Carl Sagan’s influence on space exploration

6th April 2016

Photograph of Carl Sagan with a model of the Viking lander.

In the 1960s, science journalism in the USA was sparse and mostly performed by journalists with little or no scientific background. Science was perceived as minimising the need for pseudoscience, but it didn’t fill the spiritual void this left in people. »

Cycles of destruction

28th January 2016

Photograph of the Ouarkziz Impact Crater in Algeria.

Over 180 impact craters have been identified on Earth, and most of these were discovered in the first half of the 20th century. Impacts have been associated with mass extinctions events since the 1980s, with strong evidence coming from the Chicxulub Crater, which was linked to the extinction of the dinosaurs about 65 million years ago. »

Supermassive Black Holes and Stellar Consumption

27th December 2015

Artist’s impression of a flare emanating from a supermassive black hole.

Last month, a team of scientists led by Dr Sjoert van Velzen of Johns Hopkins University and Dr Gemma Anderson of ICRAR (the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research) in Perth discovered what happens when a supermassive black hole devours a star. »

Planetary formation and the probability of other civilisations existing in the Universe

24th November 2015

Painting showing astronauts working on a space colony that contains land and oceans.

Our understanding of planets has increased dramatically in the last decade, particularly since the launch of NASA’s Kepler satellite in 2009. This has resulted in the detection of thousands of extra-solar planets, and led to a better understanding of how planets form. »

Water in Space

29th September 2015

Mountain on Mars that contains flowing water.

Yesterday, NASA announced that they've found evidence of liquid water currently flowing on Mars. This began with the discovery of dark streaks on the sides of several craters. These are up to a few hundred meters long, and appear seasonally. »

Would we know if an alien spacecraft enters the Solar System?

26th August 2015

Photograph of Earth from space.

It seems likely that alien life has evolved somewhere in the Galaxy, given that there may be millions of habitable planets, and many of these may have existed for billions of years. If just one species in the whole of the Galaxy were able to explore using self-replicating spacecraft, then they might be able to place probes across the Galaxy within a million years or so. »

A Brief History of Pluto

29th July 2015

Mountains on Pluto

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are all visible with the naked eye, and can be distinguished from stars because they move around the sky in a different way. The orbits of the planets were determined in the 1600s, and confirmed with telescopes, which had just started to be used in astronomy. »

Trans and genderqueer scientists

16th July 2015

Transgender Pride flag

Many scientists used to think that there are only two genders, male and female, and that a person’s gender can be solely determined from their genitals. We now know that this is not the case. While a person’s sex can, by definition, be determined from their genitals, gender is much more complex than this. »

Robot Dreams

7th July 2015

Image created using Deep Dream

Last month, a team of software engineers working for Google released images created by programs designed for image recognition software. Image recognition software has multiple uses: the police, for example, could potentially use it to search for images of suspects or missing people using CCTV footage, nature enthusiasts could use it to identify plants or animals, and shoppers could use it to identify items of clothing. »

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