Y is for You!

It's been 25 weeks since we started this epic journey through the alphabet together, and sadly we are nearing the end.  At this critical juncture, just one letter away from the finality of zed, I thought I would bestow my Pharaoh powers on to you, dear readers. Comment below with your burning science questions, and …

X is for Xenophobia

A lot happened in the summer of 1954.  The world's first atomic power station opened in Russia, Alan Turing committed suicide, the CIA set up a coup in Guatemala, food rationing finally ended in the UK, and the first edition of Sports Illustrated was published.  Some pretty big world events, right? You know what else happened? …

U is for Ununoctium and the Island of Stability

Quick, without looking it up: how many elements are there on the periodic table? If I had asked that question before the first hydrogen bomb exploded in 1952, the answer would have been 98.   In that year, humans succeeded in synthesizing the first element that the crucibles of stars and supernovae hadn't supplied to Earth: Einsteinium. Since …

T is for Tardigrade

Boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew.  They're versatile! No, I'm not talking about taters.  I'm talking about tardigrades: quite possibly the most durable creatures on Earth. They might also be the strangest combination of cute and terrifying anybody has ever seen looking through a microscope. Tardigrades, also known as water bears, evolved 500 million …

S is for Simple Rules

Consider the following: schooling fish, roundabouts, segregation, and human consciousness are all examples of the same fundamental property of the world.  It may seem crazy to suggest that roundabouts may be interesting in some sense, but bear with me. The property in question, and this week's topic, is emergence.  In each case individual entities, by following simple …

R is for Ratzilla

An excerpt from my favourite scene in the 1987 film, the Princess Bride: Westley: Rodents of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist. [R.O.U.S. attacks Westley] Westley: Ahhhh!!! Why is that my favourite scene?  Because I laugh every time I watch it.  The R.O.U.S. is just so ridiculous-looking and shows up right after Westley disbelieves its existence. For the devoted …