Science

Most of the history of astronomy consists of observing electromagnetic radiation from outside our planet. That includes the light which shines off the sun and reflects from bodies in the solar system, as well as radio waves produced by phenomena around the universe including pulsars. Now that we also have neutrino detectors and gravitational wave […]

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An informative article by Peter Brannen in The Atlantic contrasts the plausible duration of the geological evidence of human civilization against the scale at which we normally designate geological epochs. It suggests convincingly that the idea of an Anthropocene epoch is misplaced: What humans are doing on the planet, then, unless we endure for millions […]

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Ebola now curable after trials of drugs in DRC, say scientists Chlamydia vaccine moves a step closer

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It’s possible to perform orbital maneuvers which would normally require fuel using instead the momentum of sunlight. Via the incomparable Scott Manley: Lightsail 2 Sails On Sunlight At Last

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I have long been skeptical about the prospects for off-world human colonies. Given that the International Space Station is the most expensive thing we have ever built and it is entirely reliant on supplies from Earth, it would be a gigantic leap just to make a self-sustaining closed life support system. Beyond that are many […]

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Surprisingly, despite the importance placed on it in the University of Toronto fossil fuel divestment brief and in the divestment movement generally, I don’t have a post on the idea of the carbon bubble. If we start with the temperature targets countries have chosen as the upper limit for tolerable climate change, we can calculate […]

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Andy Weir’s hard sci-fi novel The Martian has a protagonist whose sense of humour was part of why he was selected as part of a crew for a Mars mission: “They all showed signs of stress and moodiness. Mark was no exception, but the way he showed it was to crack more jokes and get […]

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As noted here before, getting humanity off fossil fuels requires more than replacing our electricity generation and transport systems with climate-safe alternatives. We also need to decarbonize the process of producing food and raw materials. Since most fertilizer is made from natural gas, engineering plant-fungal symbiosis to fix atmospheric nitrogen could be a promising route […]

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Natural gas is often held up as a solution to climate change, or at least a transition in the right direction, on the basis of producing less CO2 per unit of energy than oil or coal. Other factors are also relevant, however. Natural gas is mostly methane (CH4) which is a much more powerful greenhouse […]

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