Physical Sciences

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

How could feedback loops in the atmosphere lead to runaway environmental disaster?

James Weber explains the role of positive feedback loops and how they could lead to runaway environmental disaster Our atmosphere can be thought of as a single, highly complex system. The complexity arises in part due to the coupling of a vast array of different elements, such as temperature, wind speed, and chemical composition. Should one element be disturbed, others will also change, and this perturbation will propagate throughout the

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

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