Exploring hyperspace travel

By Daniel Smith on Jan 15, 13 02:10 PM


In Star Wars, there is no mistaking the dramatic effect of making the "jump to hyperspace" as stars appear to rush past like streaking meteors.

But if it were possible, the reality of interstellar travel would be a lot less spectacular, according to a group of student physicists.

The "hyperdrive" featured in Star Wars enables Han Solo's Millennium Falcon spaceship to take short cuts between stars through a higher dimension of space.

Use Your Optical Illusion

By Daniel Smith on Jan 15, 13 08:15 AM


This cool illusion was composed by Tom Interval, who runs an official blog for the Houdini Museum.

Click to embiggen.

Mongooses talk like us

By Daniel Smith on Jan 14, 13 11:00 AM


Animals may have more to say for themselves than most people think, a new study suggests.

Scientists found that the monosyllabic call of the banded mongoose is structured in a similar way to vowels and consonants in human speech.

They believe the same is true for sounds made by other animals, including frogs and bats.


What are these Earthlings trying to tell us? The above message was broadcast from Earth towards the globular star cluster M13 in 1974.

During the dedication of the Arecibo Observatory, a string of 1s and 0s representing the above diagram was sent.

This attempt at extraterrestrial communication was mostly ceremonial - humanity regularly broadcasts radio and television signals out into space accidentally.

Even were this message received, M13 is so far away we would have to wait almost 50,000 years to hear an answer.

The above message gives a few simple facts about humanity and its knowledge: from left to right are numbers from one to ten, atoms including hydrogen and carbon, some interesting molecules, DNA, a human with description, basics of our Solar System, and basics of the sending telescope. Several searches for extraterrestrial intelligence are currently underway, including one where you can use your own home computer.

Click to embiggen.

Half of all food 'thrown away'

By Daniel Smith on Jan 11, 13 02:02 PM

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As much as half of all the food produced in the world - two billion tonnes worth - ends up being thrown away, a new report claims.

The waste is caused by poor infrastructure and storage facilities, over-strict sell-by dates, "get-one-free" offers, and consumer fussiness, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

Each year countries around the world produce some four billion tonnes of food.
But between 30% and 50% of this total, amounting to 1.2 to 2 billion tonnes, never gets eaten, says the report Global Food; Waste Not, Want Not.

Weird Science Friday Links

By Daniel Smith on Jan 11, 13 08:16 AM


Bored at work? Counting down the hours to the weekend?

Then Weird Science can help (as long as the boss doesn't spot ya!).

Weird Science Friday Links give you a nudge towards stuff you'll hopefully find more diverting than the stack of papers in front of you!

Twenty very interesting photos from the 1930s.

Inside Chernobyl's abandoned hospital, 27 years after Ukrainian nuclear plant went into meltdown.

Top ten ways to turn your retired gadgetry into the technology of the future.

Six real people with mind-blowing mutant superpowers.

Bigger brains come at a cost.


Wrinkly fingers from sitting in the bath for too long could well have a useful purpose, according to research.

Wrinkles that form on skin after being in water improves grip on wet objects, scientists from Newcastle University claim to have shown.

The study compared the results of people taking objects out of water with and without the prune-like skin formation.

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A 900 foot-wide asteroid will make the latest in a series of close approaches to the Earth today.

Scientists have ruled out any possibility of a cataclysmic collision - yet - but there remains a non-negligible chance of the asteroid Apophis smashing into Earth in 2036.

This year Apophis, named after an Egyptian mythological demon, will not get closer than around nine million miles.

The world didn't end after all in 2012 but that's not to say something bad could be around the corner,,, (click to embiggen)


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Earth could have many billions of twins strewn across the Milky Way, a study suggests.
Astronomers estimate that at least 17 billion stars in our galaxy harbour an Earth-sized planet.

This may be a small proportion of the true figure, since it only includes hot worlds that hug their parent stars closely and are easy to detect.

As more data is gathered scientists expect to find more rocky Earth-sized planets in wider orbits.

From the NASA archives

By Daniel Smith on Jan 9, 13 11:00 AM


NASA test out the Apollo command module by dropping it into a big pool of water just to make sure the astronauts didn't come to an unfortunate end.


In its first glimpse of the heavens following the successful December 1999 servicing mission, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope captured this planetary nebula, the glowing remains of a dying, Sun-like star.

This stellar relic, first spied by William Herschel in 1787, is nicknamed the "Eskimo" Nebula (NGC 2392) because, when viewed through ground-based telescopes, it resembles a face surrounded by a fur parka.

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Getting a good night's sleep will be one of the biggest challenges facing the first astronauts travelling to Mars, a study has found.

Poor sleep was a key problem encountered by six volunteers during a 17-month simulated round trip to the Red Planet.

Throughout the mission, which included a month on the surface of Mars, the crew were confined in 550 cubic metre "spacecraft" and cut off from the outside world.

A map of everyone in the USA

By Daniel Smith on Jan 8, 13 08:00 AM


This is a map of every person counted by the 2010 US and 2011 Canadian censuses. The map has 341,817,095 dots - one for each person.

Find the amazing interactive map here.

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Moons like the one depicted in the film Avatar may be among the most common places to find alien life, scientists believe.

Astronomers came to the conclusion after identifying up to 15 new planets orbiting the life-friendly "habitable zones" of stars.

All are giant gaseous worlds similar in size to Jupiter or Neptune.

Use Your Optical Illusion

By Daniel Smith on Jan 7, 13 11:00 AM

Sugihara's Impossible Rooftop - you try to work it out!


Take one Mars, heat, add water and hey presto! This amazing image of a not-so Red Planet comes from software engineer Kevin Gill.

By combining data from several sources - along with a bit of creative license - Kevin has created some amazingimages showing concepts of what a "living Mars" might look like.

Creepiest robots of 2012

By Daniel Smith on Jan 4, 13 10:44 AM

I have a healthy fear of robots so present some of the creepiest mechanical 'beings' from last year.


Just after coming within 25km (15.6 miles) of the surface of Enceladus, NASA's Cassini captured this stunning mosaic as the spacecraft sped away from this geologically active moon of Saturn.

Shark training for fishermen

By Daniel Smith on Jan 3, 13 12:01 AM

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Fishermen are to be given training to identify shark species in a collaboration designed to help efforts to protect the threatened fish.

The scheme by the Co-operative, the Shark Trust and the commercial fishing industry aims to improve the recording of species that are caught by fleets, to boost knowledge of individual shark populations.

It is hoped the project will provide data to help manage shark stocks more sustainably, as more than half of British shark species are threatened with extinction.

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Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith - a long time ago, in a galaxy far away just north of Watford, Daniel fancied himself as a scientist but turned out to be the worst scientist since that bloke who mapped out all those canals on Mars that turned out to be scratches on his telescope's lens. Luckily, he is now not working on the Large Hadron Collider inadvertently creating a black hole that would swallow the world but is safely behind a desk writing this blog, bringing you the fantastical underbelly of nature... weird science.

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