Sodium scooter delivers tellurium for 2d diodes

Nanotechnology at the level of chemical physics doesn’t normally attract popular attention, but a recent paper in Nature Communications is worth highlighting given its implications for the use of two-dimensional materials in electronics. Graphene is the best known 2d material, and much has been said of its wondrous properties in various applications including electronic components. […]

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Nord Stream 2 is a danger to Russia as much as Europe

US Secretary of state Rex Tillerson has in a speech delivered today in Warsaw warned that the planned Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline between Russia and Germany presents a major threat to European energy security. Tillerson’s concerns are justified, to a smallish degree, but the language is alarmist, and hides the fact that […]

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Capital, politics and techno-ethics – an unwholesome threesome

When political and business leaders pontificate on ethics, as England’s acting prime minister Theresa May has done today in Davos, you should immediately check for your purse. Davos, aka the World Economic Forum, is an annual excuse in mutual backscratching and deal-making among the world’s uber-rich (pun intended) and politicians, democratic or otherwise. The democratic […]

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Fatal parastatal and the collapse of Carillion

For most of my adult life we’ve been fed an ideological line that the state provides nothing of economic value, and all that matters is private enterprise. With Thatcherism and monetarist dogma, the crisis of ownership in 1970s industry made way for deregulation and privatisation of state-owned firms, natural monopolies included. This in turn led […]

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Post-Brexit science to be discussed at parliamentary summit

I see that the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has entered 2018 with a call for a summit focused on science in the UK post-Brexit. Whatever their personal views of Brexit, including whether EU withdrawal will actually happen, the committee members are doing their job, and one hopes that the summit comes up […]

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On the Brussels Brexit breakthrough that isn’t

My reading of the ‘breakthrough’ agreement between the UK and EU is that there is a little progress on the rights of EU27 citizens in Britain following Brexit, and this is welcome. But, when it comes to the detail, England’s lame-duck leader and her Brussels interlocutors are kicking the can down the road. Brexit is […]

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Graphene in Cambridge post-Brexit

Given the omnishambles of current English politics, a cynic might argue that Brexit is now little more than a hypothetical scenario, and an utterly absurd one at that. Still, for the sake of an interesting narrative, let us be generous to the Brexiteers and assume that England’s departure from the EU proceeds as unplanned. My […]

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Should the EU’s next research programme be ERC writ large?

A new report from research and innovation advisory group RISE recommends that the the European Commission move away from funding large-scale R&D projects, and instead focus more on supporting individual researchers. Such a change in research infrastructure would shift the model of Europe’s next framework programme FP9 – successor to the current Horizon 2020 – […]

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Predicting chemical toxicity without animal testing

A study has just been published in the open-access journal Nature Communications which shows how predictions of chemical toxicity in humans can be made without animal testing. If the research results are confirmed, albeit with reference to toxicity tests using animal subjects, the cell-based models could lead to better, more ethical methods for testing the […]

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On climate change, nudge theory and the nanny-state

I have been approached by a hydra-headed PR agency working for an unnamed client which may or may not be a pseudo-libertarian climate-sceptic lobby group known as the Institute for Public Affairs. I say this, as an IPA statement on plain-packaging laws is linked to from the missive. In the message received today, it is […]

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