Author: elsa

Peering into the Past

Dan Brubaker and a mishmash of know-nothings convene at the Dr Ralph L Buice, Jr Observatory, Atlanta A low, steady rumble vibrates through the air
and under my feet. It is the sound of a garage door closing, only this is no garage. The single curved wall that surrounds the room remains remarkably still. It
is the mechanical domed ceiling perched overhead
that is causing the ruckus, that is rotating with careful precision

Time Flies

Philip Myers tells us how scientists unravelled the secrets of time telling using the humble vinegar fly You cannot win a Nobel Prize if you are dead. Last year, the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine was awarded for the ‘elucidation of the molecular mechanisms controlling circadian rhythms’, and the living received the credit. But some missed out – some who had passed away, who had been central to the

Why Limit Ourselves to Silverware?

Think goldware, zincware and copperware! Bianca Provost explains what Professor Mark Miodownik’s work can tell us about materials and food With every spoonful of food you eat, you are 
also consuming billions of atoms worth of the spoon’s material. It should therefore come as no surprise that your spoon’s composition affects the taste of your
meal. Dr Mark Miodownik, Professor of Materials and Society as well as director of the Institute

Review: Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy

“… reveals the insidious impact that Big Data algorithms
– in her words, ‘Weapons of Math Destruction’ – have on our society“ What do job recruitment, teachers’ yearly evaluations, bank loans, probation decisions, health insurance and online advertising have in common? They are increasingly decided not by humans, but by algorithms. At first, this may sound like a good idea; we are notoriously bad at being objective and unbiased. What better

Medicine’s Forgotten Warriors

Laura Upstone tells the story of virus based medicine in the war against bacteria, the wonder drug that almost was In this age of modern medicine it is easy to
forget that only a century ago, an infected scratch from a bramble could have cost you your life. Alexander Fleming’s discovery of the first antibiotic – penicillin – opened up a wealth of opportunities. Now an infected cut is just a

Review: The Secret Language of Anatomy

“… with a sense of wonder and whimsy, this book reveals the thoughtfulness of anatomists through the ages” Did you know you have a harp in your heart (chordae tendinae), a snail in your ear (cochlea) and a beehive in your lungs (alveoli)? In their newly released book The Secret Language of Anatomy, Cecilia Brassett, Emily Evans and Isla Fay explore the etymological roots of anatomical terms in an elegant

Breaking up at Sea:
 The Great Collapse of an Ice Shelf

Dr Alison Banwell tells Silas Yeem Kai Ean and Seán Thór Herron how ice shelves break up In 2002, the Larsen B ice shelf disintegrated into the Antarctic ocean in a mere span of two weeks. A floating mass of ice about the size of Cambridgeshire simply disappeared into the sea. This spectacular event not only inspired the lyrics to a British Sea Power song and sparked mass panic amongst

Stick Spiders from Different Hawaiian Islands Evolve in Parallel

Esther Pilla reports on a discovery in evolution It is very rare for scientists to catch examples of parallel, convergent evolution, but earlier in March Professor Rosemary G. Gillespie and her colleagues from the University of California, Berkeley, published
a study that highlighted parallel evolution in Hawaiian stick spiders. The group analysed a genus of spider, Ariamnes, whose ancestor probably first arrived on the oldest Hawaiian islands and later spread to

The Birds at the End of the World

Euan Furness talks to Dr Michael Brooke, Curator of Ornithology at the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology, about his work finding birds in remote places Even today, hundreds of scientists around the world are discovering new and amazing things that have been hiding right under our noses. Some are also discovering things that were not really hiding at all but were just a very long way away from anyone interested

Age Changes in Epigenetic Methylation Correlate with Age

Rachel Fox reports new developments in epigenetic research Ageing is defined biologically as the inherent and inevitable functional decline which limits lifespan. Though people swear “you’re only as old as you feel”, developments in the field of epigenetics have shown that a record of your age is written within your genes. Discovered first in humans and characterised in mice 
by a group of Cambridge-based scientists (Stubbs et al 2017), there