Farewell Ulysses

After nearly 19 years observing the Sun, together with a fascinating flyby of Jupiter in 1992, the joint European Space Agency/NASA Ulysses mission has come to an end. The satellite is this evening being put into a deep electronic coma, and no further contact with the spacecraft is planned. Ulysses has been a hugely successful […]

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British performance on climate change “pathetic”

Britain’s Royal Society has just published a report of a meeting in which leading experts in energy generation discussed the detail of what is required to achieve a low carbon economy. The nine page summary document and accompanying presentations identify major weaknesses in the UK’s approach to climate change. The report focuses on technology and […]

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Worm porn

The video shows a male nematode of the species Caenorhabditis elegans preparing to copulate with a hermaphrodite. There is no cheesy bass flute accompaniment. Honest. If you don’t see the video embedded above, click here. Scientists’ commentary… “He presses the front side of his tail against the hermaphrodite while he backs along and searches for […]

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Our man in Georgia South

It was nice to see my old colleague Vladimir Papitashvili interviewed in New Scientist last week. This native of Georgia is a space physicist with a string of affiliations that include the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and the Danish Meteorological Institute in Copenhagen. Papitashvili was recently appointed head scientist at the Amundsen-Scott base […]

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The desert of a life without love

Solstice sunrise over Shooters Hill, 21 June 2009 One of the songs performed last night by Chris Wood in Cowden Pound was born of the Darwin Song Project. Here, eight writers were holed up for a week in a retreat in rural Shropshire, and each instructed to come up with a musical celebration to mark […]

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In praise of the peasant poet

Happy summer solstice! Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats – what a bunch of ponces. Or at least they were in comparison with the peasant poet John Clare, who really suffered for his art, and was celebrated in song last night by Faversham’s finest, Chris Wood, at a tiny pub in Cowden Pound. It was an intimate folk […]

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“You will respect my authoritah!”

Northern Ireland has had a bit of a week, with the low point being a series of racist attacks on immigrant Romanians, and the high point a pledge by certain Loyalist paramilitaries to partially decommission their weapons. The latest news is that a Catholic priest was assaulted when Republicans rioted as the Orange Order marched […]

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Behold the wisdom of London’s gilded opinionistas!

Regular visitors will be aware that in this web lodge there has been a steady decline in the amount of serious political comment (or textual wank, as I prefer to call it). It can be dull to write, and is no doubt tedious to read, even where you agree with the sentiments expressed. This would […]

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UK Climate Act – flawed and unrealistic

Environmental economist and science policy wonk Roger A Pielke Jr argues that the United Kingdom’s Climate Act (2008) is flawed, being comprised as it is of unrealistic and unobtainable targets. Pielke’s opinion is to be found in a paper published this month in the open-access journal Environmental Research Letters. Based on projections of future population, […]

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Earth’s glow and the search for life elsewhere

In recent years there have been many discoveries of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun. Most of the 350-odd new planets were found by indirect means, such as a tiny orbital wobble, or a dip in the level of light from the parent star as the planet moves in front of it across the […]

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