Physical Sciences

Tiny particles, huge computers

Laurence Cooper discusses computational methods and future technologies that can help us improve our understanding of particle physics. Laurence is a PhD student in theoretical physics at DAMTP, Cambridge. Look around. Take any object nearby and ask yourself: ‘What is this made from?’. Repeat it. My keyboard is made from plastic which is made from polymers which are made from smaller molecules, which are made from… Once you get to

Autonomous Vehicles: Looking at the Road Ahead

James Macdonald interviews Professor John Miles and start-up Wayve about the future of autonomous vehicles In the UK, there are 48 million driving license holders, around three-quarters of the population. The car has been a huge enabler of personal mobility across society and the ability to travel is a large part of the quality of life we now enjoy. But for such an embedded part of our culture there are

Scientists capture the first image of a black hole event horizon

Mrittunjoy Majumdar A network of eight radio telescopes spanning locations in various continents, from Antarctica to Europe and South America, called the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) has captured the first image of a black hole ever. In a project that involved more than 200 scientists, the latest achievement of the team marks a milestone in the study of the enigma that black holes are. Einstein’s general relativity first laid the theoretical groundwork for predicting the existence of black

FOCUS: The Earth as a Natural LIving Laboratory

BlueSci presents three perspectives on how scientists have expanded our understanding of science using the greatest laboratory of all – planet Earth. We begin with a piece by Bryony Yates, on using Earth’s biosphere in the study of life. HUMANS HAVE LONG been fascinated with the natural world, as pre-historic paintings of plants and animals so beautifully illustrate. We can trace formal scientific study back to Ancient Greek philosophers, with

Sulawesi: A Seismological Mystery

The Sulawesi earthquake should not have produced tsunamis, but it did. Ben Johnson speaks to Professor James Jackson about how it happened, and how we could prepare for future incidents On 28th September 2018 at around 3pm local time, the residents of the city of Palu, Indonesia felt an earthquake of magnitude 6.1. Damage to several buildings was sustained, ten people were injured, and at least one person was killed. Three hours later, an earthquake

A Bohmian Rhapsody

Mrittunjoy Guha Majumdar talks Bohmian mechanics, the ‘causal interpretation’ of the strange world of quantum mechanics. Fluid droplets bounce when placed on the surface of a vibrating fluidic bath. A student working at the Matter and Complex Systems Laboratory, National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France discovered this using oil droplets and an oil bath in 2005. The bouncing of the droplets seemed to be guided by an unseen

Let's Talk About Soil

Kasparas Vasiliauskas looks under our feet at some of the Earth’s most overlooked material. Met in almost every step we take, soils, despite being so familiar, are often overlooked in discussions of natural systems. This is evident, for example, in making climate models and predictions and even more so when thinking about humanity’s future outside Earth. The entirety of soils and the space where their formation takes place is called

Most distant planetary flyby in history

The NASA probe captured photographs of the distant object Three years ago, NASA’s New Horizons probe made its famous flyby of the dwarf planet Pluto. On New Year’s day 2019, the probe made history again, in its flyby of Ultima Thule. This is the farthest away object humanity has ever visited in the Solar System, 6.5 billion km away from the Earth. Flying as ‘close’ to the object as 3,500km, New Horizons took a series of stunning

Drought and the Collapse of the Maya

James Kershaw discusses whether new data is raining on, or could prove, this fashionable hypothesis Water is essential for life. In this article, we explore the palaeoclimatological evidence linking societal change to periods of drought, with a specific focus on the Maya civilisation. It has been the subject of recent sensationalist news articles, so we ask whether science can conclusively confirm how the great society collapsed. “We definitely consider ourselves