Toasting the testicles, or why thermodynamics rules

Electrical engineers Avik Gosh and Mircea Stan at the University of Virginia are looking to use nanotechnology to circumvent the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat moves from a hotter to a colder body with which it is in contact until a state of thermal equilibrium is reached. The researchers’ aim is to […]

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Taking a SMART look at the mountains of the moon

A European Space Agency (ESA) scientist has today presented to the European Planetary Science Congress in Münster some stunning three-dimensional images of mountainous terrain near the lunar south pole. Detlef Koschny‘s pictures were taken with a camera onboard ESA’s Smart-1 lunar orbiter, the flight dynamics of which I did some work on during the mission […]

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Don’t worry, the Sun is not running out of puff

You may have come across reports that the solar wind – that stream of particles that blows unceasingly from the surface of our neighbourhood star – is particularly weak this year. And you may have been a little confused by the stated consequences of this stellar breeziness. If so, fear not; the sun is not […]

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Approved drug trials go unpublished

Medical scientists in California have reported that more than half of all supporting trials for medicines licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) remain unpublished five years after approval. It would be interesting to know how this compares with the situation in Europe. Kirby Lee, Peter Bacchetti and Ida Sim at the University […]

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Why we love a good yarn

As a rule I don’t read the magazine Scientific American, but there is an interesting article by Jeremy Hsu in the latest issue on the pervasiveness of storytelling in what has become a very facts-oriented world whose inhabitants appear to have ever-decreasing attention spans. Storytelling interests me greatly – both reading and listening to tales, […]

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Infrared antennas for solar energy generation

This is a revised version of an article first published in the journal Nanomaterials. Think of solar energy and you will most likely picture in your mind panels fixed to the roofs of buildings that lap up the sun’s rays on fair weather days, and do nothing much at all when the skies are overcast. […]

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Bonkers Boris to annex Kent

Continuing with the trend of siting airports far from the places after which they are named, it seems that London über-mayor Boris Johnson wants to look at replacing Heathrow with a “24 hour airport” on an artificial island off the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. This region Johnson mistakenly describes as the “Thames Estuary”. I […]

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Headline of the week: “Half of maths teachers inadequate”

Maybe the Association of Teachers of Mathematics should sue for hurt feelings. The story here is that the UK’s schools regulator Ofsted has declared that almost half of England’s schools are failing to teach mathematics to a high enough standard. And it accuses maths teachers of putting too much emphasis on “teaching to the test”. […]

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Reiss on creationism in the classroom

There has been much online debate surrounding the case of recently defenestrated science pedagogue Michael Reiss, about whom I wrote a few days ago. A few contributors to that discussion (e.g., Bad Science forum) continue to misrepresent what Professor Reiss said at the Festival of Science meeting in Liverpool, but from what I can see […]

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Royal Society shows how not to deal with the C word

Science pedagogue, bioethicist and Christian priest Michael Reiss has today fallen on his sword, and is no longer the Royal Society‘s director of science education. Last week Reiss made some seemingly controversial remarks concerning creationism and science teaching. At the British Association’s Festival of Science in Liverpool, Reiss expressed a view about how science teachers […]

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