Category Archives: Science

Trust me. I’m a trained scientist. I know what I’m talking about.

Salt assault

We all know that salt in our diet contributes to stroke and coronary artery disease. What I didn’t realize until very recently was just how important it is. But a BBC Radio 4 interview with Graham MacGregor yesterday quickly fixed my misunderstanding. Continue reading

Logic gates and neurons

At their most abstract level, the logic gates that make up a digital computer are machines for destroying information. That might not be immediately apparent, but take a look at this (image from Wikipedia):

AND symbol

Two inputs; one output. At every operation, one bit of information is lost forever in an irreversible process. Continue reading

Top 10 mysteries in science

Artist’s impression of a gravitational wave. Creative Commons Licence - http://public.virgo-gw.eu/what-are-gravitational-waves

Artist’s impression of a gravitational wave. Creative Commons Licence – http://public.virgo-gw.eu/what-are-gravitational-waves

I want to write something following the recent announcement of the discovery of gravitational waves. I’m not going to write about that discovery itself, because it’s all over the news. Instead, I want to ponder – what next? And in particular, which science mystery would I most like to be solved before I die? Continue reading

After sustainability – what then?

Climate change is a very real danger, but one that we are already well on the way to fixing. Without wanting to sound complacent, I think it’s a challenge that the current generation will solve. But what then? Do we simply want to avoid affecting the Earth’s climate, like environmentalists say? Or should we aspire to actively manage it? Continue reading

What is time?

Time is an oddity. In mystic thought, it is often cyclical. In classical Newtonian physics it was thought of as a steady march onward. In Einstein’s universe, it is wrapped up with the fabric of spacetime and can dilate in unexpected ways.

One thing we know about time is that it waits for no one. Time marches on (although not in a steady way, thanks to Einstein) and we experience it passively. Without any effort on our part, future becomes present and recedes into the past, even while we sleep. We can’t feel the passing of time like we feel the wind against our face, although change is happening imperceptibly, and after a lifetime, we realize that its passing has ravaged our fragile bodies.

Where did the time go, we ask? As if it is a thing that moves. Continue reading

Frozen to Life: A Personal Mortality Experiment (Book review)

frozentolifeI was sent a free copy of this book by the author, and asked to write an honest review. As the author noted in his email to me, ‘I think we have quite a few interests in common. ‘That’s very true, so I thought my review might also be of interest to my blog readers.

The book is the story of why the author (DJ MacLennan), has chosen to have his brain cryogenically frozen when he dies – or as he puts it – when current medicine can do no more to save him from death. It’s a personal story, and a scientific and philosophical investigation of what it means to live and die. Here’s my review of the book. Continue reading

Newton vs Einstein

newtonMy all-time favourite scientist was Isaac Newton. Newton was very clever. In fact he was a genius. He discovered lots of interesting and important things. Unfortunately, most of them turned out to be wrong. That doesn’t make him a bad scientist, of course. Finding wrong answers is an important way that science makes progress.

One of the reasons we know that Newton was a genius is that it took a very long time before anyone proved that he was wrong. Around 200 years, in fact. Then Albert Einstein (my second favourite scientist) showed that Newton was wrong, by coming up with some better explanations. Continue reading