Archive for the ‘Science & technology’ Category

A review of the science book “The Big Picture: On The Origins Of Life, Meaning And The Universe Itself” by Sean Carroll

April 6th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Carroll is a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology and an award winner for writing science books. As the title suggests, this book is hugely ambitious with a vast and complicated subject matter. At 440 pages, it is probably longer than it needs to be and at points is a struggle to comprehend, […]

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Word of the day: abiogenesis

March 17th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Currently I’m reading a fascinating but challenging book by Sean Carroll, an American theoretical physicist. It has the title “The Big Picture: On the Origins Of Life, Meaning Anad The Universe Itself”. One of the subjects discussed is abiogenesis which the origin of life. The truth is that we do not have a single agreed-upon […]

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Suppose the speed of light has not always been the same?

March 4th, 2017 by Roger Darlington

This week, I found myself with some time to kill and bought a copy of the “New Scientist” magazine. A special feature looked at “five impossible things about the universe that just might be true”. The first of these related to the speed of light. Our current thinking, as embodied in Einstein’s general theory of […]

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Ever heard of the Shapley attractor?

February 1st, 2017 by Roger Darlington

No? You surprise me! It just happens to be the most massive structure in the observable universe. It is a dense “super-cluster” of galaxies some 750 million light years away. So what, I hear you cry. Well, the Shapley attractor is pulling the Milky Way through space at a speed of 1.25 million miles per […]

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The brain is a truly wondrous thing

January 23rd, 2017 by Roger Darlington

Today, I made another hospital visit to a friend who had a serious stroke almost four months ago. He has lost the use of his right arm and right leg and struggles to put together a coherent sentence although, with physical therapy and speech therapy, he is slowly improving and hopes to be allowed home […]

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Word of the day: syzygy

November 14th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

In astronomy, a syzygy (from the Ancient Greek suzugos meaning, “yoked together”) is a straight-line configuration of three celestial bodies in a gravitational system. The word is often used in reference to the Sun, Earth, and either the Moon or a planet, where the latter is in conjunction or opposition. Such a configuration explains why […]

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What do we do if aliens make contact?

October 31st, 2016 by Roger Darlington

As this short article makes clear, Hollywood has all sorts of answers: “There’s ‘Contact’ (we build a space ship), ‘District 9’ (coexist unhappily), ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ (friendly abductions) and ‘Independence Day’ (bang!). Next week, Denis Villeneuve’s ‘Arrival’ will give its answer.” Of course, as the article makes clear, unless the laws of […]

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Watch Mustafa Suleyman at FutureFest 2016

September 24th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

I’m very interested in the future – it’s where I intend to spend the rest of my life. Last weekend, I attended an event called FutureFest and this is one of the talks – a discussion of artificial intelligence –  that I heard: Mustafa Suleyman, Co-founder of Google DeepMind at FutureFest 2016 from Nesta UK […]

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Word of the day: femtosecond

August 28th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

This is an unimaginably small unit of time. One femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second. I came across the term in an obituary of the Nobel prize-winning scientist Ahmed Zewail which opens as follows: “Before 1990, all students of chemistry and adjacent sciences were taught that it was impossible to determine […]

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China launches the world’s first quantum satellite

August 17th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

You probably didn’t notice this but three weeks ago, in my latest column for the trade union Prospect discussing information technology issues, I wrote: “… physicists have been using quantum mechanics to think about new types of communications systems. One idea is to use the power of what is called quantum teleportation – roughly, how […]

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