Archive for the ‘Science & technology’ Category


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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Why does the periodic table of elements look like it does?

August 15th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

At this time of year, when I have few work meetings, I like to attend short courses at the City Literary Institute in central London. So I recently attended a course on the periodic table. What does the periodic table look like? Check it out here. How many elements are there? When the Russian scientist Dmitri […]

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How long would you like to live? Welcome to the Blue Zone …

August 13th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

“Four areas of the world have been designated as Blue Zones by scientists: Okinawa island in Japan, parts of central-eastern Sardinia, the Nicoya peninsula in northwestern Costa Rica, and the Greek island of Ikaria. Certain traits link most of these areas, where exceptional longevity has been proven. First, most of the populations have been isolated […]

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Are you hooked to your digital devices? Do you fancy a ‘digital detox’?

August 4th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

Fifteen million UK internet users have undertaken a ‘digital detox’ in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen, according to major new Ofcom research. The study of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers reveals how our reliance on the internet is affecting people’s personal and working lives, leading many to […]

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A review of “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics”

July 30th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

When I studied physics at school half a century ago, the universe was explained by the steady state theory but now the Big Bang theory is very much the consensus, while I was taught that there was nothing smaller than electrons, protons and neutrons but now we have discovered quarks, gluons, neutrinos and more. It’s […]

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Word of the day: indexical

July 29th, 2016 by Roger Darlington

I’ve been reading a short, but fascinating, book titled “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics”. In the process, I came across a word which was new to me: indexical. I have learned that, in linguistics and in philosophy of language, an indexical behaviour or utterance points to (or indicates) some state of affairs. For example, ‘I’ […]

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