How productive is organic farming?

Those who argue for conventional agriculture from an ideological as opposed to science-based standpoint may find the answer to this question rather inconvenient. Conventional wisdom is that the use of inorganic fertilisers and pesticides boosts crop yields beyond what is achievable with purely organic systems, and that their use is required if we are to […]

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Fungi that lunch on uranium

This week we’ve had the excellent news that the British government has decided to overrule a faction within the military which insists that the use of cluster munitions is justified. This despite the fact that the bomblets have a tendency to take the limbs and lives of inquisitive children. Another dodgy military technology in the […]

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Buckypapers do the strangest things

Stretch a rubber band and it gets thinner in the middle. This is what intuition leads us to expect of any elastic material. But scientists in the US and Brazil have found that the sheets of carbon nanotubes known as buckypapers can display some very odd behaviour when stretched or uniformly compressed. When a sheet […]

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ICON launches global research needs assessment

With commentators comparing the nanotech research efforts of various countries, and others criticising government agencies for complacency, the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON) has launched a global research needs assessment. Last year ICON brought together more than 70 experts from 13 countries, and convened two workshops aimed at defining a set of research needs for […]

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Quitting smoking – contagious and good for your social life?

Two interesting and related epidemiological studies on smoking were published last week. The first, led by Nicholas Christakis of the Harvard Medical school, looked at patterns in quitting behaviour, and found that smoking cessation tends to occur in network clusters. Those within social networks who continue to smoke are, say the researchers, increasingly pushed to […]

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On the making of a death mask

Taken by George Grantham Bain, New York 1908. This fascinating photograph from a century ago portrays something that is to me a little macabre. The thought of a three dimensional, tactile representation of my post-mortem visage being preserved makes me feel uneasy. Don’t get me wrong; to me the human body is a marvellous and […]

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How would you advertise a bidet on British television?

Almost certainly not like they do in Korea… I rather like that. And what with Slavoj Žižek on the semiotics of crappers there’s a rich seam of cultural material concerning our “number two” bodily functions on which to draw for diversionary and procrastinatory blog posts such as this. That’s the problem with the Brits. “Number […]

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Putting the latest nano-scare in context

If you live in the UK, haven’t spent the past 24 hours holed up in a cave, and have had at least one sensory organ trained on a news source, then you’ve probably heard a particularly scary science story. This concerns a study that has just been published which appears to show that carbon nanotubes […]

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When capitalism and democracy become dissociated

Slavoj Žižek on 1001 things before breakfast… And no-one does it better. The title above is derived from a comment by Žižek near the beginning of the interview clip. Žižek is referring to China, which, if its economy doesn’t collapse through overheating, is set to become the principal political and economic force in the world. […]

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Nanotubes used to build nanomotors driven by heat

Researchers at the Catalan Institute of Nanotechnology and the Autonomous University of Barcelona have created the world’s first nanoscale motor driven by heat gradients. The miniature shuttle device consists of a carbon nanotube covered with a shorter concentric nanotube which can move back and forth along the longer tube, and to which a metal cargo […]

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