on their water content – an important result for future space missions. Read More →

Planetary Striptease

Planet being stripped by host star's heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planet being stripped by host star’s heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planets of the “super-Earth” category lose their atmosphere through too great proximity to their star. That is the result of an international research project coordinated by astronomer Dr. Mia Lundkvist, who is doing post-doc research at the Königstuhl observatory of Heidelberg University’s Centre for Astronomy (ZAH). Read More →

Five Obscure Facts About Albert Einstein

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Many people have read that little Albert’s parents thought he was mentally deficient because he refused to talk for the first five or six years of his life. You may even know that he was somewhat of a prankster. But here’s some stuff you may not know about the famous physicist. Read More →

2015: An Exciting Year for Space Research

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Image: NASA

With war, terrorism and climate change dominating the headlines of 2015, it’s easy for good news to get lost in the noise. However, 2015 also saw many more positive, albeit lesser known headlines, including those highlighting some of the most impressive scientific discoveries of recent times. In the world of astronomy and exploration, 2015 will hopefully be remembered as the year Pluto was explored by a robotic space probe for the first time and water was discovered on Mars. Read More →

Packaging and Unpacking the Genome

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DNA represents a dynamic form of information, balancing efficient storage and access requirements. Packaging approximately 1.8m of DNA into something as small as a cell nucleus is no mean feat, but unpacking it again to access the required sections and genes? That requires organization.

In a nutshell, this is achieved through DNA condensed and packaged as chromatin, a complex of DNA and proteins called histones, which is constantly modified as the DNA is accessed. Read More →